Compared with its two American brethren, St Andrews is no match in the visual stakes, and I know many friends have commented they can’t see the wonder given St Andrews is a flat paddock lined with gorse and little in the way of aesthetic beauty.
It is a surprise how often you have to tee off at St Andrews with no idea where the green is located. A good caddie and local knowledge is a great ally especially during your first round. Avoiding the perfectly placed bunkers is no mean feat, and plotting your way around the greens is a challenging task.
The most difficult hole on the course – and possibly the toughest par-4 in the world – is the 17th, The Road Hole. There have been so many stories and such drama at the 17th that every golfer looks forward to seeing how they’ll perform there. From the tee shot over the sheds, followed by an approach to a narrow sliver of a green, the 17th is a challenge that enthralls all golfers. Carrying the bunker yet stopping the ball before it carries over onto the road, and possibly up against the wall, heightens the challenge and jangles the nerves as one prepares to hit the approach to the green.
As you play the 17th, the St Andrews township looms over the course. The sense of history envelops the players, and for most golfers, the last two holes – especially the 18th – provides the largest of galleries watching them play golf.
Inquisitive travellers, watching just a small part of the magic of St Andrews, tend to gather around the 18th green and watch golfers traverse the Valley of Sin en route to putting out on the final hole. For the mere mortal, a par on the 18th at The Home of Golf can be a satisfying experience.
Perhaps St Andrews doesn’t share the visual delights of Pebble Beach and Augusta, but there is no denying it is one of golf’s great experiences. Ø