Reasons to Visit St. Andrews

Wednesday July 7th, 2010
St. Andrews
Iain Lowe

Because... Every golfer needs to pay a visit to St. Andrews before sinking life's final putt. Some golf pilgrimages are prohibitively expensive to be a regular pleasure, or too exclusive to be more than a fantasy. But for golfers armed with a sense of history and a valid passport, the promise of golf is realized at St. Andrews.

Because... In July the Old Course hosts The Open for the 27th time, and that's the only time scores really matter. A stroll 'round the Old is all about breathing in the heather, dodging the gorse, then raising a pint. Inside the Jigger Inn pub hangs a timeless photograph of a white-bearded Old Tom Morris peering from the window of his home overlooking the first tee. No need to fret over par with the spirit of Old Tom watching over you.

Because... Nowhere else in the world can you walk in the spike marks of every legendary figure to have played the game--be it with gutta perchas or Pro V1s. (OK, so Hogan never played here, but he stands alone.) Augusta National is rightfully hallowed, but Bobby Jones himself said that if he had to play only one course for the rest of his days he'd grow old on the Old.

Because... The Old Course is the intersection of ecstasy and agony: Doug Sanders yipping a two-footer to win in 1970; Seve Ballesteros pumping his fist like a conquering matador in 1984; Constantino Rocca erasing a chili-dipped shot by sinking an unfathomable putt through the Valley of Sin in 1995, reminding us that the golf gods do, on occasion, grant second chances; Tiger showing no mercy, just brilliance, in 2000.

Because... Only here do golfers hope to encounter unforgiving hazards and unlikely gambles. No four-ball makes it through No. 17 without a recounting of the Sands of Nakajima, yet the lure of trying to escape the Road Hole bunker is irresistible. So, too, is the foolhardy temptation to try to draw a drive around the chimney of the Old Course Hotel--just like Arnie in his heyday.

Because... St. Andrews is not just about the greats who went before--it's about the so-so golfers who keep coming and the townsfolk who tend to the game's greatest muni. The Old Course is a living church where pilgrims don't have to sing from the same hymnbook. There is no correct way to play it. Golfers must become explorers (part Eldrick Woods, part Ernest Shackleton) to navigate their way around the ancient links.

Because... The Old Course has defied time and technology to stand as a reminder of what golf was intended to be: a test of mind and body against nature. Its greatness comes from its purity; there are no island greens, railroad ties or dawdling duffers (the rangers enforce pace of play with a cheery firmness that brooks no dispute).

Because... You could play the Old Course for the remainder of your days and it would never get old.

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