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The Old Course, St Andrews

I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St Andrews and I would still have a rich, full life  - Robert Tyre Jones
Clubs and Balls

Teeing Ground
Order of play
Falling off tee

Playing the Ball
Unplayable
Wrong, Substitute
Lifting, dropping
Moved, deflected

Provisional, Lost, Out of bounds

Putting Green
Flagstick
Marking, lifting
Stymie

Hazards
Water hazards
Lateral water hazards

Abnormal Conditions
GUR
Casual water
Hole, cast, or runway

Obstructions,
Loose impediments

Miscellaneous
Rule 1
Advice
Scoring
Stableford
Rule 3-3
Old Course, St Andrews
Wartime local rules
Best ever golf poem

Old Course

Not strictly part of the history of the Rules, but nevertheless I hope it will be of interest. Some golfers outside the British Isles may be surprised to know that the world's most famous and hallowed course is not owned by the R&A but is actually a muni....

A charter of 1552 granted the townspeople of St Andrews use of the land for a number of pastimes, golf being just one.  This is the oldest known mention of golf at St Andrews, although it is widely accepted that the game had been played on the links for a long time before.  The land remained in public hands until financial difficulties forced the town burghers to sell the links in 1797.

The Old Course was not actually designed, rather it evolved over about 500 years with the greens and hole shapes falling naturally into place.  The hand of man only came into it in the mid 1800s, to a small extent by Allan Robertson but mainly in the shape of old Tom Morris, appointed Conservator of the links in 1864.  Old Tom created the 18th green in 1865, and the first hole in 1870.  He also started the practice of creating a smooth, true putting surface around the holes on the Old Course round about the early 1880s, when teeing areas were sited separately from the putting greens (see the 1875 Rules).

The Old Course is most probably the smallest Championship course of all in terms of area - it is as narrow as 50 yards in places, which is why the original course was played over the same holes out and in.   At first the course had 11 holes (i.e. a 22-hole course), starting somewhere near where the British Golf Museum is today (the R&A clubhouse was not in the way: it wasn't built until 1854).

In 1764 the first two and last two holes were combined, reducing the number of holes played to 18, creating the standard model for all courses subsequently.

The seven double greens were introduced in 1832, but having two separate holes on each double green did not come about until the 1850s apparently.

The course was originally played clockwise, that is opposite to the route today. The original first tee was to the west of the present 18th green, which, if my geography is right, would put it right outside Tom Morris' shop.  From there, players would play to the current 17th green.

The Open Championship of 1885 could well have been played this way round.  But the anticlockwise route became the preferred route from around this time.



The Cheape family had bought the land in 1821 to preserve it for golfers rather than allow rabbit farmers to take it over.  In 1890 James Cheape offered to sell the land to the R&A but a price could not be agreed.  In 1892 the Town Council suggested that they and the R&A share ownership, but a condition was that the course remained open to the public.  The R&A, being keen to own the course for their members, negotiated a purchase from Cheape in 1893.  The St Andrews Town Council were not too pleased with this and countered by promoting a Bill in Parliament to acquire the links for the town; the R&A naturally opposed it, but to no avail.

Consequently, R&A ownership of the Old Course lasted just one year; the St Andrews Links Act was passed in 1894, returning ownership of the land to the town.  The R&A were given the task of maintaining the Old Course and building a new course - the New Course - which opened in 1895.  Priority for R&A members on the New Course was part of this agreement.

Rising costs of maintenance forced the R&A to renegotiate with the Town Council over the upkeep of the links.  The outcome was that the Jubilee (1897) and the Eden (1912) were built and owned by the Town Council, which was then able to collect revenue from fee payers.  During this period the Old Course remained free to play. 

The financial difficulties continued, however, and by 1945 the means to maintain the courses were beyond the R&A. The town council took on the expenditure, and with it the right to charge players a fee, by a Provisional Order, which became law in 1946.  In 1953 the Town Council and the R&A formed the Joint Links Committee who looked after and managed the links.

The UK Government extensively reorganised local government in 1974, altering county boundaries (e.g. Royal Liverpool was wrenched out of Cheshire), removing some counties altogether (e.g. Rutland), and creating some new counties (e.g. Merseyside, where Royal Liverpool now found itself).  Within this reform was the fear that the custody of the Links would be usurped by a remote Fife Council.  Together, the Town Council and the R&A set up a trust to protect the links for public use, and repeal the Act of 1894. Thus, an Act of Parliament in 1974 created the St Andrews Links Trust, who are now charged with the management of all the course on the links. The land is owned by Fife Regional Council, though.


Other snippets about St Andrews:
In 1767 a man called James Durham went round in 94.  This course record stood for 86 years.

Bobby Jones is the only man to have won the Open Championship and the Amateur Championship at St Andrews. When he was made an Honorary Burgess (Freeman) of St Andrews in 1958, he became only the second American to be so honoured [the other was Benjamin Franklin, 200 years earlier].  The quote at the top of the page is from his acceptance speech.

The dollar sign $ was invented in St Andrews

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