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Glorious St Andrews and The Open

This year, St Andrews legendary Old Course hosts The Open for the 30th time. The home of golf, this course has it all – tradition, challenges, views and great stories. We take a look at its history, its connection with The Open and what to expect from this year’s event.

24 June 2022 Words by Danielle 2 minute read Glorious St Andrews and The Open
The dark storm clouds overhead look like they might hold for another hour, though the salty wind from the North Sea is picking up and you’ve still got to face Hell Bunker. Playing St Andrews on a dreich day, you may wonder how anyone thought hitting a tiny ball through driving storms was a good idea.

But it’s an idea that’s grown through the years to become one of the most popular sports in the world.

Welcome to the home of golf.

A rich history
Golf history and St Andrews go hand-in-hand. While there may be stories of a version being played in China or other far flung places, St Andrews is very much the spiritual home of golf – where it developed from a simple game among farmers to the elite sport it is today.

The first games were played at The Old Course as far back as the 1400s, and in 1552 it was officially declared a golf course. For centuries, locals played this wind-swept course – all 22 holes of it. It was only in 1764 that the course was cut down to 18 holes and the standard ‘round of golf’ was formed.

St Andrews Links actually consists of seven coursesbut it is understandably the Old Course for which it is most famous. It was in the early 1800s that its current form started to emerge, with features like the famous double greens and the decision to switch from the left-hand loop to the right-hand loop (although, once a year the left-hand loop is still played).

The Open and St Andrews
The first of the Opens to be played in St Andrews took place in 1873. The course, not of the high quality it is today, was drenched in water for days before the games began. It left large puddles for the players to negotiate - which they did in style, especially local favourite Tom Kidd, who was the first winner and first person to be presented with the famous Claret Jug.

Since then, this famous course has seen some of the game’s greats make their name here. Tiger Woods won in both 2000 and 2005, while the list of other past victors reads like a who’s who of golfing greats – Faldo, Ballesteros, Nicklaus.

There have been world-class victories from the likes of Woods and Faldo, hitting 19-under and 18-under respectively. There have also been some shocks - Louis Oosthuizen’s 2010 win comes to mind as it was his first major championship. He’d only once made the cut from eight previous appearances.

Jack Nicklaus and caddie Jimmy Dickinson at the Old Course in 1978
Jack Nicklaus and caddie Jimmy Dickinson at the Old Course in 1978

A course for everyone
It may be shocking to some but the Old Course – one of golf’s most recognisable venues – is actually open to the public.

It gives amateur golfers the chance to tackle the infamous Swilcan Bridge, one of the most challenging of water features, and Hell Bunker, the 14th hole’s cavernous sandpit that has been the bane of many would-be champions’ game. Work has been ongoing for a number of months to get this 10-foot nuisance with its 65 degree grass verge looking tip-top for this year’s willing victims.

While famous for its swirling winds and hard-to-judge greens, it’s also home to some of the most stunning views and landscapes, so enjoy yourself and worry about the score card when you get to the 19th hole.

The town that golf built
St Andrews is famous for two things – its university, which was attended by Prince William and is one of the most respected in the country, and golf.

During The Open the town comes alive with golf fanatics, players, media, caddies and more. It’s a golfer’s dream.

The small coastal town, with its cobbled streets and ancient buildings, is like walking back in time. You can even visit the oldest golf shop in the world, The Tom Morris Shop. It was opened in 1866 by the four-time Open winner.

Brush up on your golfing knowledge with a visit to the British Golf Museum, just on the doorstep to the Old Course. Or simply grab an afternoon tea in the 5-star Old Course hotel.

Rory McIlroy tees off at St Andrews
Rory McIlroy tees off at St Andrews