Ten reasons the Old Course at St. Andrews is the best golf course in the world

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

About 40,000 golf courses around the world have been built since the Old Course at St. Andrews was laid out over 600 years ago.

St. Andrews - Old Course
Newer, more expensive golf courses keep coming around the corner, but the Old Course at St. Andrews is still the world's best.
St. Andrews - Old CourseOld Course - Hole  18

But despite all the game's advances in design and technology, many of the world's best players, Tiger Woods included, call the Old the best out there. And golfers from around the world make the pilgrimage here at least once during their golfing lifetimes.

There's gotta be a reason. In fact, I've come up with 10 unique reasons why the Old Course is my favorite golf course in the world after playing it one fall day in 2006 (I hope to again someday soon).

1. It has the widest opening-hole fairway in the world: Forgiving, sure, but all that more embarrassing when you miss it either over the fence on the right or through the 18th fairway into the road left (ala Ian Baker-Finch in the 1995 Open Championship).

2. It's open to everyone: The Old Course has a daily lottery accounting for half of its daily tee sheet, open to anyone willing to pay the £130 (peak season) to play. It even invited the LPGA Tour to play the British Open and boasts a solid youth program. There is nothing exclusive or pretentious about the Old Course. In fact, the R&A tried to buy it years back and make it private, but alas the town still owns it - and we're all as welcome here as ever.

3. Double greens: Fourteen double-greens, each of which add up to the sum of 18. It makes the course seem so organized and mathematical, even when you're navigating over other groups on the "loop" from No. 8-11. But these massive, firm and rolling surfaces make approach shots and the short game so much more different than any other golf course.

4. Student rates: Residents of St. Andrews, including students at the university here, can play each of the Links Trust courses all year for the low annual sum of about £140. Who out there isn't wondering if they need to go back to grad school for a couple years?

5. It can be played both directions: You wonder why the game's top architects haven't tried to replicate this aspect of the Old. It was originally played in a clockwise direction, but today it's played counterclockwise. However, each April for three days the Old reverts back to the original direction: from the first tee you play to the 17th green and so on, until you reach the 18th green from the second tee.

6. The original golf destination: A lot of newer destinations out there try to manufacture a golf theme around every nook. But in St. Andrews, the game bleeds out of every pub, hotel and pedestrian walking the streets.

7. Its official course architect: The official architect of the Old Course is simply "mother nature." While it has received tweaks and renovations from Old Tom Morris and Alister Mackenzie, the course's genius can be attributed to the earth - and remains the standard by which other courses are judged.

8. You hit over a building: It's a shame few other courses actually allow the golfer to hit over man-made objects, like on the famous Road Hole tee shot, where you're aiming over a shed attached to the Old Course hotel.

9. It's closed on Sundays: On Sunday, grab a Frisbee, take some photos, bring a picnic basket or just take a stroll on the Old, which transforms from the world's most famous golf course to a free public park every sabbath.

You can do just about anything on the Old Course on Sundays; just don't bring a golf club.

10. Its finishing hole: Why does seemingly every modern golf course built with the intention of hosting a PGA Tour event close with a long, par-4 dogleg left over water, where birdie is practically impossible? At the Old Course, the 18th is a drivable, straightaway par 4 where your aiming line is the Martyr's Monument. It's a birdie hole with the right wind, but the Valley of Sin can still bring the game's best short games to their knees.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • 18 th

    Terry Woods wrote on: Apr 9, 2017

    For my 40th birthday I made the pilgrimage to St Andrews. On my third and last round I suffered my biggest disappointment in 54 years of playing this grand game. I 3-putted 18 ... for par! Such memories. FYI I had no tee times at all. Walked up at 5pm and found a twosome the first day. Joined a group I had met at Carnoustie the day before for round 2 and won a slot through the lottery on day 3. 11 years later was able to join a 3some at 8am when I had a 3pm flight. Really lucky


  • 8. the building.

    steve wrote on: May 18, 2009

    Had the good fortune to play the Old in 1993. On the tee of the 17th I told my caddie, Jimmy, that I can't aim at a builing. He replied, "You are not aiming at a building, but the church steeple beyond it. But don't hit the steeple." We all laughed and I hit a tee shot at the steeple that my friends who were there still talk about when we get together.


  • st. andrews

    ukwendy wrote on: Apr 6, 2009

    Agree with all but no. 8. I do not WISH to hit over a building - because I CAN'T. OK - maybe a Wendy House, otherwise I just go round the damn obstacles.