A different perspective on the Old Course at St Andrews

by | Jul 15, 2022 | 0 comments

The Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Ivan Morris

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Mutt & Jeff have been at it again! This time their animated discussion on the merits of The Old Course at St Andrews led to a very unusual conversation, indeed.

Jeff – Do you know that The Old Course at St Andrews runs slightly North of West, then turns almost due North?

Mutt – What is the significance of that?

Jeff – You may not know that I spent several days studying the Old Course in great depth in 1975 during the Walker Cup Matches. I was rechecking my notes only yesterday because I heard someone on TV saying that the winds were coming out of the South or Southwest and I wanted to understand what that meant exactly for the playing of the course on a hole-by-hole basis.

Mutt – What in heaven’s name for?

Jeff – I wanted to check its precise axis relative to the Earth’s rotation and the precise direction of each hole. It was found out years ago that there are holes where one can never hit a proper (comfortable) drive on. The direction of a hole relative to the compass does affect golfers. A drive that is hit straight North or straight South can be faded or hooked at will, but a drive that goes straight East or West is extremely difficult to draw or fade. The ball will fly straight okay but getting it to move right or left at will is nearly impossible.

Mutt – Are you pulling my leg? You are beginning to sound more and more like the infamous Golf Philosopher, Shivas Irons, created by Michael Murphy in Golf in the Kingdom!

Jeff – Think about it. Almost everyone knows a hole on their home course where they can never hit the shape of shot desired. It’s because of the direction of the ball conflicts with the rotation of the earth.

Mutt – I’m flabbergasted.

Jeff – It’s helpful to be always aware of your geographical position and to make the due allowances.

Mutt – I have often wondered why carrying a compass is allowed within the rules and was seen as a necessity by some golfers in years of yore. Nor, do I have to think too hard to name the most difficult driving hole, to hit draws and fades on my home course (Limerick) It’s the 13th, which heads straight East. I never thought that the reason might be the Earth’s axis and rotation rather than the tight OB on the left and the gnarly rough and over-abundance of trees over on the right?

At Lahinch, the most awkward drives are the 12th, going East and the 6th going West. I blamed the camber – incorrectly, it seems. At Rosses Point, the 10th and 11th going in opposite directions are elusive fairways to hit. The ever-present wind got blamed! While, at Portmarnock, the holes go in every conceivable direction (of the compass) that one could imagine and it’s possibly why it is such a difficult driving course even allowing for the generous fairways.

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