Last week, we brought you the news that the Old Course at St Andrews has been crowned the world’s best golf course for the second year running at the World Golf Awards. It led to quite an intense debate in the office: how good is the Old Course?
We’re talking about the course itself. If you put aside all the tradition and history – as hard as that may be – and evaluate the course purely on its own merits, how does it compare?
We love the Old Course
The Old Course is the best course in the world, for sure. I would recommend it for anyone who plays golf.
Where else can you play and drive over a hotel? What other course is there where golf used to be played backwards over the exact same layout you play today? It’s the idea of just getting out there and playing golf as it’s meant to be played. The old fashioned way of having the wind blowing you to the turn and then fighting all the way from the 12th to protect a score. I love the humps and hollows. I love taking the rough with the smooth, knowing on occasion you get a real treat playing it on a still day, but accepting the course will sometimes be brutal thanks to the elements. I love the double greens. I love the layout. I love the turf. What’s not to love about playing golf as it’s meant to be played, rather than the manicured target golf we play so often today?
Simon Daddow, TG equipment editor
You need to play there to really appreciate it. The more rounds you play, the better and cleverer the course becomes. It’s a truly great course and place.
Kevin Boyce, @KevinBoyce2
We’re not so sure
Once you get past the first hole you are lost in a haze. All the holes are uneventful until 17 and 18.
Dave Cudmore, TG reader, via Facebook
The history of the place is really what you go there for. I think there's far better courses.
Martin Forbes, TG reader, via Facebook
There's only three holes that stand out. Most of it is bland and forgettable. I holed a 100’ putt there and I couldn’t tell you which hole it was on – that’s not a good sign. I played 13 holes at Augusta and I can remember every footstep. In fairness, I've only played the Old Course twice, and everyone says you have to play it many times to fully appreciate its nuances.
Chris Jones, TG editor
It’s not the prettiest and most aesthetically pleasing of courses by a long chalk. Realistically, the course alone wouldn’t rank in the top ten in Fife. It features too many ordinary holes and ‘double’ greens. Many reckon that the neighbouring but largely unheralded New Course is the better all round test of golf. But no other course has the Road Hole, the Swilcan Bridge, Hell Bunker and the R&A clubhouse, which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you tee it up. There's only one Old Course.
Kevin Brown, TG courses editor
Carnoustie down the road is significantly better...
Dave Loan, TG reader, via Facebook
I’ve never played there but surely calling it the world’s best course is a nostalgia vote? Without all the trimmings it's featureless. There's a few courses I’d play ahead of the Old Course purely on course layout.
Matthew Leader @Matt3323
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good the course is. Playing the Old Course is a golfing experience like no other. It’s seen more moments of golfing history than we could hope to count. Standing on the first tee, playing the Road Hole, crossing the Swilcan Bridge, it’s impossible not to get the feeling that you’re experiencing something beyond a golf course. You’ll likely play prettier courses, you’ll probably play more challenging ones, but you’ll only ever play one Old Course.
While every other course changes with time, the Old Course remains the same. It’s a genuine classic in the truest sense of the word, and deserves its place in the heart of all who play it.