It’s more than 100 years since the Jubilee Course at St Andrews, built originally to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne, was extended from 12 to 18 holes.
So what better time to review this diamond of a course in the Home of Golf’s crown to coincide with our current monarch’s 60th Jubilee weekend?
It’s well documented that William Auchterlonie, the 1893 Open winner whose family name is synonymous with the Home of Golf, was eager for the chance to build a new course and with Old Tom Morris’s right hand man David Honeyman spotted a gap in the dunes between the shoreline and the current 15th hole to shape the extra holes. Auchterlonie extended its length again just after the second World War.
In 1988, the venerable former English amateur international Donald Steel was approached to make the Jubilee even more challenging and, with further tweaks, it is recognised by the regulars who play here as comfortably the toughest test among the town’s prestigious links.
During a recent visit I had the privilege of accepting an invitation from the St Andrews Links Trust - which manages, maintains and develops the courses on behalf of Fife District Council - to play this celebrated track and offer an opinion on its condition and the examination paper it demands as part of the St Andrews Experience.
The custodians of this exclusive golfing territory then sadistically tested my resolve by conspiring with Mother Nature to send forth one of the coldest, wettest May mornings it has been my discomfort to endure.
However, this was the Jubilee at one of the most iconic golfing venues on the planet and not wishing to appear disrespectful or ungrateful, I joined businessmen Andy Stevens, a ten handicapper from Hatfield in Hertfordshire, and Carl Springer, a mid-handicap builders’ merchant from Sacramento, California, on a journey into the unknown.
I did my homework in advance and discovered that when the then Provost’s wife Mary MacGregor struck the first drive on June 22, 1897 on a course designed and constructed initially for women and children, she did it with a club specially made for her by Old Tom Morris.
And 89 years later when Steel had completed his transformation of a course originally created in a few weeks by John Angus Jr - with a handful of helpers for just £180 - the opening tee shot was performed by double US Open champion Curtis Strange. This time with his own driver, appropriately made by the MacGregor factory whose clubs he endorsed.
In 2004 Auchterlonie’s vision that “the Jubilee would one day host a championship” was realised, with Amateur Championship qualifying staged on the course. But even then it was felt there was still more work needed to be done.
This time Martin Hawtree was invited to construct several elevated championship tees and two new greens on the 9th and 10th holes to stiffen the challenge already provided by the course’s exposure to the wind off the sea.
On my visit, the new green 180-yard par-3 9th green - Windy Tap - was roped off, still in the final stages of construction, though the 403-yard 10th – Spires - has quickly bedded down in front of a backdrop of the churches that punctuate the town’s familiar landscape.
With the rain driving into our faces for much of the front nine there appeared little to distinguish the holes as we peered through the gloom and fought to keep dry.
Review continues. Click here to see how we got on over the back nine and our verdict on the Jubilee Course.