St Andrews is the Home of Golf: But Does it Challenge the Top Players?

This summer, The Open will return to St Andrews, the so-called Home of Golf, for the 30th time from July 14th – 17th. There’s good reason to attach such an appendage to the iconic course. After all, it is said to be the location of the first true game of golf in the 15th century. There’s an anecdote that tells us of King James II banning the game of golf in 1457 because too many young men were playing instead of practising their archery skills: Not many golf courses can demonstrate that kind of history.

But while St Andrews is undoubtedly the oldest and among the most iconic spots to play golf in the world, that certainly does not mean it is the best. Claiming something is the best is, of course, going to be a subjective opinion. But here, we refer to how the course challenges the top players, rewarding them for their excellence and punishing errors.

USGA was accused of trying to embarrass players

It’s an interesting question, especially in light of the conversation of the toughness of the other Majors played in the United States. For several years, players have levelled criticisms at the USGA for making some of the championship courses too tough. We went through a period during the 2000s and 2010s where players were winning the US Open while posting scores of +5: Geoff Ogilvy won with +5 in 2006 at Winged Foot, and Angel Cabrera won with the same score a year later at Oakmont Country Club. In the 2010s, three US Opens were won by scores over par. Effectively, players accused the USGA of trying to embarrass them.

Yet, at St Andrews, the last Open to be held there saw a winning score of -15 (Zach Johnson, 2015). No fewer than 48 players finished with scores of -5 or better, and eleven finished with scores of -10 or better. The previous winning scores before that were -16 (Louis Oosthuizen, 2010), -14 (Tiger Woods, 2005), and -20 (Tiger Woods, 2000).

St Andrews a good course for golf predictions

Of course, there is nothing wrong with players posting low scores in tournaments – fans want to see birdies and eagles. Moreover, when it comes to sports betting, courses like St Andrews are preferred by bettors. Experts who post sports predictions on sites like Picks and Parlays are always going to be better served by courses that are “fair”, like St Andrews, compared to those courses that are “unfair”.

The concept of “fair” and “unfair” courses has always been a bone of contention in golf, often, as we have seen with the USGA, leading to the players and authorities sitting in one camp or another. Players want to be challenged, yes, but they also want excellence to be rewarded. Mistakes should be punished, yes, but not without good reason. In the most fundamental sense, players want the randomness taken out of the game.

St Andrews tends to reward players. Of course, there can be a sense of the random – the Scottish weather is not what we would call dependable, and it can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans of players. But by and large, it tends to offer the conditions that players love, and it’s why they view it as one of the best courses. As for fans, well, they love to see the best players in the world shoot it out on the Home of Golf.