- Courtesy of Today's Golfer.The St Andrews Links was in real trouble in the 1830s and 1840s – the fairway was only 80 yards wide at its narrowest and with heavy storms and tidal erosion there was a serious danger that the opening and closing holes could be lost. The real person who saved St Andrews and the Links was Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair (1787-1861). Under his rule, cartmen were paid to dump the town’s rubbish onto the beach. This was then covered with soil and grassed over. This explains why the first hole is like a billiard table and the 18th naturally undulating.In 1875 separate teeing grounds were introduced – previously players would tee-off within a couple of clubs of the previous hole.In 1899, 17 new bunkers were added. In 1905, they added 16 more. Those 33 bunkers transformed the front nine.Around 1866 when they were building the 18th green, they found a pit of dead bodies (still there). These were the cholera victims from outbreaks in the town.Irrigation was introduced to all the greens in 1908 – wells sat next to each green – with the exception of holes one, 17 and 18. These were doused by the fire brigade, who used hand pumps and took waterfrom the Swilcan Burn.Mowers were used for the first time to trim the hallowed turf in the 1920s – it was previously cut by hand by scythe-wielding men.The greatest change to the Old Course is probably the standards of greenkeeping. Even as recently as 1990 weedy bunkers were the norm while in the 1960s and ’70s daisies on the tees and fairways were common.
The Old Course has been lengthened in modern times to combat the advances in equipment technology. In 1900 it was 6,333 yards. That gradually increased, and in 1970, Jack Nicklaus won the Open when it played to 6,951 yards. It crept up to 7,115 by 2000, and for the last Open there in 2010 it was 7,304 yards (extended 17th tee), the same as it will be this year.