Old Course at St. Andrews genius revealed after a second round (and in different wind)
ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND – There are those out there (and you knucklehead golf writers know who you are), who don’t think there’s anything to the Old Course at St. Andrews. They call it overrated and a glorified pasture. Moderately organized chaos, more or less.
Sure, it’s not the prettiest links course in the world aside from the town skyline (for incredibly scenic, championship golf, head to knockouts like Royal County Down or Royal Dornoch). But the Old Course’s real beauty is the bunkering and massive green complexes, and how they come to life based on what the heavens decide to deliver to Fife that day.
I’d suggest to anyone who doesn’t give the Old respect after a first go around to play it a second time, ideally in a different wind. It reveals just how many different faces the course can make, in a way far more accentuated than other links. More than anywhere else, the yardage on sprinkler heads means practically nothing, too.
I played the Old back in the fall of 2006, but this afternoon it felt like an entirely different golf course, thanks to an easterly wind that suddenly brought an entirely new set of challenges to the table. Whereas I nearly greened the 18th in 2006, I couldn’t make it past the road (left with 140 yards in). On the par-5 14th, I thought the “Hell” bunker was in an obsolete spot back in 2006. Today, I found my ball lying right on it’s edge (and actually had to hit a shot standing with by caboose to the hole and hit the ball between my legs - only way I could get a stance on the ball).
No. 10 was drivable with a 3-wood, while in 2006 I hit 9-iron into the green.
And on the closing stretch from No. 12 onwards a stiff wind blew tee balls towards O.B. on the right, whereas last time I could actually hit balls over the fence and watch the wind bring it back into the fairway. Suffice to say I shot better on the back nine last time around…
Today’s wind direction also caused the course, which is a very tight squeeze and every hole has a parallel hole to reckon with, to be a bit of a bombing zone. Everyone in my group nearly hit someone, and we were running for cover plenty as well. I think I would have rather faced a stiff wind in my face than a crosswind, because a crosswind causes you to start tee balls out over gorse and bunkers and trust the wind to bring it back. Not as easy as it sounds when you’re lining up your drive.
I’ve now gone 36 holes without finding a bunker on the Old Course. But I wish I could say the same for some other sad saps I saw hacking it away in the mighty “Shell” bunker on 11 (and 7). Another thing to look at when playing the Old is how certain bunkers that appear to be completely irrelevant would come into play when the course is played in reverse. Remember, the course used to be played clockwise, not counter-clockwise as it does today.
Also, I had the chance to play the controversial and breathtaking new Castle Course this morning, fresh off some off-season renovations. I suppose in a nutshell, I would say that it’s plenty fair off the tee, but whoever sets the pin locations in the morning should be taking his job very, very seriously. Each green has flat spots, but there were a handful of severe pins today that caused a lot of four-letter words to fly. Stay tuned for a full review…
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