Tom Watson on the Swilcan Bridge at the Old Course, St Andrews Image Credit: AP

Matthew Smith, Sports Editor

It is the world’s oldest golf course by a long way, and St Andrews has stood the test of time in a way no other sporting venue could possibly do.

King Henry V was on the throne of England and most of Europe was still 200 years away from the Great Plague when gents were first teeing up at the ‘Home of Golf’ in Scotland. It was the early 1400s when the Old Course saw its first golfers - and you can almost taste the history of St Andrews in the air, from the second you set your eyes on the - literally - Royal and Ancient clubhouse and the undulating fairways buffeted by the North Sea on the east coast of Scotland, around 50kms north of Edinburgh and a small jaunt over the Tay from Dundee.

I have played the course twice, in more recent days and with slightly better gear than those first pioneers (I’m not that old yet), once in the traditional Scottish weather of sideways rain and howling gales - seven lost balls that day - and once in the rare Celtic sunshine, when this course comes into its own. When the fairways dry out long enough, these Old Course 18 holes play like no others, and even a novice drive can travel and travel over the rolling browning fairways. But golf is a cruel game and unfortunately your ball will travel further than expected in the sunshine, meaning a cavernous bunker will swallow it up or, if you are even a bit wayward, the rocks and beach await. I even once found ther car park, but no Bentleys or Rolls-Royces were harmed.

For sure, these days there are longer, tougher and more luxurious resorts to place a tee and smack a ball before settling back into your buggy and pootling off up the fairway, but nothing - and I mean nothing - is like landing a peach on the 18th green in front of the clubhouse, and walking over the Swilcan Bridge (secretly pretending to be Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson), knowing exactly whose footseps you are following in.

Even professionals such as Phil Mickelson can find the Old Course cruel when the Open Championship comes to town

Fantastic memories

Leslie Wilson Jr, Features Editor

The first thing that catches your eye as you drive into St Andrews is the magnificent Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, one of the most recognizable structures in sport.

As a youngster I had seen many, many pictures of the unique heritage building whose architecture I believe was inspired by Victorian tenements and Georgian country houses, but to actually view it in reality is a different experience altogether. It is a breathtaking sight.

As I cast my eye around the lush green landscape that makes up the six-century-old Old Course I am overwhelmed by a sense of sporting history. The guided tour that I would take through the other courses like the St Andrews Links course, the New and Old Jubilee championship courses, the Eden and the award-winning Castle Course, was a memory that stays with me until this day.

This was the place where the modern game was born and where golf has been played by the greats of the sport during the Open Championship and several other competitions such as the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup matches between the British and American teams.

My mind is racing as I try to soak in everything I see. And it seems too much too handle. The Links Clubhouse boasts the fantastic Tom Morris Bar & Grill which offers a stunning view of the golf courses. There is something so very authentic and historic about the place that has helped shape the game of golf into the worldwide phenomenon that it is today.
That first visit to St Andrews was not the only one I enjoyed, and I hope that there will be many, many more.

The early birdie

Nick Tarratt, Special to Gulf News

I first visited St Andrews and played the Old Course in 1976. We went for a treat with our neighbour Nigel and his parents and stayed in the Old Course Hotel. We were lucky as we dodged the ballot and got out to play the famous course nice and early. We had heard on the grapevine that people queued from 4.30am to get on the course.

The early alarm calls were set and we were out on the first tee bright and early. One thing we didn’t factor in was it was October and the demand was not as great as expected (the queue from 4.30am is in June). Oh well, at least it was nice and quiet. We were (obviously) first on the course.

Wes still made some wonderful memories that will stay with us on that famous course. I even scored an excellent birdie on the famous 17th Road Hole (erm, from the forward tees and a very favourable hole placement).

The city, with its outstanding university, is steeped in history and is a sight to behold. It is worth the trip alone, even if you are not a golfer. You can touch the times of old, just like my home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. I have been back on many occasions, including many times to watch the Open Championship at its true home. And, as always, I am looking forward to my next visit - soon, I hope.