If you love to play golf, today’s Travel Tuesday spotlight on the Old Course in St. Andrews in the 1000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day® calendar will thrill you with visions of green.
Scotland is known for enriching the world with Scotch and bagpipe music. A perhaps somewhat lesser known contribution of this land of mist and rolling hills is the sport of golf. As far back as medieval times, Europeans were playing some form of golf, which was referred to as “kolf” in the Netherlands and “goff” in England. To the north in Scotland, the game of “gowf,” as it was known there, truly began its evolutionary path to the modern game it is today.
In 1457, King James II’s Parliament, concerned that the newly popular game was infringing upon the practice of archery, banned golf. In eastern Scotland, however, residents of the towns of St. Andrews, Aberdeen and Leith illicitly continued to play. Then, King James IV, perhaps motivated by a personal interest in the sport, lifted the ban in 1502, bought himself some clubs and began to play.
Every sport needs an enthused ambassador or two to bring it into the mainstream. King James IV inspired the popularization of the game, while the Robertson family in St. Andrews began manufacturing balls, as well as producing star players. Peter Robertson and his grandson, Allan, were both professional golfers who triumphed in tournaments.
The Old Course is considered the grandfather of all golf courses. The game had been played on the premises as far back at the 16th century. By 1764, the course boasted twelve holes lining the coast and leading up to one of the first golf clubhouses, owned by an association now known as the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. By 1857,12 holes had become 18. If all this golf history has you craving more, check out the obsessive and fascinating A Disorderly Compendium of Golf.
Golf really saw its hole-in-one when another St. Andrews resident, James Patterson, advanced ball-making technology just before the railroad reached the town in 1852. The new transportation corridor brought fresh residents and visitors to St. Andrews—hordes of people who took up and further spread the sport. From there, trailblazing competition ensued: the first national championship in 1860, the first international tournament in 1893, and inclusion as an Olympic sport in 1900.
If you’re a professional golfer or dedicated enthusiast, no doubt you’ve heard of the Old Course and probably always dreamed of playing there. These days, there’s also a New Course, an Eden Course, and a Balgrove Course on site for kids and beginners so that a visit to the Old Course can be a family affair. Even for those who don’t play, golf courses usually aren’t too hard on the eyes—take in the views in The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes.
Read on for more on 1000 Places to See Before You Die book and calendar line from Workman Publishing and Page-A-Day.