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The Old Course at St Andrews in Reverse

By: | Fri 29 Nov 2019

Scotland has a "new" golf course - sort of - but only for 48 hours. Celebrating St Andrew's Day, the legendary Old Course at St Andrews is being played in reverse for two days, transporting those lucky golfers who secured a tee time back centuries to an earlier era in the development of the venerable Fife links.

What do you mean by reverse?

Just to explain; as it passed through generations, the unique layout of the Old Course was laid out with holes that could be played in both an inward and outward direction, made possible by its cavernous double greens and wide fairways. Essentially, golfers could play two courses in one, heading out and back in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. 

It was only when Old Tom Morris added the modern first green in 1870 that the routing we know today - anti-clockwise  - came to prominence, the same layout that has since hosted 29 Open Championships. Much of the clockwise layout was deemed impractical for mass play, something that is most apparent in a part of the course known as The Loop, which certainly strains health and safety regulations. However, the "reverse" course remained available for many years, alternating with the clockwise routing each fortnight, but an annual tradition of restored clockwise play in the spring ended a decade ago, apparently consigning this original route to history. 

Making a welcome return to the calendar, the Reverse Old Course was available for play on 29th November, with a competition for local clubs also being played on the 30th, St Andrew's Day, the national day of Scotland, which naturally holds particular resonance in the Auld Grey Toun. 

St Andrews Links Director of Golf, John Grant said, “We are reintroducing this route to play the Old Course for two days as part of the calendar of events celebrating St Andrew’s Day in the town."

Playing the Reverse Course, golfers tee off the normal 1st tee, but towards the 17th green, crossing the iconic Swilcan Bridge on the opening hole. The clockwise layout then follows a route of 18th tee to 16th green, 17th to 15th, 16th to 14th and so on, until finishing with a tee shot from the 2nd to the 18th green.

It may sound a little confusing, but visually it becomes largely clear. Suddenly, certain bunkers are more prominently in play, especially those that are hidden from view when playing the Old in its regular form. Playing the Reverse Old emphasises the intriguing nature of this narrow stretch of linksland, so beguiling and strategic, an appreciation only enhanced by seeing the course logically played in the opposite direction, underlining why the Old Lady has long and continues to captivate many students of the game.

Speaking in 2015, Tiger Woods - twice an Open winner at the spiritual Home of Golf - said: "I’ve always wanted to play it backwards, one time before I die. I think that would be just a blast because I can see how certain bunkers – why would they put that there? And then if you play it backwards, you see it. It’s very apparent. That’s totally in play. That one day would be a lot of fun to be able to do."

Well, for a deeply fortunate 80 or so golfers on Friday who made it through the ballot - demand far outweighed availability - they had that opportunity in beautiful late November sunshine to experience the Old Course as it was known two hundred years ago.

(See all 18 Holes Below in the Image Gallery)



















Golfshake's Kieran Clark - a resident of St Andrews - walked the perimeter of the course and caught a glimpse of the Reverse Old Course in all its glory.

1st Approach of the Day is to the 17th Green

Crossing the Swilcan Bridge on the 1st Hole

Playing Towards the 11th Green From 12th Fairway

13th Tee Towards 11th Green

The *Usual* 12th Fairway is the 7th on the Reverse Old Course

"Are We Going the Right Way?"

Not Everyone Noticed the Difference

It Was a Perfect Day

The 17th Hole is a Touch Different

Waiting on the "New" 18th Tee

The Road Hole (Backwards) is the 2nd on the Reverse

Related Articles

The Experience of Playing the Old Course at St Andrews

Stat Focus: The Old Course at St Andrews

Six Favourite Holes on the Old Course

Discover the Bunkers of the Old Course

How to Get a Tee Time on the Old Course at St Andrews

10 Tips for a Golf Break to St Andrews

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: st andrews Scotland Courses

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