How to fit in at the Old Course, St Andrews
If you’re going to be following in the footsteps of legends and teeing off on one of the oldest and most prestigious golf courses in the world, you want to look and act the part.
The Old Course at St Andrews in Fife, Scotland is considered to be the "home of golf". Historic records show that golf has been played in St Andrews for more than 600 years although many believe the game's origins here date back to the 12th Century. Steeped in history and boasting iconic landmarks like The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, the Old Course at St Andrews is open to public golfers six days a week, although you will need to be patient when securing a tee time – the course is fully booked months in advance.
Once your reservation is set, it is most sportsmanlike to acquaint yourself with the etiquette required when playing, not only on a course as iconic as the Old Course at St Andrews, but on any course for that matter. Etiquette is an integral part of the game of golf and following it ensures maximum enjoyment for all. It boils down to having respect for the course, respect for your fellow players and respect for the game of golf.
Here are a few rules of etiquette to follow when playing the Old Course at St Andrews, as well as a few other handy tips for your visit:
Before your tee time
Preparation is key when playing a new course for the first time, and fortunately, the St Andrews Links website is full of helpful information. They have also launched a free smartphone app which boasts a variety of marvellous features and allows you to preview the Old Course and visualise your upcoming game. The interactive planner also keeps you up to date with the latest news from the St Andrews Links and includes weather forecasts.
Detailed information about the Old Course is available on the St Andrews website, as well as a useful video series on how to play the course, presented by Steve North, the Director of Instruction at St Andrews Links.
Remember to bring along your current handicap certificate as the starter has the right to request it prior to play.
Arrive at the starters box 20 mins prior to your tee time and meet your representative from Executive Golf & Leisure who will assist you with your check in procedure. There is a putting green located alongside the 1st tee so take a few minutes to practice your putts before you tee off.
At over 6,700 yards long, The Old Course is a fair stretch so be sure to use the restrooms before you tee off, and take plenty of water with you. It’s also advisable to book a caddie in advance. Many of St Andrews caddies have worked on the course for years and their experience and knowledge is indispensable.
If you’re in need of a warm up before playing the course, why not visit the practice range at the state-of-the-art St Andrews Links Golf Academy?
Etiquette while playing
Care for the course
The overarching principle of respecting the course and fellow players extends to how you carry yourself on the course and take care of the green.
Ensure that you repair any pitch marks on the green, whether they are yours or not. Irish professional golfer, Pádraig Harrington says “If all golfers did this, problems with pitch marks would be a thing of the past”. Along with ball marks, take care to repair divots or ensure your caddie does this for you and always cover shoe marks before leaving the green.
Greenkeepers work hard to maintain the course in tip top shape; at the very least you can help keep it that way.
When leaving the bunker carefully smooth over footprints, using a rake if one is available.
Take care when handling the flagstick and removing the ball from the hole and never use your club-head to remove the ball. Do not lean on your club on the putting green and remember to replace the flagstick in the centre of the hole before leaving the putting green.
Slow play can easily detract from the enjoyment of the game for the group behind, so be sure to play at a good place and keep up with the group in front of you.
It is considered good etiquette to invite the group behind you, irrespective of their number, to play through if your group has lost a clear hole. Where your group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind you can play faster, you should also invite them to play through.
Pace can be maintained by being ready to play as soon as it’s your turn, and playing a provisional ball when your ball is lost out of bounds. If someone in your group is struggling to find a lost ball you should signal the players in the group behind you to play through.
Consideration for others
Always show consideration for others and do not distract players who are making a stroke.
You should also ensure that any electronic devices taken onto the course don't disturb other players.
Do not stand too close to the ball, directly behind it or behind the hole when a player is about to swing. The same applies when on the putting green; and be careful not to cast a shadow over another player’s line of putt. Remain on or close to the putting green until all other players in the group have holed out.
Safety on the course
In order for any game to be enjoyed fully, certain safety precautions must be taken. With golf there are no exceptions. Be mindful of other people on the course and ensure no one is in a position to be hit by the club or ball. Alert any greenkeepers in range before making a stroke. If your ball is heading in a direction where it might endanger someone, shout a warning immediately. The traditional word of warning is “fore!”.
After your round
Before leaving the course ensure that you have all your belongings with you and you’ve repaired any pitch marks, divots and shoe marks on the final green.
St Andrews offers golfers plenty of opportunities to dine or reflect on their game over a whisky at any one of their clubhouses. There is also a shop to purchase some memorabilia of your noteworthy round of golf, and you can sign up for guided walking tours of the courses.
Play the Old Course at St Andrews this summer
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