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The New Course is more than a servicable backup next to the Old Course in St. Andrews.
The New Course is more than a servicable backup next to the Old Course in St. Andrews. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)

New Course at St. Andrews: Scotland golf's most famous second fiddle

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — When the St. Andrews Links Trust opens the highly anticipated No. 7 course in 2008, it will be the town's fifth golf course opened since the New Course debuted in 1895 as a second course funded by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to compliment the overplayed Old Course right next door.

Of course, only in St. Andrews, Scotland would the "New" course be built at the end of the 19th century by town legend Old Tom Morris.

Aside from No. 7, there are three other 21st century links golf courses within a few miles of the town: Fairmont St. Andrews' Torrance and Devlin, as well as Kingsbarns. Today, the New serves as a viable option to those who get turned away from the daily ballot at the Old Course. It operates primarily on a first-come, first-serve basis, not tee times, so it's easy to get a last-minute tee time if you've been shutout elsewhere.

"Unless it's a scorching hot day that brings out a lot of locals, you can usually get on within an hour of when you want," said John Stewart of the St. Andrews Links Trust.

Unlike Turnberry's Kintyre or Carnoustie's two satellite courses, the New Course is more than simply a serviceable backup. It's still among the elite links courses in Scotland and hosts numerous national and regional championships. It's also in as good if not better shape than the Old Course, since it doesn't get the 40,000-plus rounds the Old Course does.

The most evident difference of the New Course compared to the Old is the greens. Whereas the Old Course features seven double greens all massive to unworldly in size, the New only has one double green, shared by the third and 15th, and the rest of them are midsized to simply large.

Like the Old course however, their firmness is a force to be reckoned with and backspin is a lost cause. While bunkers have a presence, they are generally less penal and smaller. There aren't any massive "Hell" or "Strath" bunkers here, mostly of the pot variety.

Fittingly, the New Course begins humbly: a 335-yard par 4 that has little trickery aside from heavy gorse on the left. The second is slightly longer but more of the same. Things get interesting on No. 3: a 511-yard par 5 which, depending on the wind can be a menace. The par-5 eighth, while shorter than No. 3 at 475 yards, bottlenecks towards a green guarded by mounds with gorse and bunkers on either side.

Unlike the Old Course's two par 3s and par 5s, the New Course features three par 5s and four par 3s.

The par-3 ninth, an uphill, 221-yarder with the sea serving as out of bounds to the left is arguably the finest par 3 on the property. The New Course's longest par 4 follows at the 10th at 461 yards.

The par-5 12th is wide open, allowing you to blast a drive about anywhere and have a shot at the green in two if you've got a calm day or wind at your back. The course's finish features a handful of challenging long holes, including the 431-yard 16th and 229-yard par-3 17th.

The 18th is straightforward at 408 yards and plays back towards the clubhouse with the town as the backdrop and the Old Course Hotel and famous Road Hole to the right.

St. Andrews New Course: The verdict

The New Course plays adjacent to the Old and if you're playing the New first, you can't help but feel a little captivated as you gaze across on several parallel holes to check out what's going on there.

The New Course has a bit of an inferiority complex sitting next to golf's most famous course. Truth be told, the Old Course is more fun to play, but many locals say they find the New more challenging during regular play than the Old.

For being only £65 in the high season, about half of what the Old Course's fee is, plus its added accessibility, the New is a fantastic second option in St. Andrews. It's far cheaper than nearby Kingsbarns (£155), Duke's (£95) and Fairmont St. Andrews courses (£126). While the New serves mainly as an overflow course from the Old, it's certainly worth planning it into your St. Andrews itinerary.

St. Andrews hotels

Located in the heart of St. Andrews and overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course, the MacDonald Rusacks Hotel may have the best location a golf hotel could offer. The hotel originally opened in 1887 and has been stylishly remodeled and expanded, including the new dining room of the Old Course Restaurant.

Each year during the Dunhill Links Pro-Am, the Rusacks hosts numerous touring pros and was a favorite hotel for Bobby Jones during his stay. Rusacks features 68 en-suite rooms feature 24-hour room service and a limited number of guaranteed tee times on the Old Course for guests.

St. Andrews restaurants

For fine dining, try the Rusacks Old Course restaurant overlooking the 18th green. The menu includes contemporary Scottish dishes in a newly remodeled, stylish setting.

For more casual bar-style food and atmosphere, the Dunvegan Grill offers a bar and formal menu, and TVs for football with a friendly, chatty atmosphere.

Fast fact

The New Course opened as a public golf course in 1895, but it was originally the R&A's intention to buy the Old Course and the land next to it and make both courses private.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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