How you can play the Old Course in St. Andrews like never before

St. Andrews Old Course

The reverse routing for the Old Course at St. Andrews begins on the 1st tee, playing to the 17th green.

Sean Zak

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. How about teaching the Old Course some new tricks? The St. Andrews Links Trust is preparing to do exactly that.

The Trust, better known as The Home of Golf, is launching an annual week of play where the Old Course will be played in different directions each day. There’s the normal loop, the one we know well, the direction they played in at the 2022 British Open. And then there’s the opposite direction. From 1st tee to the 17th green. From the 17th green to the 16th green. From the 3rd green to the 2nd green. The Old Course in reverse.

This is the way it used to be. Your nerdiest golf buddy knows all about it. Back in the 1700s, when the course was shortened from 22 holes to 18, it ran clockwise, which is the opposite of what it does today. Only in 1870 did Old Tom Morris turn the routing in a counter-clockwise fashion. 

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It’s not a bad practice to play golf courses in the opposite direction, if it was designed as such. You’ll have bunkers that are out of play one day, and right in your way the next. You’ll have shots that call for a draw that now have a completely different landing zone with a cut. The divots will be from different places and turned 15 degrees.Then there’s the prevailing wind, which tends to be out of the northwest. You’ll play less club off the 1st tee but more club into the 1st green. 

All in, it’s really just…fun. And the Links Trust is trying to tap into that. Starting in the spring of 2024, St. Andrews will have a 6-day affair every year where the course is played in the opposite direction three times during that stretch to allow players to try and play it each way. On Thursday, normal. On Friday, in reverse. On Sunday, a day of rest. 

The best news is the Links Trust wants you to experience all of it. Both directions, and then some, as part of a very reasonable package that visitors can purchase to reach their Old Course fill. For £575, roughly $725, buyers will get a round on the Old in it’s typical direction, one round in reverse, as well as a round on the Castle Course, in addition to food and drink. There’s only one important clause: the dates are locked in. The 6-day stretch begins on March 28 and runs through April 2, right before Masters Week. 

For the traveling golfer who has always wanted to make a St. Andrews trip, this could be as good as it gets. Considering the cost of a normal round on the Old during that time of year is £150, three rounds, food and drink has essentially been priced at retail cost. And this is not a course where you can typically just guarantee tee times. Amateur golfers often spend the night sitting on pavement to join the singles queue at 6 a.m. to have a chance to loop the course of their dreams. Now, golfers can reliably lock in a couple rounds on the Old and plan a trip to Fife around it. Golfers who want to act quickly can apply for the package during a 48-hour window on December 11th and 12th. 

“The anti-clockwise routing is such a vital piece of the history and evolution of the Old Course,” said Neil Coulson, CEO of the Links Trust, “we feel it is important to celebrate this during a dedicated event open to all golfers from near and far. We believe the introduction of Old Course Reversed will be hugely popular and will capture the imagination of golfers around the world.”

For a closer look at what the reverse routing would actually look like, check out the aerial view below or dive deep into the yardage book here

St. Andrews Old Course Reverse Routing
A look at the Old Course’s routing. St. Andrews Old Course

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.