The Old Course at St Andrews Course Guide 2:
Scotland, the birthplace of golf, is a golf enthusiast’s dream destination. It’s a land where lush green fairways meet rugged coastline, and every swing is steeped in history. But among all the incredible golf courses in this picturesque country, one stands out as the holy grail of golf: The Old Course at St Andrews. In this special blog post, we take you on an unforgettable journey through the eyes of Ben Saunders, Managing Director of Golf & Tours, as he guides you through some of the iconic holes and unforgettable features that comprise the emotional rollercoaster of the Old Course. This is the second of 2 course guides for The Old Course at St Andrews, the back 9.
The Turnaround at the Halfway House: A Scenic Pause
After completing the 9th hole, you’ll find yourself at the halfway house—a perfect spot to catch your breath and enjoy a meal (Do try the sausage rolls). As you refuel, you’ll gaze out over the course, with the historic town of St Andrews in the distance. It’s a moment to reflect on the front nine, recharge, and prepare for the back nine.
Hole 10 – Back to the loop
The 10th at The Old Course is a relatively straightforward par 4 which takes you back towards “The Loop” which consists of the 7th, 8th and 11th holes which are right on top of one another. The green on the 10th is one of the fabled shared greens of The Old Course, this time sharing with the 8th. Remember the hole numbers on the shared greens always adds up to 18!
Hole 11 – Distractions
The 11th hole on The Old Course is full of distractions. A par 3 which asks a lot from the elevated tee boxes. Firstly your tee shot will be crossing the 7th fairway at a right angle, so you need to be aware of golfers hitting or walking up the 7th. Secondly, the green is also elevated and has a huge tier running across the middle which can play havoc with your shot confidence depending on tee placement and winds. Also from the tee box, the green looks to be about 10 paces deep, its not, but from the tee your target looks tiny. Finally, couple this with hungry bunkers at the front of the green and out-of-bounds directly behind the green and you can see why this hole can make you distracted.
Ben’s tip: Relax and trust your game, go with a club that you know will make the distance without effort then swing easy and if you’re playing in strong or unpredictable winds go down a club, a lay-up here in bad weather can be the best option.
Hole 12 – Hidden peril
This is another hole on The Old Course that can lull you into a false sense of security and also illustrates the importance of having a caddy when you play here. From the tee the 12th looks like a straight par 4 with no serious hazards to contend with, but you would be wrong to think so. Right in the middle of the fairway, where most straight drives would land or roll out to are a series of 4 invisible bunkers. The bunkers are invisible because this hole used to be played in the opposite direction. When you look back down the fairway from the 12 green all of the bunkers are clearly visible, but there is no hint of them from the tee.
Ben’s tip: Simple, don’t play down the middle of the fairway, aim to be landing about 20 yards (18 metres) from the rough on either side of the fairway.
Hole 13 – Long and blind
The 13th hole is a long par 4 that is often played into the wind, making it feel even longer. On top of that, most drives will find you below a rough covered ridge of land (an ancient dune) that extends across most of the fairway. From here the green is hidden, so your send shot on the 13th is often blind. The size of the green, it’s another big one, takes some of the fear away from your second shot but it’s easy to find yourself with a 60 ft putt if your shot and the flag are at opposing ends of the spectrum.
Hole 14 – Hell
The long par 5 14th at The Old Course is home to the Hell bunker whose name says it all. It lies in a hollow some 100 yards short of the green and in places it is about 10 ft deep with shear walls. In order to avoid this open-cut mine of a bunker some choose to play their second shots well left and back onto the 5th fairway to go around instead of over.
Ben’s tip: Lay up before the bunker. Its only 100 yards to the green after the Hell bunker, so that would leave you a 120 to 140-yard (110 – 130 mtr) shot to the green. Then get your caddie to take a shot of you with the bunker behind.
Holes 15 & 16 – Blur
Holes 15 and 16 are great holes, both par 4’s both with out of bounds down the right, both with cheeky pot bunkers and very undulating fairways that can give you some interesting” lies and stances as you play them. But what stands out with both of these holes is that you can see The Road Hole and the 18th as well as the town of St Andrews growing ever closer. As such these 2 holes can pass in a bit of a blur as you can see two of the most iconic holes in golf approaching and you can also see your time one the Old Course drawing to a close.
Ben’s tip: Enjoy the moment, take a deep breath, take a photo and enjoy the fact that you on the Old Course at St Andrews.
Hole 17 – The Road Hole (Enough said)
Widely regarded as the hardest hole in golf! Playing the Road Hole has any number of pitfalls. Starting with the tee shot, which from the back tee’s requires a shot that goes over the top of a section of the Old Course Hotel, not a typo and the Hotel itself has invested in ballistic glass for the rooms facing this fairway. Once you have made that shot and assuming you are not now in the knee-deep rough running down the left side of the fairway you will need to hit a precision iron shot towards a shallow green, with a road running directly behind it (hence Road Hole) and one of the world’s most infamous bunkers in front of it. You could fill an entire blog with the details of this one hole, but really the only way to experience it is to come to St Andrews then walk and play the hole yourself.
The Grand Finale: The 18th Hole
The 18th hole at the Old Course is like no other. With the iconic Swilcan Bridge and the R&A Clubhouse in the background, it’s a moment of awe and reverence. A sense of accomplishment washes over you, and you can’t help but feel grateful for the experience as you walk down the final fairway of your Old Course odyssey. Hit your shot over through or around the valley of sin, sink your putt(s(s)) and breathe out that deep breath you took on the first tee.
Conclusion: A Remarkable Golfing Journey
Playing the Old Course at St Andrews is more than just a round of golf; it’s a pilgrimage to the very heart of the sport. By the time you finish your round, you’ll likely have shed a few tears of joy, thanked your caddie profusely, and shared unforgettable moments with your fellow golf companions. It’s an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime—a bucket-list item that every golfer dreams of achieving. So, pack your clubs and get ready to embark on the Ultimate Scotland golf tour. The Old Course awaits, and your golfing adventure of a lifetime is about to begin.
If you are interested in joining us to take on The Old Course yourself, you can check out our 2024 Ultimate Scotland Tour by clicking here.