Every golfer should play the Old Course at St Andrews Links at least once in their lives. After all, this is the oldest golf course in the world, the spiritual home of golf! Playing the Old Course is a homecoming of sorts for anyone with a love for the game, it’s history, and tradition.
Golf was played on what would eventually become the Old Course as far back as the 15th century. That is, until James II of Scotland banned the game in 1457. He felt that too many young men were practicing golf when they should have been practicing archery instead. Thankfully, James IV did not share this sentiment. He lifted the ban in 1502 and was an avid golfer himself.
In 1552, Archbishop John Hamilton gave the townspeople of St Andrews the right to play the St Andrews golf links, a privilege enjoyed to this day. The course remained unchanged for many years until the number of holes was reduced from 22 to 18 in 1764. Allan Robertson made modifications in 1848, creating the course’s now-famous double greens in the process. Daw Anderson and Old Tom Morris left their respective marks on St Andrews’ Old Course as well.
The large double greens are one of the most unique features of the Old Course. There are seven greens in total shared by two holes each, plus four individual holes, with the hole numbers adding up to 18. For example, the second is paired with the 16th, the third with the 15th, and so on.
The Swilcan Bridge is yet another one of the Old Course’s iconic features. This 700-year-old bridge spans the first and 18th holes. It’s tradition to cross it after playing the 18th, which explains why the bridge can be seen in many farewell pictures of the most iconic golfers in history.
Before it can be your turn to cross the Swilcan Bridge, you must first best the infamous “Road Hole.” It’s the course’s par four 17th, often considered to be one of the most difficult holes in golf.
“The Road Hole” is notorious for a number of reasons, one being the presence of a tarmac roadway behind the green, from which the hole gets its name. Fittingly, the road is in play, as is the old stone wall that’s also behind the green.
Trying to keep you from getting to the green is the equally infamous and similarly named “Road Hole Bunker,” as well as replica railway sheds that make it so that players using the back tees are unable to see where their first shots will land. Just remember that getting your chance to cross the Swilcan Bridge will make it all worth it.