250 Years And Counting


BY Joseph Lancaster

Photo Credits
BY Reproduced by kind permission of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews

Last October saw a milestone in the annals of golf that goes far beyond the trite (compared to this) events that have happened anywhere in golfdom in the last two centuries. Standing resolute and proud through searing winds, breaking hearts of the best and worst of us, on October 4, 2014, the historic Links at St Andrews celebrates a major milestone with the 250th anniversary of 18 holes at the Old Course.


The decision to reduce the world’s most famous Links from 22 to 18 holes was made by the Society of St Andrews Golfers – more commonly known today as the R&A – on October 4, 1764, and would become the standard bearer for courses around the world and championship golf to the present day.


On October 4, 1764, following the Challenge for the Silver Club a meeting took place of the Society, whose minute reads: “The Captain and Gentlemen Golfers present are of the opinion that it would be for the improvement of the Links that the four first holes should be converted into two.”


The removal of two holes (four in total going out and back) in subsequent years meant the Old Course would become, around that period, 10 holes, of which 8 were played twice. In the decades that followed the Old Course continued to evolve as the links and surrounding areas developed, from playing the course backwards through to new greens being built and holes, so familiar to many today, were mapped out across it. By the mid-19th Century, the 18-hole format at St Andrews had become the blueprint for golf with new and existing courses across the world all following its 18-hole layout.


Euan Loudon, chief executive of St Andrews Links, said: “The Society of St Andrews Golfers may not have appreciated the ramifications of the decision they made on October 4 1764 but those individuals and the resultant changes to the Old Course had a huge impact on the way the game would be played forever.”


To commemorate this special moment, a specially commissioned time-lapse project to highlight the daily efforts of the greenkeeping team at the Old Course can be viewed at their website. The time lapse was recorded as the Old Course greenkeeping team, led by Course Manager Gordon McKie, prepared for a day’s play at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which celebrates a 30 year association with St Andrews this week. The hand mowing of the 18th green took 45 minutes to record and required thousands of frames of film.