Course Rater Confidential: What stands out most about the Old Course?

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The Old Course is back in the spotlight as it hosts the 150th Open Championship.

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GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions related to the Old Course, host of this week’s Open Championship. The goal is not only to entertain you but also to give you a better understanding of how to understand and appreciate the architecture of the home of golf.

The Old Course, host of this week’s 150th playing of the Open Championship, is also the top-rated course on GOLF’s first-ever ranking of Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland. People say it’s special for a lot of reasons. The history. The subtleties. The quirks. The way it sits right in the heart of town. We acknowledge that books could be written on its virtues (in fact, they have), but tell us what stands out most about the Old Course to you?

Philip Gawith: It is in a class of one — the feeling that you are treading golf’s holy ground, entering some eternal golfing order whose roots stretch back into the mists of time. On top of this, the thrill of playing some of the game’s most iconic holes, on a course full of subtle links challenge. 

Tim Gallant: I was lucky enough to play the Old this past winter in 65 mph winds. There is no hyperbole there. The gauge in the R&A told us as much. And even in that wind, which makes standing a chore, the course was not only still playable, but also incredibly strategic. Because there’s so much width, and the greens are so large, one can ride or fight the wind to get the ball near hole. After the round, I had a bit of epiphany: regardless of the conditions, the course is always immensely interesting. I can’t think of another course where that is the case. 

Will Davenport: To me, the Old Course is the epitome of how the game is meant to be played — friendly, playable and accessible, but still worthy of hosting golf’s greatest championships. To challenge the elite player, present tremendous variety, and still be one of the most pleasant and relaxing experiences for the average player is a feat rarely achieved. Not to mention, the history of the Old Course is perhaps peerless and does a great deal to add to the enchantment. 

Christian Faergemann: There is a historical element to the Old Course that we all know. For me it’s sort of a live history lesson of the game of golf. Being there, feeling it, is special and hard to describe. Looking back from the fairway on the 12th and seeing all the bunkers that you couldn’t see from the tee and realizing that the hole — and, in fact, the entire course — was designed to play in reverse. In addition, I actually did not know before playing it the first time that you cross over and play the opposite side of the double green at 7th and 11th. 

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