The 150th Open Championship: A Guide For The Old Course

Want to be an expert on the home of golf? Read on…
18:05, 12 Jul 2022

It’s game week and the 150th Open Championship is underway with practice rounds for the greatest players in the world to get their teeth into the oldest golf course in the world. Golf is a complex game at the best of times, but whether you’re a casual newbie or a veteran, everyone needs a reminder of how special the Old Course is. 

You can take in the nuggets of knowledge and disperse a verbal assault of intellect on any stranger that you might need to impress during the next 72 holes from Thursday to Sunday. Or you can just watch it and breathe slightly heavier through your nose when you recognise the famous bridge on the first hole. 

To begin, it’s important to remember how The Open is referred to. The British Open, The Open and The Open Championship are all official names of the contest, and its tagline describes it as ‘the oldest golf tournament in the world.’

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The Open is now only contested on ‘links’ courses as opposed to parkland and heathland courses. Links golf is played on the coastal regions of the UK, however Scotland is primarily known as the home of links golf thanks to their selection of historic courses that were built on the shores many years ago. The Old Course at St Andrews is considered to be the first golf course in the world, which hosts the landmark 150th event this year. 

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The course itself is widely regarded as the most iconic course of all-time. Landmarks are everywhere to be seen both in-person and through broadcasts. At this time, there’s 112 bunkers in-play on the course and most of them have a name relating to people of the past or events that happened to people in the location at the time. 

Notable bunkers include The Beardies on the 14th hole, two bunkers that are notoriously difficult for the groundskeepers to mow, the stroke bunker, where if you land in it, you’re almost guaranteed to lose a stroke, and Hell, a bunker that doesn’t really need explaining. It’s ten feet deep and covers 300 square yards, so good luck getting out of that one. 

The front nine and back nine holes have two different colour flags, with the first nine being white and the back nine being red, apart from the 18th hole which has a white flag due to the red-bricked Hamilton Grand apartment block in the background. Back in the 19th century, white flags meant you were going out and red meant you were on your way back in. 

If you’re talking greens, there are only four holes that have their own space for putting. The 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th have their own greens, but the rest of the holes on the course have to share green space, often creating monster-length putts that get the crowd going if they end within 5 feet. 

Off-course landmarks are scattered throughout the course, but as a round draws to a close, you’ll spot more and more as you go. On the 17th, the Jigger Inn overlooks play, with Justin Thomas hitting the pub with a shot during a practice round last weekend, much to the amusement of his playing partner Tiger Woods. Many former champions have lifted the Claret Jug alongside a Tennants (other brands available) in the pub that dates back to the 1850s, and long may it continue. 

Elsewhere, The Old Course Hotel is also visible on the right of the 18th fairway, a behemoth sitting on the horizon of the home of golf, with balconies aplenty to view the action. However, they do cost a pretty penny. Rusacks Hotel and the previously mentioned Hamilton Grand apartment block ambush the 18th green. 

If you ever get to play the course, the holes are packed with character, stories and challenges to get stuck into. The first hole sees you navigate over the Swilcan Burn, where a bouncing drive or draw might give you trouble. Hole six introduces you to ‘Coffin’ bunkers, which are pretty much what it says on the tin - bunkers in the shape of coffins scattered around the fairway that can be difficult to get out of. 

Hole 14 has the bunker named ‘Hell’, hole 17 famously has a road going through it and is referred to as ‘The Road Hole’, accompanied by the bunker named ‘Sands of Nakajima’ and the final green of your round sees you navigate a depression called ‘the Valley of Sin.’

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While you’re there, don’t forget to take a picture and pay tribute to the Swilcan Bridge like many former champions have done before. Jack Nicklaus officially retired back in 2005 and in 2010, Tom Watson kissed the bridge before crossing.

Finally, the famous R&A clubhouse is not only the venue for some post-round drinks and celebrations with the world’s finest players, but also the home of the rules of golf. The Royal & Ancient (R&A) control the game of golf and work with the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) in the creation of tournaments and keeping everyone on the same page, from professional to amateur levels.

The Open Championship Outrights*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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