December 2, 2022

Inside St. Andrews’ Old Course: layout, history and features of the legendary Open Championship 2022 venue, from Road Hole to Hell Bunker


The Open Championship returns to St. Andrews in 2022 for the first time in seven years. He was ousted from his normal five-year rotation when The Open was canceled in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now golf is back at one of its classic venues and fans of the sport will have the chance to re-watch the action on the historic course.

The Old Course is steeped in the tradition of the previous 29 Open Championships it has hosted. However, its overall history goes back much further than that, and while some elements of the course have changed, other notable parts of it remain the same.

The St. Andrews course is quite long and filled with plenty of obstacles that should get golfers in shape during The Open in 2022. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the course as well as some of the bunkers, water hazards and the most notable landmarks to look out for.

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History of the Old Course in St. Andrews

The Old Course in St. Andrews has been around for quite a while long time. It was first played in the 1400s, and St. Andrews is considered “The Golf House” Therefore.

The Old Course had some difficulties in its early days. King James II banned golf in 1457 because it became “too popular” with young men he wanted to practice archery. This ban remained in place until James IV overturned it and became a golfer in 1502.

Later, in 1797, the course went bankrupt and rabbit herders attempted to challenge golfers for the land. This sparked more than 20 years of wars, both legal and physical, between golfers and rabbit farmers until James Cheape, a landowner and local golfer, purchased the course.

From there, The Old Course only grew in fame. Its 18-hole layout – which was 22 until 1764 – has become the standard length of the golf course. Eventually, it first hosted the Open in 1873, when Tom Kidd won the event for the first and only time.

In 1894, St. Andrews City Council was able to buy out the links, helping to protect them for locals and visitors to use. Shortly after, in 1895, St. Andrews built what was called the “New Course” to create another gambling option there. It was then that the Old Course got its nickname.

The Old Course now has a lot of people. There are seven courses at St. Andrews including the Old Course, New Course, Castle Course, Jubilee Course, Eden Course, Strathtyrum Course and Balgove Course.

Yet the Old Course is the course used for championships like The Open. It is hosting one for the 30th time in 2022, making it the most played course in tournament history.

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St. Andrews Old Course Course Layout

  • By: 72
  • Length: 7,305 yards

The Old Course at St. Andrews is quite long, playing a distance of 7,305 yards. It is one of the longest courses golfers play on during The Open.

Below is a breakdown of each hole on the course, including its par, nickname and 2015 scoring average, par golf chain. Also included are where the holes ranked most difficult in 2015, with 18 representing the easiest and one representing the most difficult.

Hole By Distance (meters) Average rating 2015 (ranking)
1 4 376 3.84 (13)
2 4 453 4.04 (8)
3 4 397 3.86 (11)
4 4 480 4.15 (4)
5 5 568 4.46 (18)
6 4 412 3.86 (12)
seven 4 371 3.8 (15)
8 3 175 3.04 (7)
9 4 352 3.81 (14)
ten 4 386 3.78 (16)
11 3 174 3.09 (6)
12 4 348 4.01 (9)
13 4 465 4.19 (3)
14 5 618 5.01 (10)
15 4 455 4.11 (5)
16 4 423 4.24 (2)
17 4 495 4.66 (1)
18 4 357 3.79 (17)

And if you want a visual of each hole, you can check out this informative video tour from Old Course Golf Digest:

Notable holes, characteristic of the Old Course of St. Andrews

The Old Course’s best-known hole is hole 17, known as the Road Hole. It is considered one of the most difficult par 4s in championship golf, as the approach to the green is extremely complex. The left side is guarded by the Road Hole Bunker while anything along the green will result in a shot from the road behind the green.

Of course, controlling spin and travel on a links course is extremely difficult, especially given the hot, dry conditions that have persisted in Scotland recently. So it should prove to be a tough test, just as it was for golfers in 2015.

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In total, there are countless obstacles on the Old Course. There are 112 bunkers on the course and many other ridges, valleys, troughs and water hazards that will give golfers adjustments throughout the week.

Holes 1 and 18 contain within them three of the most notable obstacles. The Swilcan Burn, a waterway that runs through the Old Course, is something players should avoid. The same goes for Grannie Clark’s Wynd, a paved public road that can create some tricky shots for golfers.

In addition, the Swilcan Bridge is located on these holes. It is one of the most notable landmarks in St. Andrews, as the footbridge over the Swilcan Burn was built over 700 years ago.

Another notable landmark is the “Hell Bunker” on the 14th hole. The bunker is 100 yards from the green, but those entering it will not seek to land an approach shot on the green. They will just try to get away with it in general.

The Hell Bunker has an extreme slope and is seven feet deep in places. If you run into one of its side walls, it will almost certainly take several hits to get out. Once, it took Jack Nicklaus four shots to escape the clutches of the bunker.

So, as much to say that those who find the Hell Bunker will have a hell of a time.

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