Over the years, many countries have laid claim to golf’s birthright, Holland and even China, but there is but one authentic contender, Scotland. Historical records reveal that the game enjoyed today by almost 75million people worldwide was first played on the east coast of Scotland, in the Kingdom of Fife, during the 15th century.
St. Andrews is at the epicentre of Scottish (and global) golf, a world-renowned university town, where Prince William first met Kate Middleton, now his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge. It's magnificent - if ruined - Cathedral predating golf by 350 years, home to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the R&A, the global governing body for golf apart from the USA.
The Old Course completes with solemn iconography. The first tee and 18th green presided over by the austere R&A clubhouse, the Swilken Bridge, the Road Hole Bunker and the Valley of Sin all add credo to the world-accepted narrative that this is not only the #1 golf course in the world. But, arguably, the most compelling and authentic site of particular sporting interest anywhere on earth.
Local Parish records confirm that, on 14th May 1754, twenty-two ‘Noblemen’ and ‘Gentlemen’ contributed to the purchase of a silver golf club, ‘To be played for annually over the Links of St. Andrews.’ But, today, 264-year-on, St. Andrews itself offers ten world-class golf courses, eight of which are open to all, subject to reservation, whilst the other two are readily available to visitors.
For a small town such as St. Andrews to have two distinguishing features - golf and education - seared into its soul is genuinely remarkable. A permanent population of around 17,000 is augmented by just under 9,000 students, almost half-a-million golfers and golf-related visitors to the town each year. Nearly 50,000 rounds of golf played annually on the Old Course alone.
And yet, paradoxically, St. Andrews never seems busy, life unfolding at a laid-back pace, a perfect antidote the rough-and-tumble of contemporary life.