There are probably only three golf courses that transcend the golfing world and are known by people with only a modicum of interest in golf; Pebble Beach, Augusta National and St Andrews. And arguably St Andrews is the biggest name of them all. However if you were to take a quick poll of golfers who have played them many would wonder what the fuss is about at St Andrews. Compared with its two American brethren St Andrews is no match for them in the visual stakes and I know that many friends of mine have commented that they can’t see what the fuss is all about given that St Andrews is seemingly a flat paddock lined with gorse and little in the way of aesthetic beauty.
It is a surprise how often you have to tee off with no idea where the green is, a good caddy and local knowledge is a great ally especially during your first round. Avoiding the perfectly placed bunkers is no mean feat, and plotting your way around the greens is a challenging task.
The most difficult hole on the course, and possibly the toughest par-4 in the world, is the 17th, The Road Hole. There have been so many stories and such drama on the 17th that every golfer looks forward to seeing how they perform on this hole. From the tee shot over the sheds to the approach to that narrow sliver of a green the 17th is a challenge that enthralls all golfers. Carrying the bunker yet stopping the ball before it carries over on to the road, and possible up against the wall, heightens the challenge and jangles the nerves as one prepares to hit the approach to the green.
St Andrews - Hole 17
As you play the 17th the St Andrews township looms over the course. The sense of history envelops the players and for most golfers the last two holes, and especially the 18th will provide the largest galleries that will ever watch them play golf. The inquisitive travelers, watching just a small part of the magic of St Andrews, tend to gather around the 18th green and watch the golfers traverse the Valley of Sin en route to putting out on the final hole. For the mere mortal a par on the 18th at “The Home of Golf” can be a satisfying experience watched by many more spectators than they normally experience. Finally, here is one of my favourites, in a similar vein to the shot of the 11th with the clouds bearing in as the sun rises:
St Andrews - Hole 5
Perhaps St Andrews doesn’t share the visual delights of Pebble Beach and Augusta, but there is no denying it is one of golf’s great experiences.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this all time great course in the comments below.