The outdated graveyard on the high of the city of St Andrews is price a go to, if solely to underscore the wealthy {golfing} historical past of this college city. Look and you can see. The names on the headstones attain again via the years. Willie Auchternlonie. Allan Robertson. Outdated Tom Morris, a plain burial place. His son, Younger Tom Morris’s not so.

The plot contains a statue of the younger fella taking a stance with the membership in hand; and, strewn on the bottom, are many dozens of wood tees delivered to his closing resting place by {golfing} pilgrims from world wide.

St Andrews is the so-called Residence of Golf and nowhere is extra non secular, in a {golfing} sense, than the Outdated Course itself. It won’t be the hardest hyperlinks on the British Open’s rota, and it actually makes for troublesome viewing for spectators, on condition that vantage factors are successfully restricted to 1 facet of a given gap resulting from double fairways and double greens, however there hangs within the air a mystical presence of the sport’s greats, ghosts of the previous however not gone.

In profitable by eight strokes over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els in 2000, Woods managed to keep away from the Outdated Course’s 112 bunkers via all 4 rounds

The R&A clubhouse sits aback of the first tee and the 18th inexperienced, its gray partitions and glass home windows an imposing presence of its governance over the game, whereas throughout the highway the golf museum is certainly a throwback in time. The sport’s origins are splendidly documented, if that’s your factor.

To play the Outdated Course ought to be on each golfer’s bucket record. To go to St Andrews when the Open Championship is on the town (subsequent date is 2022 for its one hundred and fiftieth staging) is one other bucket record field to be ticked. St Andrews is synonymous with the British Open though the championship initially was performed on one other Scottish hyperlinks programs – that of Prestwick, for no fewer than 12 straight instances – till its first staging on the Outdated Course in 1873. It has now staged the championship 29 instances, greater than some other hyperlinks.

Every a kind of 29 Opens on the Outdated Course had a narrative to inform, however some stand out greater than others. Let’s take Bobby Jones, for starters. Jones would, in time, be a part of US founding father Benjamin Franklin as a freeman of St Andrews, however his first look within the Open at St Andrews resulted in ignominy when, within the third spherical, he took 4 makes an attempt to flee a bunker on the eleventh gap and proceeded to tear up his card in anger. Six years later, the legendary newbie, who’d gained the claret jug at Royal Lytham in 1926, returned to the Outdated Course to efficiently defend his title.

Jones would show to be a foremost influencer in Jack Nicklaus’s love affair with the Outdated Course. “I bear in mind I used to go right down to Bob Jones’s cabin earlier than the Masters yearly and he talked just a little bit about St Andrews. And the one factor he stated, ‘you realize, your {golfing} profession as a champion isn’t full until you win at St Andrews’. And I all the time had that at the back of my thoughts. Really, it was within the entrance of my thoughts,” recounted Nicklaus.

In reality, Nicklaus gained two of his three British Opens on the Outdated Course, in 1970 and 1978. “The Outdated Course to me is a really particular place simply due to what it’s, the place it’s, the way it sits right here and the way it pertains to the historical past of the sport of golf. that’s what’s particular. I suppose if you happen to took St Andrews and put it some other place it could be one other golf course. However as a result of it’s right here, due to what it’s and what it meant to the sport of golf, it turns into one thing very, very particular,” stated Nicklaus.

The join with the previous wasn’t misplaced on Tiger Woods both, and it was completely becoming that he would seal his personal place in historical past when conquering all-comers within the 2000 Championship on the Outdated Course. That championship marked the millennium and the crowds – a document 239,000 over the week – got a masterclass by Woods, who on the age of 24, turned the youngest participant to finish the profession Grand Slam and joined Hogan, Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen and Gary Participant in that elite membership.

In profitable by eight strokes over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els that yr, Woods managed to keep away from the Outdated Course’s 112 bunkers via all 4 rounds. “I bought fortunate just a few instances . . . it occurred to jump over a bunker and catch a facet and kick left or proper of it, little issues like that. It occurs. Fortuitously for me, it was taking place that week,” stated Woods.

These bunkers are an integral a part of the Outdated Course. Their names resonate. Hell. Coffin. Spectacles. And none extra well-known than the Highway Gap bunker, that deep and steep-faced sand lure by the seventeenth inexperienced. If a contemporary golf course architect have been to counsel hitting a blind tee-shot over the nook of a resort to succeed in the green, he’d probably be laughed out of city. However that’s precisely the shot required on the Highway Gap and it has earned a statistical fame as the toughest of all holes on the Open rota, accounting for six of probably the most troublesome of the ten most troublesome performed since 1982.

It’s particular to string within the footsteps of legends, and the fantastic thing about golf is that it’s a sport that permits gamers, no matter handicap, to take action. My very own alternative to play the Outdated Course got here by the luck of the draw, fairly actually: it was 2002 and, on the American Specific Championship in Mount Juliet, Ernie Els was requested to attract out two names to play within the Alfred Dunhill Hyperlinks. Mark Garrod was one. I used to be the opposite.

My authentic accomplice was resulting from be Alex Cejka, a winner on the European Tour. However he was pressured to withdraw with a again damage and, in his place, I used to be teamed-up with Chris Gane, an English skilled struggling to retain his card having missed 14 of 26 cuts that season. The opposite gamers in our fourball have been Thomas Levet and American broadcaster Peter Kessler.

The Outdated Course has left its mark on many a participant of higher potential than me via the years. Jones after all ripped up his card on his first go to. Nicklaus took 4 pictures to get out of Hell within the 1995 Open. Within the 1978 Open, Japan’s Tommy Nakajima putted his ball from the inexperienced into the Highway Gap bunker. He took 4 makes an attempt to get again out. Had he misplaced focus? “ No, I misplaced depend,” he replied, and the bunker was given the moniker of the Sands of Nakajima.

Because it occurred, bunkers weren’t my downside. After an excellent drive down the primary, my caddie Richard – who has been a caddie on the Outdated Course for 18 years and has instructed me he is aware of each “bump and hole” – is below the misapprehension that offering yardages will assist. “You’ve bought 139 yards to the flag however with that wind it’ll play extra like 160. Punch in a six-iron, that ought to get your there.” It bought me there alright, however to not the inexperienced. My ball joined these of historical past which discovered the burn that lurks in entrance of the inexperienced.

Others have fared worse, admittedly. Within the 1995 British Open Ian Baker-Finch was paired with Arnold Palmer within the King’s final ever look within the championship. Baker-Finch’s recreation was within the horrors to the extent he’d had a nightmare the earlier night time that he had hooked his first drive out of bounds. What occurred? His nightmare turned actuality.

On the fifth gap, a par 5 of simply over 500 yards off my tee, an honest drive and a five-iron lay-up had me effectively positioned. After my third shot, Richard turned to me. “Have you learnt,” he stated of the fifth inexperienced which additionally doubles with the thirteenth, “That’s the largest inexperienced on the earth, it measures one and a half acres, and also you’ve managed to overlook it with a wedge.”

By the point we walked over the Swilcan Bridge and reached the 18th inexperienced – no go to to the Valley of Sin – there have been spectators within the grandstand. I managed to gap a 15-footer for a par and, on leaving the inexperienced, Dai Davies – the veritable golf correspondent of The Guardian – comes over to me. “Do you realise you’ve simply been applauded on the 18th inexperienced on the Outdated Course at St Andrews?”

The demand to play the Outdated Course is big nevertheless it stays accessible, both via advance bookings by authorised suppliers of tee-times or by registering (48 hours prematurely) for the every day poll. Please notice, golfers “ought to put on apparel applicable to the game and clothes shouldn’t be scruffy or torn”.

The one hundred and fiftieth version of the British Open was resulting from be staged at St Andrews subsequent yr however, as a result of cancellation of this yr’s championship deliberate for Royal St Georges, it has been pushed again to 2022. It ought to be one thing particular, on the Residence of Golf; one other half to its storied historical past.

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