St Andrews – Scotland

We arrived in St Andrews on Saturday night after our time in Edzell. We were staying at Agnes Blackadder Hall which is campus accommodation for the students during the university term. Over the summer months is it used like hotel accommodation. It was only a 15 minute walk into the centre of St Andrews. Saturday night was a lovely night with blue sky and the sun shining so we took a drive into the town and then out onto the coast to check out the many golf courses. There are three golf courses right in town – the Old Course, the Jubilee Course and the New Course but there are many more in the surrounding area and along the rest of the coast beyond the town.

St Andrews is a former royal burgh on the east coast of Fife in Scotland, named after Saint Andrew the Apostle. The town is home to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world and the oldest in Scotland. The University is an integral part of the burgh, and during term time students make up approximately one third of the town’s population.

St Andrews is also known worldwide as the “home of golf”. This is in part because the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, founded in 1754, exercises legislative authority over the game worldwide (except in the United States and Mexico), and also because the famous links (acquired by the town in 1894) is the most frequent venue for The Open Championship, the oldest of golf’s four major championships. Visitors travel to St Andrews in great numbers for several courses ranked among the finest in the world, as well as for the sandy beaches.

The town is very quaint and the buildings were lovely. There was a fair in town which was taking up the main street – it was really busy and all these noisy rides etc… detracted from my first impressions. There are many golf shops which kept us busy during the time we were there. We also discovered The Vic – a pub that had a very groovy atmosphere and great food.

I was also taken with the Tom Morris golf shop which sits alongside the 18th green. We went in to have a look and the girl in their was so friendly sharing the story of Tom Morris with us. See below for more details on Tom Morris. Where the shop stands today was his original shop and the building is still owned by his great, great, great granddaughter who lives above the shop. The corner where the shop sits along with the Old Course shop and a hotel would be the most expensive real estate in St Andrews.

Thomas Mitchell Morris, Sr. (16 June 1821 – 24 May 1908), otherwise known as Old Tom Morris, was a pioneer of professional golf. He was born in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, the “home of golf” and location of the St Andrews Links, and died there as well. His son was Tom Morris, Jr. (died 1875), best known as “Young Tom Morris.”

Morris was the son of a weaver, and began golf by age ten, by knocking wine-bottle corks pierced with nails (to serve as balls) around the streets of the town using a homemade club, in informal matches against other youths; this was known as ‘sillybodkins’. He started caddying and playing golf from a young age, and formally was hired as an apprentice at age 14 to Allan Robertson, generally regarded as the world’s first professional golfer; Robertson ran the St Andrews Links and an equipment-making business. Morris served four years as apprentice and a further five years as journeyman under Robertson, by most accounts the world’s top player from about 1843 until his death in 1859. From the early 1840s, Robertson often chose Morris as his partner in challenge matches, played by alternate shot format, which were the principal form of competition at that time. It was said the two never lost a team match played on even terms. The team became known as “The Invincibles”. Morris by his early 20s was the second-best player in St. Andrews, close to Robertson in golf skill, and won an informal match from him over the Old Course in 1843, but the two players rarely played seriously head-to-head. As Robertson’s employee, Morris was in somewhat of an awkward position.

Morris worked under Robertson at St Andrews until 1851, when he was fired on the spot after being caught by Robertson playing the new guttie golf ball; Robertson had a profitable business making the featherie ball, which was threatened by the emergence of the guttie. Morris was then hired by Prestwick Golf Club, which was just starting up. At Prestwick, he designed, laid out, and maintained the course, ran his own golf equipment business selling gutties and clubs, gave instruction to players, and ran events. He was influential in beginning The Open Championship in 1860, and struck the very first shot in that event.

Morris returned to St Andrews as greenkeeper and professional in 1865, at a then-generous salary of 50 pounds per year. He was sought out by the Royal and Ancient, which formally passed a motion in 1864 calling for his rehiring. St Andrews was then in very poor condition, and his first task was to correct this. He did so by widening the fairways, enlarging the greens, applying greenkeeping techniques he had developed at Prestwick, building two new greens (on holes 1 and 18), and “managing” the hazards. He stayed in the post until 1903, a total of 39 years, and was kept on after this by the R & A at full salary.

Morris worked as a greenkeeper, clubmaker, ballmaker, golf instructor, and course designer, as well as playing match and tournament golf. He came second in the first Open Championship in 1860, and won the following year. He followed this up with further victories in 1862, 1864 and 1867. He still holds the record as the oldest winner of The Open Championship at 46. Also, he was part of the only father/son couple being winner and runner-up.

Morris held the record for the largest margin of victory in a major championship (14 strokes in the 1862 Open Championship), which stood until Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes. He became the second player to break 80 over the Old Course, scoring 79; Robertson had been the first to do it. Once his son Young Tom Morris became an accomplished player in his own right by his mid-teens, in the mid-1860s, father and son formed a team for challenge matches, usually played by alternate shot (foursomes play), where they proved very successful. Their partnership, although not exclusive, would continue until the death of Young Tom in 1875.

Morris played a role in designing courses across the British Isles. He began by assisting Robertson lay out ten holes at Carnoustie in 1842. His subsequent work included Kinghorn Golf Club in 1887, Prestwick, Muirfield, Machrihanish, the Jubilee Course at St Andrews, Balcomie at Crail, Moray, Askernish in South Uist, Lahinch and Rosapenna in Ireland, Warkworth and Royal North Devon Golf Club (Westward Ho!) in England, King Edward Bay Golf Club in the Isle of Man and the Castletown Golf Club in the Isle of Man.

Morris was also the father of modern greenkeeping. He introduced the concept of top-dressing greens with sand, which significantly helped turf growth. He introduced many novel ideas on turf and course management, including actively managing hazards (in the past, bunkers and the like were largely left to their own devices, becoming truly “hazardous”) and yardage markers. He was the first to use a push mower to cut greens. He improved St Andrews by widening fairways to handle increased play, enlarging greens, and establishing separate tee boxes on each hole; all of these measures spread out play over larger areas, and led to better turf conditions. In course design, he standardized the golf course length at 18 holes (St Andrews had at one time been 22 holes), and introduced the concept of each nine holes returning to the club house. He also introduced the modern idea of placing hazards so that the golf ball could be routed around them; this was the beginning of strategic design, which has dominated golf course design ever since. Before his times hazards were thought of as obstacles that either had to be carried or were there to punish a wayward ball.

Morris kept working right up until his death, just before his 87th birthday which was no mean feat back in those days. He had outlived all his children. He died after falling down a flight of stairs in the clubhouse of the New Golf Club in St Andrews. He is buried in the grounds of the St Andrews Cathedral, and his grave attracts thousands of golfers who wish to pay homage.

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This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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