#TBT: Sunday golf in St Andrews

A famous and historic tradition, Sunday golf has never been permitted on the Old Course. Some exceptions are however made for important golfing events and filming. Historians trace its Sunday closure to religious laws dating as far back as the 16th century. In addition to this, unlike most championship courses, the Old’s public status means tens of thousands of rounds per year can take its toll. Old Tom Morris’s dictum was ‘If the goufer disna need a rest, the course does’.

Through the years, as the course became busier several other protective measures were put in place. Intervals between tee times were extended from four minutes in the 1920s and 30s to eight minutes in the 1980s and to ten minutes in 1990. The course also used to have a month’s rest each year for repair and recovery, but early in the 21st century this was replaced with ‘maintenance Mondays’ during the winter months in which greenkeepers benefited from a break in play to complete essential works. A further protective measure was the introduction of fairway mats used in low season which is estimated to save the course from around 150,000 divots each year. Despite all these additional protective measures, there is still no Sunday play.

Visitors are free to roam the Old Course on Sundays.

But on the other St Andrews Links courses, things are different. During the Second World War, St Andrews became a centre for military training with most of the town’s accommodation requisitioned to house a huge influx of young soldiers and servicemen and women. All this youthful energy needed a recreational outlet, and the Town Council decided in 1941 that the Eden Course should be open for play on Sundays. Things moved quickly once the ice had been broken and this paved the way for the New and Jubilee courses opening for Sunday play only a few years later.

Today, the Old Course remains the only one of our seven courses that is closed for normal Sunday play, a quirk which locals and visitors take great advantage of by exploring the public links and walking the famous fairways.


Credits: Tom Jarrett and Peter Mason, St Andrews Links, Six Centuries of Golf; NY Times.

Related Posts