Golf might have evolved here in St Andrews from a hit-a-rock-into-a-rabbit hole game by shepherds while tending their flocks. They grazed their flocks over the ground now known as the Old Course and others. This reportedly simple game to pass the time has turned into a precise game, governed by rules established by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the United States Professional Golf Association and raises millions in revenue for the maintenance of the sport, prises and charities.
A more formal beginning of golf in St Andrews is conjectured to be as early as 1350 AD. To this day, there still remains many of the 800 year old “March Stones”, scattered around the Old and the other courses. These March Stones were used to delineate grazing areas and presumably, grazing and golf areas as the sport grew and refined.
Golf had its unique growing problems with several edicts forbidding golf issued by King James the II (1457), the III (1471) and the IV (1491) with royal acts banning “Futeball, golfe and uther sik unprofitable sportes that distracted young men from Archery exercises and Church attendance. King James the IV finally rescinded this Act in late 1491 AD. Turned out that he was a keen golfer himself, sporting clubs purchased for 14 shillings in 1502.
Over the years, as links golf matured here in St Andrews, it spread over Scotland, the United Kingdom then the world. The name Links gold is associated with golf courses on land which borders the sea and lies between the sea and agricultural land.
The early Old Course layout consisted of 22 holes and was played in a clockwise fashion. Today the Old is played in a counter-clockwise direction. In 1764, the Old was trimmed to 18 holes which has became the world standard for golf.
Keeper of the Green, Old Tom Morris, created a new 18th green, reportedly built on dead men’s bones (built up from a rubbish heap that had also served as a burial ground). Under the influence of Old Tom Morris, golf here in St Andrews grew from one course, The Old Course, to seven. Old Tom designed and opened the New Course 1895 and then the Jubilee 1897. Sadly, Old Tom Morris died in a fall in 1908. Future courses followed with the Eden in 1914, the Strathtyrum 1993, the Balgove as it is today in 1993 and lastly, the Castle Course in 2008.
There are many other courses, links and parkland, around and about St Andrews that are also worthy of play and enjoyment. Must play courses should be the Open Championship qualifying Courses of Ladybank, Scotscraig, Leven Links, and Lundin Links. Kingsbarns and Carnoustie should be included in this list as well. Farther a field, still within 50 miles of St Andrews, would include play at Gleneagles Kings and Queens courses, Boat of Garten, Rosemount at Blairgowry, and, of course, Old Montrose. Each of these golf courses offers unique challenges and poignant memories of a memorable golfing holiday to St Andrews, the Kingdom of Fife and Scotland.