The international golf tournament, the Open, is coming home for its 150th anniversary this July. This will be the Old Courses 30th time seeing the championship, the first being in 1860.
While St Andrews has been named the home of golf, it was not the location of the first Open tournament. Instead, this took place at the Prestwick Golf Club. Willie Park Sr. became the Opens’ first champion at Prestwick, but Old Tom Morris would win four Open Championships, and his name is now forever engraved in Golf and St Andrews’ history. In recent years, the Old Course has seen wins by Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Tiger Woods. Golf isn’t the only hi torical part of St Andrews, and the logistics of the functionality of this small town mixed with an international event remains pertinent. It’s undeniable the Open brings in lots of money for St Andrews, but the ramifications aren’t this clean cut.
Fife council and committee member Jane Ann Liston commented on this idea saying, “I can think of some famous golfers who say how much they love St Andrews, but if you ask them a few more questions, it’s the golf course. They don’t know anything about the town itself.”
Since St Andrews is not too far from the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, viewers can make the trip into town solely for the tournament without seeking anything futher. “They go to the golf links, and they just stay there. They don’t go into the town and come and do things. They can eat and drink down at the golf course, so it’s another misperception that everyone in St Andrews does really well out of the Open. Actually though, no, they really don’t,” says Liston.
Some historic sites are blocked off for preservation reasons, and this can raise concern. The St Andrews Cathedral, where the graves of Tom Morris, along with other golf greats, are located, are closed off due to the fragility of the ruins.
Further logistical issues present themselves when it comes to townspeople and transportation. There is lots of work and preparation that needs to be accounted for. This can be an overlooked difficulty, but as St Andrews is only accessible by road, “There is a lot of work that gets done with the police and the council. First of all, they’ve got to make sure the roads are repaired, then they work out traffic diversions and put in park- ing restrictions,” explains Liston.
“It’s all these inconveniences for these people because the town, out of necessity, has to be geared toward getting people in to watch the golf. Therefore, it’s an inconvenience if they want to do anything else.”
“If you live in St Andrews and don’t have to go anywhere, you can have a great time. You can wander around the town, see famous golfers and celebrities, it’s all great. But this is why I think St Andrews creaks a bit. It’s because we are only accessible by road.”
Luckily this routine is nothing new as the Old Course has been in the rotation for hosting for 162 years.
“I’m not saying the Open is a bad thing, and I’m not saying let’s get rid of it; that would be ridiculous. I think a long hard look has got to be taken at the capability of a small town with a medieval street layout, and that’s not going to change,” says Liston.
Image: Abigail Mason