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What is the oldest golf course in the world?

What is the oldest golf course in the world? The top five are all in the same country

St. Andrews Old Course golf course.
Ryan Caven / Unsplash

There’s a thrill and excitement in playing your favorite sport at historic sites. True fans of sports love the lore behind the game, and with golf, the courses are as famous as the legendary players. To geek all the way out, visiting one of the oldest courses is something any golfer should do once in their life. What is the oldest golf course in the world? Where should you take your clubs? Here are the oldest courses in the world for you to test your driver and feel the rich history right under your feet.

The oldest golf courses

A view of the grounds of St. Andrews Golf Course.
Ryan Caven / Unsplash

You could create an entire top 10 of the oldest golf courses in the world and not have to leave the gorgeous coasts of Scotland. You might think of bagpipes or the Loch Ness Monster when someone talks of Scotland, but from now on, you’ll think of these golf courses.

1. St. Andrews Old Course

  • Public course first established in 1552

What is the oldest golf course in the world? When it comes to the game of golf, the start of it is traced back to St. Andrews Old Course. Lovingly known as the heart and home of golf, Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world, with the official charter given in 1552 by Archbishop John Hamilton.

Unofficially, the people of St. Andrews played 18 holes on the links in the 1400s, with Hell Bunker and Swilcan Bridge a few of its most famous attributes. The course did get a little facelift by Old Tom Morris in 1856, and since the British Open Championship began in 1860, Old Course has been the host 30 times. If you love playing a classic 18-hole round, St. Andrews is the reason.

2. Montrose Golf Links

  • Public course were first established in 1562

Once boasting 25 holes and having the only 25-hole championship in 1866, Montrose Golf Links was christened in 1562. But you better believe Old Tom Morris had a hand in fashioning the links into an 18-hole course in 1863, not long after he tweaked the Old Course. Montrose was adjusted in 1903, 1913, and then again a little later in 2008, with the course having its 1913 alterations as the prominent layout.

3. Elie and Earlsferry Links

  • Public course first established in 1589

Records show the Elie and Earlsferry Links wasn’t an official course until 1770, but a royal charter dates it back to 1589. The links was a 9-hole course in 1875 and was bumped up to a 12-hole game in 1885. And — you guessed it — Old Tom Morris updated this course to 18 holes in 1895, with those plans being what you play on today.

4. Musselburgh Links

  • Public courses first recorded in 1672

Starting with only seven holes, Musselburgh Links held the title of the oldest golf course in the world for a time before records put St. Andrews on top. Official papers give the date of 1672, but there are plenty of stories of Mary, Queen of Scots perfecting her backhand on the links as early as 1567. Today, Musselburgh Links is a 9-hole course, having added the eighth hole in 1838 and the final ninth in 1870.

A fun fact about Musselburgh Links appears on the fourth hole. Still standing is Mrs. Foreman’s Inn, where golfers could grab a drink through a hatch in the wall as a nice halfway pick-me-up.

5. Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club

  • Records date rounds played here to 1702

Okay, which date you go by determines the ranking of the Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club. There are loose records that date the grounds to 1702 when it was called Chanonry (modern Fortrose), but the date for the course as it is known today wasn’t recorded until 1793, so pick your battle. This course started as a small, 6-hole round and, by 1924, included the 18 holes it currently has.

Oldest courses outside of Scotland

A person making a shot on a golf course in France.
WWW PROD / Unsplash

We get it, Scotland has a chokehold on the oldest courses in the world. But here are a few other places to get your golf history fix in.

The oldest course outside Scotland in Europe

With the Pyrenees mountains in the background, the stunning Pau Golf Club was open for play in 1856. Located in the southwestern part of France, this course is the oldest in Europe. But, sorry everyone, only members can play a round of 18 at the most beautiful golf course in France, as it is a private course.

The oldest course outside Scotland in the United Kingdom

Established in 1864, the Royal North Devon Golf Club in Northam, United Kingdom, holds the crown for the oldest golf course in England and the oldest links course that isn’t in Scotland. Because of its location, it has the quirky nickname of Westward Ho! and if you were wondering, yes, Old Tom Morris designed the original course layout.

The oldest golf course in the United States

You have to travel to Savannah, Georgia, to swing your clubs at the Savannah Golf Club to say you played on the oldest golf course in the U.S. Documentation proves the second annual meeting in 1796, putting the course opening in 1794.

When it comes to your favorite sport, the history is what makes it great. You also have handy knowledge to spread around during your next game. If golf is your go-to sport, try to get your clubs to one of the oldest golf courses in the world to see how it feels to putt on sacred ground.

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Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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