"Feed The Ball" Salon

Why aren't there more golf courses like the Old Course at St. Andrews?

May 06, 2020
The Old Course at St Andrews

The Old Course at St Andrews

One of the more famous holes in golf, a shot of the Road hole, the par-4 17th hole at the Old Course at St Andrews.

Photo by: (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

It began with a simple question: if The Old Course at St. Andrews is so great, why hasn’t it been mimicked or replicated more often?

What a can of worms.

Of course, it has been copied in different ways over time, and it remains the touchstone for so much of what we consider standard in modern architecture. Several of its holes have been considered among the greatest in the world and have inspired different templates at courses going back to the time of C.B. Macdonald. And yet, St. Andrews remains entirely unique, entirely its own thing, and strongly resists attempts at pure replication.

This is the topic Jim Urbina and I discuss with Canadian architect Jeff Mingay in our "Feed the Ball" podcast. Mingay is a student of The Old Course who specializes in renovations and restorations of courses throughout Canada and the United States. Conversations about St. Andrews can go in so many directions, but this one centers on the architecture of the course, what makes it so difficult to accurately reproduce, whether “ugliness” is a necessary component of its greatness, and how its principles have been incorporated at other courses, including Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes, which Urbina designed with Tom Doak at Renaissance Design.

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