St Andrews takes its name from the Apostle whose relics, legend tells us, were brought to this place in antiquity by St Rule. Scotland later adopted St Andrew as her patron saint and took his saltire cross for her flag. Before the Reformation, the town was the centre of religious life in medieval Scotland, with the bishops wielding great influence over both church and state. St Andrews is also famous as a place of learning. The university, founded in 1413, is the third oldest in Britain.
A town meant for exploring, the medieval layout of the town centre remains intact, with the main shopping areas concentrated in Market Street and South Street, with Bell Street and Church Street connecting the two principal streets.
For most of us, though, it's the game that draws us here. For St Andrews is the home of golf; the sport has been played here for some 600 years on the links land fringing the North Sea, where well-drained grassy soils, natural humps and hollows, banks of whins and short grasses made this a natural golfing ground. In 1552 Archbishop John Hamilton confirmed the rights of the townspeople of St Andrews to use the links for a number of purposes, one of which was golf. His cinquefoil insignia are still to be seen above the gateway of the ruined St Andrews Castle. The links never belonged to a golf club, but were and are still public courses, administered today by St Andrews Links Trust.
The Old Course was known simply as St Andrews Links until 1895 when the opening of the New Course meant that its predecessor became known as the Old Course. Until 1764 a round on the Old Course consisted of 22 holes with eleven holes out and eleven holes in with only the 11th and 22nd not played twice. In that year the first four holes were reduced to two, which meant that a round was reduced to eighteen holes. As the prestige of St Andrews grew this came to be recognized as the standard for courses the world over.
As golf has grown in popularity and St Andrews has come to be recognized as the game's 'holy place' so pressure for access to the links has grown steadily over the last century leading to the development of further courses: the New Course which opened in 1895, the Jubilee, which in its original form opened in 1897 the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the Eden which opened in its original form in 1914, and the Strathtyrum and the Balgove which opened in 1993. These developments give the golf enthusiast the opportunity to play a total of 99 holes of links golf.