In the middle of town, archaeologists patiently dig in Louden's Close, a quiet enclosure. On the edge of town, less patient golfers dig into more pliant soil; once the British Open championship starts there next week, they'll be watched by hordes, kept informed by modern scoreboards.
The players, having driven on the home hole, will cross a small stream, the Swilcan Burn, over a narrow arched bridge of uneven stones. Hundreds of years before golf was played here, pack-laden donkeys crossed the Swilcan on that bridge. Since golfs advent, the feet of all the game's great men have gone over the bridge—some in happy stride, some just plodding to get a sad round done. One lady visitor with twisted ideas of history wondered "why the Romans would build such a bridge on a golf course."
Old and new, side by side.
The contrast is more pointed when you drive toward the town. Tall spires in the distance, surmounting gray stone buildings, beckon you on. Then, of a sudden, there are ultramodern structures on both sides of the road—additions to the university, a hotel looking not unlike a giant's dresser with the drawers open.
On into the city, you choose a route through the West Port. You may have to wait your turn because, while this ancient gateway, built in 1589, was meant for two-way traffic, only one modern vehicle at a time can pass through. Sometimes a lorry decommissions the West Port for two or three weeks. Not far away is a small supermarket.
Past and present. St. Andrews. The Kingdom of Fife, in a nook of the east coast of Scotland, along a broad bay of the North Sea. St. Andrews, the old gray town. The Mecca of golf. The cradle of golf. A city of many facets, of unsuspected charm.
"Cradle of golf was not coined by Madison Avenue, although Madison Avenue would be proud to have invented such an attraction. St. Andrews was not invented. It evolved; with it, the beguiling game of golf; from it, golf spread to many lands.
The Scots have a splendid way of celebrating events in verse, and when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews had its bicentennial in 1954 Dr. J. B. Salmond wrote these lines:
So this then for a toast, the written story
Of twice a hundred years of this fair scene,
All of Elysium. To them the glory
Who fostered for us fairway, bunker, green,
Who spread Golf's Empire all across the world,
And ruled with justice and with equity.
No one knows precisely when and where golf began. More than 500 years ago in Scotland it distracted men from archery and other military activities. Starting in 1457, the Parliaments of three successive Scottish kings prohibited golf. The bug bit the third king, James IV; he became a golfer.