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Old Course Notebook: Starter's Box Sold at Auction

By David R. Holland, Contributor

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - The first photo I took when I approached the No. 1 tee at the Old Course was the Starter's Box.


The Old Course Starter's Box will soon be history. On this day, starter John MacNeill, told me about the on-line auction of the Old Course Starter's Box at St. Andrews which ended on Monday, September 10, reaching a price of £59,000 or $92,000.

An official from the Royal & Ancient Trust said bidders from the USA and Denmark fiercely competed right up to the last second with the U.S. bidder putting in the final bid on the stroke of midday.

The next time you can see the Starter's Box will be at the Country Club of the Desert, a new three-course, 54-hole golf development in La Quinta near Palm Springs, CA. Developers intend to re-construct the box between the first tee and 18th hole of a Pete Dye-designed course set to open in November.

The successful bidder was John Hagen from California, acting on behalf of Nancy Aaronson, who said: "We are truly honored that Country Club of the Desert will forever enjoy a connection to the birthplace of golf and its distinguished traditions with the Old Course Starter's Box.

"Our courses will incorporate many of the features that are traditionally found on Scottish courses and there is no question the Old Course Starter's Box is entirely fitting. Great golf, honoring the traditions, spirit and purpose of the game, will be the primary focus of our new community and our acquisition of the Old Course Starter's Box will always be associated with our beginning," Ms. Aaronson said.

Originally scheduled for demolition later this year to make way for an enlarged putting green beside the Old Course first tee, the Starter's Box was put on sale to raise funds for a major new junior golf initiative in the town. A new box will be constructed a few feet from the site of the existing box.

Alan McGregor, general manager of St. Andrews Links Trust, said: "The sale was a huge success and has given a great boost to junior golf in the town. We are also pleased that the box is going to a good home at this prestigious new development in the USA where it will be respected."

In order to extend and improve the practice putting area, a new Starter's Box will be built a few feet away from where the current one stands.

The sold Starter's Box was erected in the 1920s. It is made of brick with a slate roof designed in a traditional style. Its approximate external dimensions are 9'7" by 9'7", and its overall height is 14'5".

Over the years visitors to the Starter's Box have included HRH Prince Andrew, President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, Troy Aikman, Clint Eastwood, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg.

And how has the terrorist attack on America affected the Old Course? "The Old Course is still booked up, but our other courses have suffered," said starter MacNeill.

The Old Course Daily Ballot

About 50 percent of all starting times over the year are put into the daily ballot (lottery) which is drawn daily for next day's play except Sunday.

View the Daily Ballot: - www.standrews.org.uk/booking/old_book.htm.

The Saturday draw is for Monday play. Success in the ballot is not guaranteed and chances vary according to the time of year, how busy the course is and the weather. A minimum two golfers can enter.

Either telephone or apply in person before 2 p.m. on the day before play. The results are shown by 4 p.m. on the web, at the clubhouses, the starters' boxes, the caddie pavilion, local golf clubs and the tourist information center.

The Old Course hosts about 42,000 rounds a year. As a result of this high demand, special conditions apply to bookings.

Single golfers have an opportunity at a small number of advance reservations but the most common way for a single to get on the Old Course is by going to the starter as early as possible in the morning. The starter will try to join the golfer with the first available twosome or threesome. Have your official handicap card available.

Keep in mind the Old Course is always closed on Sundays, and it's closed for maintenance for two weeks in March and November. And if you're booking an Old Course time from April 1 to October 31, you also must play one of the other St. Andrews Links Trust's 18-hole courses.

Old Course Contacts: Reservations Office,
St. Andrews Links Trust,
Pilmour House, St. Andrews,
Fife, KY16 9SF, Scotland
Phone: Opening Times, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday open at 9.30 a.m.
Tel: +44 (0)1334 466666
Fax: +44 (0)1334 477036.
Internet: www.standrews.org.uk.
E-mail: reservations@standrews.org.uk

Popularity of Golf Climbs

It's the local golfers who are playing at St. Andrews more these days.

Local golfers played three percent more rounds in 2000 while the number played by visitors dropped by eight percent. That total is sure to drop for 2001 after the terrorist attack in New York City.

The starter at the Old Course said demand on the other courses had dropped since the attacks. The Old Course is always booked.

Figures reveal that local golfers played 3,000 more rounds on the Links in 2000 compared to 1999 despite the courses being closed for several weeks due to the Open Championship. The total number of rounds played by local golfers on all six courses in 2000 was 112,139 compared to 109,077 in 1999.

Number of rounds played by visiting golfers dropped by 7,000 to 85,336 (from 92,385). The total number of rounds played by both locals and visitors on the Links in 2000 was 197,475 compared to 201,462 in 1999.

"The growth in local play comes as no surprise to the Trust but what is particularly striking is that fact the more golf was played by locals in a year when there were course closures for the Open Championship," said Alan McGregor, general manager of St. Andrews Links Trust.

New Construction Around St. Andrews

Kingsbarns, a new course, was opened July 29, 2000 and it already has a world ranking by Golf Magazine. The Captain of the R & A, Sir Michael Bonallack, hit the first official shot. In the weeks prior to the official opening however, the course had opened for play, and around 1,500 golfers (including the likes of Gary Player, Jim Furyk and Tom Watson) used the facilities.

An application to develop another new golf course has been submitted to Fife Councils East Area Planning department. The proposed 180-acre site would be between Strathtyrum Home farm and Easter Kincaple Farm, and would develop what is at present agricultural ground. Previous recent golf course proposals include the two-course golf development at Kingask, to the south of the town, and the rejected Scooniehill golf resort.

What is The Royal and Ancient Golf Club?

The R&A is a private golf club for the elite of the golfing world and is also the governing body of golf throughout the world outside the USA, which is governed by the PGA. It runs major championships including the British Open and reviews the rules of golf.

The R&A does not own the Old Course - the land is public and owned by the people of St. Andrews. However, The R&A has had a long and close connection with those responsible for the Links. For many years this was the Town Council. Then in 1974, with the abolition of the St. Andrews Town Council , a new Act of Parliament created St. Andrews Links Trust, an independent and charitable body charged with the running and protection of the courses.

More History From www.standrews.org.uk

In 1834, King William IV conferred his patronage on the Society of St. Andrews golfers, giving them the title of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Agreement was later reached with the Union Club to use their premises overlooking the golf course, and later the two clubs merged. The imposing clubhouse which, in much extended and modified form, stands sentinel behind the first tee of the Old Course today, was built in 1854.

Actually, King James II of Scotland, banned golf in 1457, because it was distracting young men from archery practice. This ban was repeated by succeeding monarchs until James IV threw in the towel and in 1502 became a golfer himself.

In 1974, the St. Andrews Links Trust was created by an Act of Parliament to continue running the Links as public golf courses open to anyone. In 1993, a new 18-hole course, the Strathtyrum, was opened along with a nine-hole course, the Balgove, and a Golf Practice Center. In 1995, the first Clubhouse freely available to visitors was opened - the Links Clubhouse by the Old, New and Jubilee Courses. This was followed in 2000 by a second clubhouse, the Eden Clubhouse for golfers on the Eden, Strathtyurm and Balgove Courses.

Green Fees Announced for 2002

New green fees have been established for April 1, 2002.

A single round on the Old Course in the high season (1 April-31 October 2002) will be 90 pounds (from 85). The adult green fee on the New Course will be 45 pounds (from 42) and 22 pounds for under 16s (from 21).

Adults on the Jubilee Course will pay 40 pounds (from 37) while for under 16s it will be 20 pounds (from 18). The Eden Course green fee will be 30 pounds (from No. 28) for adults and 15 pounds for under 16s (from No. 14). The Strathtyrum Course adult fee will be 20 pounds (from No. 18) and under 16s, 10 pounds (from 9). The green fee for the Balgove Course will remain at 2001 levels at 10 pounds for adults and 3 pounds for under 16s.

"The changes in green fees reflect the excellent condition of the courses, improvements in facilities and better levels of service at the Links, as we continue the drive to raise standards higher to meet golfers' expectations," said Alistair Nicoll, chairman of the LMC.

British Golf Museum

Don't miss the British Golf Museum when you come to St. Andrews. It's only steps away from the first tee at the Old Course. The Museum tells the story of British golf, from the middle ages through to the present day, looking at the tournaments, players and equipment, both past and present, which help to make golf the game it is today. www.britishgolfmuseum.co.uk

This and That

Hitting the first tee shot at the Old Course is one of the most nervous opening shots in golf by an amateur. There's a classic cartoon showing "the man who missed the ball on the first tee at St. Andrews". It hangs in the R&A locker room today.

Old Tom Morris was the course's first official superintendent with a starting salary of £5 a year. He won four British Opens and was credited with originating the tee box. His son, Young Tom Morris, was a great champion as well. Many golf piligrims visit their graves at the old church in town.

The Starter's Box in 1910 was a converted Victorian bathing hut, used at one time by ladies who braved the "gray cold waters" bordering St. Andrews.

Someone once said that when a golfer lands in the Principal's Nose bunkers, there's only room for himself, an angry golfer and his sand wedge.

The Old Course record is 62 by Curtis Strange.

Sir John Low rode his pony in the 1860s while playing golf at the Old Course. This tactic allowed him to play into his 90s.

Early caddies' pay was so low they had to be somewhat "scheming" to find ways to make more money. A wooden-legged caddy devised a hollow stump that allowed him to step on a ball and move it into his wooden leg while the player was looking all around for his ball. Dogs were trained to find balls in the deep gorse or heather and sometimes caddies would go up stream from the Swilken Burn, stir it up so it was too murky to find a ball, then go back later to collect the golf balls.

Today, a caddy expects a total pay of 50 to 60 pounds. This includes a tip that is determined by the hiring golfer.

In 1995 a golfer playing the Road Hole, No. 17, sent a ball down a chimney at The Old Course Hotel. The ball bounced on the fire grate, hit the Board Room table, smashing its glass top, and stunned the people in the meeting.

The first official recorded records of St. Andrews in 1552 confirmed the rights of citizens to play golf and football on the lawns of the Old Course, dry fishing nets and bleach their linens.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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