Even before Christopher Columbus figured out that the world was round but got his driver cover on his 3-wood by landing in America when he thought he was in India, the local worthies in the ancient city of St Andrews had long since been tossing their featheries into the air to choose the sides for their regular two-bawbee Nassaus on their windswept links in the northeast corner of Scotland’s ancient Kingdom of Fife.
Back then there was no way the pioneer ‘gowfers’ could have realized the influence their tiny community would command in the affairs of world golf six centuries on. Today, the ‘auld grey toon’ clings defiantly to its perch hard on the Fife shoreline, defying the North Sea just as it did back then, but now very secure in its position as the undisputed capital of a multi-billion-dollar game that extends into every nook and cranny of the now-known world.
The hold this ancient Scottish city has on the game is remarkable. No matter where golfers foregather on the planted, they share a smouldering hope that one day they will set foot upon the hallowed ground that is the Old Course at St Andrews, to play with the ghosts of Old Tom Morris and Allan Robertson, and afterwards share their stories in the nearby Dunvegan Bar with the caddies and the locals who watch the whole world of golf go by.
But most pilgrims to this Promised Land do not realize, much less appreciate, that St Andrews isn’t just about the Old Course, or the famous Royal & Ancient clubhouse standing sentinel over the widest fairway in golf, or indeed the battle to get a tee time in the lottery. St Andrews is in fact the biggest golf center in Europe with six courses in the old town itself and a good handful of others on the outskirts.
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