There is a legend here in St Andrews. Relics of St Andrew himself are buried under the cathedral. The Auld Grey Toon quickly became a place of pilgrimage for those during the medieval period to see the relics for themselves, the relics of Jesus Christ's disciple. In fact the town of Kirrymont, north east of Edinburgh changed its name to coincide with this new level of popularity. St Andrews was born. Religious reformers would destroy the cathedral in 1559 and for a while pilgrimages to St Andrews ceased.
The Cathedral is also a place of pilgrimage for the world of golf. Buried in the hallowed grounds is the last resting place of Tom Morris and his son, Tom Morris Jr. As pioneers of our grand old game, Tom Morris, St Andrews great son, is considered to be the godfather of golf. An early pioneer of the Open Championship himself, winning the title four times, he was also the greenkeeper of the now famous "Old Course".
The "Old Course" at St Andrews is more than just a Golf course. It is our relic, our hallowed ground and the destination for our pilgrimage. But the St Andrews links doesn't just stop there. There are six courses in this hallowed turf near the Eden Estuary and North Sea. St Andrews Links also own the Castle Course which makes it seven in total to choose from. It was time for to me to make my pilgrimage to the Home of golf.
Arriving on a Sunday, I already made my plans for the day. The Old Course is closed on Sundays which gave me the opportunity to walk around this magnificent course. As I walked around, breathing in the air, I knew I was taking the same walk as the of past champions. Woods, Ballesteros, Nicklaus, Morris, Braid and the greatest of all...Bobby Jones. If this stroll didn't put me in the mood to play, then what would?
Of the Seven courses available I opted for the Eden Course. The Seven courses vary in price from £170 to play the Old Course to £15 to play the 9 Hole Balgove Course. The Eden cost £45 for a round of 18 Holes. It may have been a quarter of the price of the Old Course but don't be fooled into thinking it's a quarter of the challenge.
So what did I get for my money? Well aside from the green fee I was also given a course guide which offered yardage and player tips, a pencil (because sometimes you never have one when you need one) and pitch repair tool. Now I have never seen this before, at other courses I have visited I had to pay extra for this.
As I approached the first tee I was welcomed by the course starter. He told me to make sure that I have a look at the course guide as I went around as it is a tricky course but yardage is the key to success. "You'll need to vary your tee shots round here, or you'll be in trouble." Playing from the yellow tee the first hole measured 301 yards to the tee. "Go with a mid Iron, accuracy is the key to this one", the starter told me. Who am I to argue with a local and his knowledge. 7 Iron it is. Hitting my shot felt good, looked good and was good. Middle of fairway with lots of carry. "Aye, that's the one son. Go like that and you'll be fine."
There was no worries with my second shot either, just off the green. With massive grin on my face I thought that St Andrews had made me a player. I was raising my game out of respect of these hallowed links. For those of you who have ever seen the Open at St Andrews you will know that greens are not easy. Breaking in all directions, firm and unpredictable. The Eden course boasts the same challenge. A three putt and I was in for a bogey. To say I was happy would be an understatement.
The course was designed by Harry S Colt. His other designs include Wentworth, Sunningdale and Hoylake. The course was later adapted by Donald Steel in the 1980's. Bunkers were removed, things changed but he remained faithful to Colt's original designs for many of the holes. It is like any traditional links you'll play. Bumpy, sandy and breezy.
The 3rd hole required a 3 wood or driver (which ever you are comfortable with) over a small hill with a blind idea where the flag is. The marker is roughly 200 yards with plenty of carry. A duff shot here and you are in trouble with thick rough short and right. Thankfully I was on the mark with my tee shot. My 2nd shot found trouble in the right hand rough. Somehow I salvaged a six.
The Par three's on this course are accessible. 3 pars and a bogey on these. Hitting the green does not guarantee an easy par as the greens are either sloping downwards or doubled tiered. Short and you are struggling (as I found out on the 15th entering near deep bunker).
The Course guide can easily fool you. Most of the holes appear straight forward on the page. The vast majority of the holes are straight. The yardage seems straightforward. It is the breeze and circling wind that makes this a real challenge. Be prepared to play with this. Think a 9 iron can tackle the 155 yard par 3 8th? Best knock it up one or two clubs. If the wind does catch your ball then be prepared for the rough...which is rough!
The Par 5 9th seems getable. Well placed bunkers and a thin fairway however, make it tough. 3 strong shots are required even for big hitters. Water only comes into play on the 14th and 15th and is only an issue depending on flag placement. Big hitters on the 14th may want to change their minds and opt for a mid iron to play safe.
The Par 5 16th was simply an amazing links hole. Five bunkers carefully placed with thick rough along the right hand side of the hole. One good putt allowed me to secure a Par on this hole, even I'd admit...it was a lucky putt. The 17th is another tester. Out of Bounds along the right hand side means you have to aim left...too far left though and you have a small cluster of bunkers or thick rough. Straight and true and this is a straightforward par hole. Luck put me between the cluster of bunkers and rough. Thankfully may Iron shot had enough roll to make the edge of the green.
Although I shot a six on the final par 4 I found myself relaxed. I had loved every moment on the course. Perhaps I three putted final hole just to extend my stay on this beautiful course. Many go to St Andrews and automatically think of the Old Course. Maybe the next time you go you might want to give this little gem a go too. It is a test of accuracy, it will destroy your card if you are too ambitious, it will test your ability to handle the breeze. It was simply...majestic.
Par 70 (Men) Par 73 (Ladies)
White Tees: 6250 Yards
Yellow Tees: 5869 Yards
Ladies Tees: 5450 Yards.
Golfhacker played from the Yellow Tees and shot a 89.
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