- Date of Inclusion: 2005
- Date of Revision: 2013
Reason for Inclusion
St Andrews Links is an internationally-renowned golfing landscape, documented by a large archive of historic maps, accounts and images. It bears witness to centuries of sporting endeavour, design and technological innovation. The Old Course has been in play since the late Middle Ages and is an excellent example of an early coastal linksland course. It is of outstanding importance for its association with the development of golf in the 18th century, its association with 'Old' Tom Morris (1821-1908) in the 19th century, and for its strong influence on the design of later courses both in the UK and worldwide.
Type of Site
A series of historic public links golf courses established on coastal flats by the town of St Andrews.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Mid-18th century, Mid-19th century-early 20th century, late 20th century
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Importance of Site
A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.
Work of Art
The Old Course is the original blueprint for the Strategic School of golf course design. It remains a focal point for the golf design industry and is among the top-rated courses in the world.
The Old Course is an excellent example of an early, coastal, linksland golf course that was regularly in play by the later Middle Ages and which influenced the design of later courses in the UK and worldwide. Its history is well known through a large archive of historic documents, maps, plans and images, while the extant march stones provide important physical evidence of the course's development.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
St Andrews is considered a model of sustainable green keeping (Wood 2011). Turfgrass management on the Links maintains a high percentage of indigenous fescue and bent grass species, ensuring good quality playing surfaces, an authentic reflection of the local environment, and a continuation of the distinctive experience of coastal links golf.
The classical Royal and Ancient Golf Club House is one of Scotland's key sporting institutions.
The open landscape and rolling topography of the coastal flats provide uninterrupted views along the coastline both to and from St Andrews while the Royal and Ancient Golf Club House is a significant landmark. Together, these elements form one of Scotland's most recognisable landscapes.
The Links supports a mosaic habitat pattern composed of gorse scrub, amenity grasslands, rough ecological grasslands, heather, and unmanaged fixed dune grasslands which combine to provide important habitat for insects, birds and small mammals. The St Andrews Links Trust works in partnership with other organisations to research and implement solutions to dune erosion on the West Sands and Eden Estuary shoreline and to improve habitat and bio-diversity. St Andrews is also certified by the Golf Environment Organisation in recognition of its environmentally sustainable management (Wood 2011).
The designed landscape may contain archaeological remains associated with the site of a former windmill (NMRS NO51NW 33) and a former burial ground, disturbed during 19th century works on the Old Course (NMRS NO51NW 52). The Links is also a significant archaeological landscape in its own right, given the long history of play and associated sequence of landscape modification.
Location and Setting
The Links golf courses occupy an extensive area of low-lying coastal flats between the town of St Andrews and the Eden Estuary. This is a large-scale, open and exposed landscape, created by blown sands and old dune systems, and influenced by the sea and weather conditions. Minor roads connect the different areas of the links, characterised by a mix of smooth, closely-mown greens and fairways and undulating, uncut rough and linear patches of gorse, which help define the edges of the individual courses. Views from the flats encompass much of St Andrews Bay, the town of St Andrews, the Eden Estuary and Tentsmuir Forest to the north.
The four historic golf courses within the designed landscape boundary are the Old Course, the New Course, the Jubilee Course and the Eden Course, with the smaller Himalayas Putting Green located immediately adjacent to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club House. The minor Swilcan Burn flows through this southern section of the Links.
The Links is bound on their north-western and seaward side by the intertidal mud and sand flats of the Eden Estuary and the long West Sands; recognised for their national and international importance as estuarine and coastal habitats through a range of natural heritage designations, including a SSSI and RAMSAR site (Sitelink: Scottish Natural Heritage, http://gateway.snh.gov.uk/sitelink/index.jsp). The partially extant old railway line forms much of the southern boundary of the designed landscape, and effectively divides the older Links courses to the north from the more recently designed golf courses and facilities to the south.
The remaining dune systems along West Sands beach and Out Head to the north protect the Links from the forces of the sea but are themselves narrow and increasingly susceptible to erosion from winds, tides and trampling. Significant erosion events at the close of the 20th century and again in 2010 have prompted St Andrews Links Trust to work in partnership with other organisations to protect the golfing landscape, arrest the decline of habitat and improve bio-diversity. Measures implemented include the installation of hard defences in the form of rock-filled wire gabions at the end of the Jubilee Course, a sand recharge project to build a 300 metre dune, dune restoration on West Sands beach, and salt marsh restoration within the Eden Estuary, which includes planting marram and sea lyme grass (Environmental Case Study, www.sgeg.org.uk/publications; Wood 2011).
All of the Links courses have been certified by the Golf Environment Organisation in recognition of their environmentally sustainable management. In particular, St Andrews is considered an exemplar of sustainable green keeping in which irrigation and chemical input are minimised (Wood 2011). The diverse turfgrass species, with a high proportion of indigenous fescues and bents, authentically reflects local site conditions and supports traditional links golf which can be played along the ground as well as in the air, an aspect considered to be vital in safeguarding the distinctive heritage of the links game (ibid.)
St Andrews is the internationally recognised home of golf. The coastal links on the edge of town proved an exceptionally suitable environment for the development of golf from its popular medieval origins towards a much more established recreational pursuit in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the internationally-renowned golfing landscape on the Links is testimony to centuries of sporting endeavour, investment, design and technological innovation, and its history is well known through a range of historical sources.
Golf was one of a number of short, ball and stick games known in Europe in the Middle Ages. Played by ordinary people in streets and churchyards, it was considered enough of a nuisance and distraction in Scotland for James II to issue a ban on its practice in 1457. Ironically, while the monarchy sought to curtail popular golf through successive Acts of Parliament in the second half of the 15th century, kings, nobles and other leading members of society were themselves adopting the game. Their style of play, equipment and patronage helped to establish golf as a long game suited to open spaces, and eventually, the earlier short form of the game was eclipsed.
St Andrews Links was among the first of Scotland's early, coastal linksland golf courses. The rolling, sometimes rugged topography of sand dunes and slacks, fine-leaved grasses, good drainage and exposure to the wind and sea were inherently suited to the game. Proximity to an important town and university and confirmed democratic access rights to the land strengthened the golfing tradition. These coastal flats had formed part of the Burgh of St Andrews since 1123, and while they were also used for grazing sheep, maintaining colonies of rabbits, playing football and domestic chores, their common use for golf was upheld and specifically decreed by the 1552 St Andrews Links Charter. By 1691, the Regent of St Andrews University described the town as ¿the metropolis of golfing¿, and a letter of 1712 shows that students could be given dispensation to play (Golf in Scotland, NLS http://digital.nls.uk/golf-in-scotland/background.html).
Early golfers on the Links traversed rough, heathery fairways with wooden clubs and feather balls and the same holes were used for outward and inward play (Jarrett 2012: 64-5). Over the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the game was increasingly formalised with agreed standards, rules, competitions and the founding of golfing societies, the first of which was the Society of St Andrews Golfers by 1766 (later renamed the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews). The purchase of the Links by James Cheape of Strathtyrum in 1821 proved a significant victory for golfers, ending a lengthy dispute with merchants whose commercial rabbit warrens had threatened the greens. Over subsequent decades, better clubs and balls altered the distances over which the game could be played, while increasing numbers of players and spectators required better playing conditions, more space on the fairways, and improved facilities (Macpherson 2007: 190).
Changes to the game and the Links went hand in hand and an impressive archive of historic maps, images and written accounts help chart the incremental changes to these coastal flats as they evolved from an expanse of turfy hillocks to an increasingly managed golfing landscape by the early 20th century, complete with its own complex set of hole names, traditions, rules and rituals of play, landmarks and buildings. Key milestones in the history of the Links include the erection of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club House in 1854, the opening of the St Andrews branch railway line in 1857, which helped to stimulate growth, and the appointment of 'Old' Tom Morris (1821-1908) as Keeper of the Green in 1864, whose innovations and design solutions transformed the Old Course. In 1867, the rights of women golfers were acknowledged when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club approved the creation of the Himalayas Putting Green. The ladies who played formed their own club, the St Andrews Ladies Golf Club, which still exists (2013), and is the oldest ladies' golf club in the world. Even the overall size of the Links changed as land reclamation projects secured additional playing ground to the west of the Swilcan Burn (1871) and along the Bruce Embankment (c.1893). Between 1895 and 1914, three additional courses were set out alongside the Old Course to help absorb the demand for play.
Innovations that took place in St Andrews helped determine the format of the modern game, and the Old Course is often regarded as the original blueprint for the Strategic School of golf course design (EIGCA 2007:14). St Andrews Links still retains an important international role. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews supports golf worldwide, administers the Rules of Golf and curates a substantial collection of archives and artifacts (www.randa.org). The Links has hosted numerous national and international competitions, including 28 Open Championships on the Old Course, while golf is the focus for a strong tourist economy in the town (Butler 2012: 280). Just outside the boundary of the designed landscape, the British Golf Museum houses the most comprehensive golf collection in the world (www.britishgolfmuseum.co.uk).
Small, round-topped march stones protrude from the fairways and rough around the Old Course. They were erected following the purchase of the Links in 1821 by James Cheape of Strathtyrum and served to distinguish the original edges of the course from the surrounding pasture and rabbit warrens. An inscribed 'G' indicating the golf side can still be seen on some of the stones. Their positions were mapped on the first detailed watercolour plan of the Links, surveyed in 1821 (Martin 1821). The large, classical Royal and Ancient Golf Club House is located prominently at the head of the St Andrews Links courses and is one of Scotland's key sporting institutions. It was originally built in 1854 to designs by George Rae with a series of later additions and alterations reflecting the changing needs of the club's membership and growing administrative responsibilities. Built from pale sandstone ashlar, it is a multi-phase, 2 and 3 storey rectangular-plan clubhouse, distinguished by its wealth of classical detailing, famous balcony overlooking the Links and high quality interior scheme. On the green to the south-west of the clubhouse is the low, single-arched, rubble Golfer's Bridge over the Swilcan Burn. It is of uncertain date but has become one of the most celebrated landmarks on the Links. Some partially buried field boundary walls were incorporated into the Eden Course when it was laid out in 1914. Modern facilities including club houses, car-parks, offices and hotels and are now part of the wider golfing landscape on and around the coastal flats.
The Golf courses
The Old Course is the original and oldest course on the Links, probably in play since the late Middle Ages. Its physical evolution is well-known. In the earlier 18th century, the course had 22 holes (11 'out' and 11 'back'), but was reduced to 18 holes in 1764. Surviving march stones demarcate the outer edges of the course as it was in 1821 (see architectural features). Over subsequent decades, the pace of change accelerated in response to factors such as increasing congestion, erosion and weathering, and improving technology such as the 'gutta percha' ball of 1848. In 1857, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club approved the cutting of two holes on each green, while the appointment of 'Old' Tom Morris as Keeper of the Green in 1864 ushered in a new era of course management at St Andrews. Often regarded as the father of modern green keeping, he widened the fairways, enlarged the greens, added and removed bunkers, established tee boxes, and built two new greens, (partially on reclaimed land), all of which helped to spread out play and improve turf conditions. The first Open Championship was held on the Old Course in 1873. Today, this course with its distinctive crozier-plan form, remains a focal point for the golf design industry and is among the top-rated courses in the world. Its long history proves a significant draw, and players applaud the quality of the turf, which has developed with time and sustainable management into a mosaic of turf grass species that correlates well with local site conditions (Moir pers.comm. 2013; Macpherson 2007: Wood 2011).
The Old Course only became known as such when additional courses were established on the Links. By the late 19th century demand for play still outstripped capacity, so in 1895, the New Course was opened for play. Designed by 'Old' Tom Morris and W. Hall Blyth, a Civil Engineer from Edinburgh, it occupies the central area of the Links immediately to the north-east of the Old Course. Just two years later, in 1897, the Jubilee Course was opened, named in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Stretching along the seaward edge of the Links, this was originally a 12 hole course designed by John Angus for ladies and beginners. By the turn of the century, it was extended to 18 holes. In 1988 it was converted to a full championship course by golf course architect Donald Steel. The Eden Course is located to the north-west of the three older courses and was designed by Harry Colt in 1914. Known for its undulating greens, it was laid out in part on agricultural land and incorporates some partially buried field boundary walls.
Located due west of the Royal and Ancient Club House, the Himalayas Putting Course was set out in 1867 as a miniature links where women could play short golf while enjoying membership of their own society. St Andrews Ladies Golf Club (later renamed St Andrews Ladies Putting Club) and the associated course were created in response to growing protest from women golfers who wished to play on the Links (Macpherson 2007: 24-5). It is now an established and popular element of the golfing landscape, open to all and famed for its humps, bumps and unpredictability.
The golf courses within the designed landscape boundary are all maintained by the St Andrews Links Trust except for the Himalayas Putting Green, which is run by the St Andrews Ladies Putting Club. The Links Trust also maintain the more recent Balgove and Strathtyrum courses, which are located to the south of the designed landscape boundary.
Maps, Plans and Archives
1821 A. Martin, Plan of Pilmoor Links, belonging to James Cheape of Strathtyrum, with the golf course theron marked off with stones, 8 December 1821
1852-5, Fifeshire, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25¿) and 1:10,560 (6¿), published 1855
1893-5, Fifeshire, first revision OS 1:2500 (25¿) and 1:10,560 (6¿), published 1896
RCAHMS: National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS) and photographic and manuscript collections
Butler, R 2005, ¿The influence of sport on destination development: the example of golf at St Andrews¿ in J Higham (ed.), Sport Tourism Destinations: Issues, Opportunities and Analysis, p.274-282
European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) 2007, Golf Courses as Designed Landscapes of Historic Interest, abridged by English Heritage
Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, The Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest
Jarrett, Tom and Peter Mason 2012, St Andrews Links: Six centuries of golf, Mainstream Publishing: Edinburgh
Macpherson, Scott 2007, St Andrews: The evolution of the Old Course: The impact on golf of time, tradition and technology, Hazard Press: Christchurch N.Z.
Tyldesley, D and Associates 1999, Fife Landscape Character Assessment, Scottish Natural Heritage Review, No.113
* Further information from Angela Howe, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, 9 September 2013
British Golf Museum, [accessed 9 April 2013]
Golf in Scotland: A swing through time 1457-1744, National Library of Scotland [accessed 9 April 2013]
Environmental Case Study: Landscape and Cultural Heritage: Coastal Erosion and Dune Management ¿ St Andrews Links, Scottish Golf Environment Group [accessed 9 April 2013]
SiteLink: Scottish Natural Heritage, Sites designated for their natural heritage value,
[accessed 9 April 2013]
St Andrews Links, Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, Entry published 2005, [accessed 9 April 2013]
St Andrews Links Trust, [accessed 9 April 2013]
The Old Course: A guide to the environmental management of the Links for wildlife conservation, Open Championship Environment Booklet [accessed 9 April 2013]
The R&A [accessed 9 April 2013]
Wood, M 2011, St Andrews Links Verifier Report, [accessed 30 April 2013]
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