Perhaps the most iconic spot in all of the golf lore is The Old Course at St Andrews, which has rightfully earned the name “The Home of Golf.” The last Open held at St Andrew’s was in 2015. If you are planning a golfing holiday to The Old Course there are some fantastic St Andrews hotel deals to complete your stay. These provide you with the perfect accommodation for golfing experience.
In the following article, we will cover some of the tips and tricks that can help you complete this course with aplomb and with most of your balls in the bag.
Avoid the rough!
As you scan the beautiful Old Course at St Andrew’s, it is easy to underestimate the level of skill required for this particular course. For example, its expansive fairways seem perfect for safely navigating around the rough. But this will only be true if you have learned to master rough wind conditions to bring your ball down exactly where you want it.
Swilken Bridge has humbled some of the greatest golfers that have existed throughout its 500-year existence. So, this is a place where you will bring your A-game. Even if the long stroke is your best asset, there will be plenty of good reasons to play it safe. It is not an especially long course in any case for one, and it will be more important to focus on precision rather than power. Only through a careful balance of power will you find safety in the fairway and keep a nice low score.
Understand the wind
The next thing that you will have to be aware of at all times is the direction and speed of the wind that is constantly swirling and billowing around St Andrews. There may be times when you are teeing off downwind and this will make choosing your path quite simple. But this apparent advantage can change in an instant so take full advantage while you can. But this is also what makes this special course such a challenge.
Those select few golfers who have managed to pull out a victory and claim the coveted Claret Jug have either had to battle the worst weather conditions or found themselves lucky enough to have the elements in their favor — even if they were only playing on a software simulator. A good trick will be to keep your shots close to the level of the ground. This will diminish the effect that the wind will have on a flight path. This fact was well-understood and brilliantly demonstrated by American golfing legend Tom Watson, and it made him a serial winner in the UK. He had attributed his success in the blustery UK weather to his capacity to view these shots like long chips. By reducing club swing, ball spin is reduced and this keeps the ball from getting too high. Much like the Tiger’s famous stinger shots, this type of controlled shot is perfect for deftly navigating the fairways found here.
1st hole at the Old Course
As you begin to position yourself for teeing off, it is ok to feel a little nervous. After all, you are at one of the most notable courses in the world and this is a momentous occasion. But the big trick here is to keep to something simple and direct. You don’t want to get close to the green from the tee-off. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because the green is straight ahead. Unless the wind is just perfect, you could end up just a little short of the green and in a potentially difficult spot. The Swilken Burn is designed to punish those who make this mistake. The trick will be to give yourself plenty of room to maneuver on the fairway. So, aim for the wide part of the fairway, a target as big as the broadside of a barn. Keep things simple and you will come out a champ.
The 17th, “Road Hole”
Many dreams, hearts, and clubs have been broken on the 17th hole of the Old Course. As you would expect from the “home of golf” there will be difficulties to test the die-hards that make their way to this hallowed place. Affectionately known as the “Road Hole”, this shot will be the toughest of the course by far. The shot involves clearing the Old Course Hotel, which sits between the tee and the green. Most shots will end up in the rough on the left, or the road on the right. Both of these are tricky positions to get out of.
The fairway here is narrow. But your best bet is to choose the easiest target that you are confident is within your capacity and win with a bogey. A bogey is still a good score on this challenging hole.
Hell Bunker at the Old Course
The 14th hole is home to what has been aptly called “Hell Bunker”, which lies about 100 yards from the green and is no end of trouble to golfers. The 14th is known for a strong headwind that can be very intimidating for tee shots. If you can clear the bunker in your second shot, this would be the safest course of action. If you end up in Hell Bunker, you could be looking at the end of your good round. It took Jack Nicklaus 4 shots to get out of Hell Bunker in the 1995 Open. This ended in a rather disappointing 10 and added to the legendary notoriety of this accursed ground.
Bring your putting A-game
You should expect your putting game to be put to the ultimate challenge on the Old Course. The expansive greens are full of twists and turns and only an expert eye will be able to catch each potential hazard. Some of the putts you will have to make will be over 100 ft. If there is something you could do to prepare for the challenges of the Old Course it will be to brush up on your putting technique otherwise it’s like playing night golf.
You can’t count on making every putt in one fell swoop, so get used to the idea that breaking them into two attempts will often be the best chance at a decent score. There is a good chance that you will be making many third attempts as well, so getting good at these ‘lag’ shots will pay off as well.