Hole #1 at the Old Course is probably not the best hole on the course. It certainly isn’t the hardest hole and scenery wise it is pretty “normal” but it is special because it is the very first hole you play at the oldest, and most famous, golf course in the world – the Home of Golf, St Andrews.
Named Burn (for the devilish Swilken Burn running across the front of the green), #1 is a relatively short par 4 measuring 376 yards from the back tees. The burn comes into play at about 230 yards on both the left and the right side and directly in front of the green at 350 yards. Sounds like a long way but you need to keep in mind the wind (often at your back) and the hard fescue fairway (you get a lot of run out there) when choosing your club.
Your second shot will be a short iron over the burn to a 41-yard-deep green that may be one of the flatter greens you will deal with all day. A couple of decent putts, or even a 1 putt, and you can get your round off to a great start.
Simple enough but there are always a few unique factors to consider.
There is inevitably a crowd of people around the 1st tee and 18th green watching every tee shot. The hole shares a fairway with #18 making it what may be the largest fairway you ever see at 129 yards wide but that doesn’t mean it is an easy drive. Despite the width of the fairway, the nervousness of it being your first tee shot on the most famous course in the world, combined with the crowd, makes everyone think – “don’t duff this drive!!”
And it isn’t just the duffers that have a hard time getting off that tee. Famously, at the 1995 Open Championship at St. Andrews, Ian Baker Finch, playing with no less a personage than Arnold Palmer, snap-hooked his first drive so wickedly that it cleared two fairways and went out-of-bounds off #18!! Caddies at St Andrews couldn't remember anybody doing that before. Not tour pros. Not even tourists
Nerves are a big factor on this hole
Everyone remembers their first shot at St Andrews and most have great stories about that tee shot. Ron remembers his first (and currently only) tee shot off the first hole and it was quite the experience.
There was the usual crowd hanging around and his caddy for the day came up to introduce himself (he turned out to be the longest serving caddy at St Andrews at that time) and talk a little about his game to try and get to know him. They discussed his game a bit and despite Ron suggesting he wanted to hit a hybrid off the tee to stay well short of the burn, the caddy thought 3 wood was a better option and would be a safe choice.
Decision made, the starter lets Ron know it was time to get going and he teed up, only to have the starter step back in to stop him. People are frequently walking across the fairways of St Andrews, even while golfers are playing. A few tourists had been walking across the fairway when Ron was ready to hit and for some reason decided it was a good idea to just stop in the middle of the fairway to chat. The marshals and starter were trying to get them moving but they weren’t paying too much attention.
The starter jokingly told Ron he would pay him a pound if he could hit them. Ron walked over to his ball to pretend to hit it and the starter, not so sure he was joking, jumped in – “don’t do it”.
A bit disappointed (but quite frankly still relieved to have hit a good shot off the 1st tee) Ron commented to the caddy it was he who had suggested the 3 wood. The caddy, unfazed, commented back that Ron said he ALWAYS hit a fade, not the baby draw he hit!!! A fantastic comeback and to this day Ron claims he is the best caddy he ever played with anywhere in the world.
With his newfound friend to guide him (expertly) around the course Ron shot a tidy little 2 over on the front before turning back to the clubhouse. Unfortunately, the beautiful sunshine that was there at the start of the round (remember the picture above, that was just before tee off) turned ugly and the back nine was played into rain and a 2 or 3 club wind. Ron doesn't seem to remember his score coming in for some reason....
A memorable day for Ron and his buddies as they played their bucket list round on the Old Course.
This is just one of thousands of first hole stories (many are WAY more entertaining than this one😊). The first shot of the day is often the most difficult and has led to many hilarious, frustrating, or even embarrassing situations and we want to hear about them.
We would love for you to send us your first hole story.
Tell us where it was, when it was and what happened, and we will enter you into a random draw for a Golf Away Tours prize pack with a dozen Taylor Made TP5 Golf balls and a few more goodies. We will also feature your story (anonymously if you want!) and your hole #1 will be our hole of the month in the August issue of our newsletter.
Let us know the great, the funny or the disastrous events of your memorable first hole for you chance to win. All stories can be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Hole of the Month Contest” by Friday July 25, 2020 and we will notify the winner by return email the following week.
We are really looking forward to hearing your stories so relive those memoires and get them off to us ASAP - Good Luck!