18 x 18 - Oldest 18 Hole Courses
This list of the 18 oldest 18-hole golf courses is based on the criteria of
- Date - date on which the course became 18-holes or there were 18 holes played as an 18-hole round with no double use of holes
- Location - any part of the 18-hole course of that date still played today
- Layout - layout is disregarded as the layout of every golf course has been changed.
- Continuity - continuity of play has been disregarded.
- 1857 St Andrews Old Course
- 1863 Montrose North Links
- 1868 Leven Links and Lundin Links
- 1871 Wimbledon Common
- 1871 Hoylake
- 1871 Forfar
- 1872 Old Luffness - Luffness New and Gullane 2
- 1873 Carnoustie
- 1874 Westward Ho!
- 1875 Pau
- 1876 Aberdeen Links - Kings Links
- 1877 North Berwick West Links
- 1879 Machrihanish
- 1880 Dunbar East Links
- 1880 Monifieth Links
- 1880 Kingsdown
- 1882 Prestwick
- 1883 Jersey Grouville Links
This list is probably of more interest to historians than general golfers, for which the oldest societies and courses are more commonly referenced. However, the 18-hole course is central to the game of golf and created changes to courses all over the world. It is based on developments at the Old Course at St Andrews. By 1764, it was 10 holes, of which the middle 8 holes were played twice making a round of 18 holes.
To speed up play, two holes were added to the middle greens. The 5th hole (Hole O'Cross) seems to have been the first to have been adapted as shown on the 1836 William Chalmers plan of the Old Course. In 1855, the R&A minutes report that Daw Anderson added a second hole to the 7th High Hole. Two years later, following work by Allan Robertson, all the middle greens had two holes in time for play at the Spring Meeting. The Fifeshire Journal reported these new arrangements as a great success which included the use of coloured flags for out & in holes. This created the mind-set in the golfers of a course of 18 holes and thereafter at intervals of 2 to 3 years other courses were increased to 18 holes.
The main influence in the spread of 18-hole courses seems to have been members of the R&A, who were also members of other clubs and who wanted the same rules and standard round as they had at St Andrews.
Wimbledon Common is in south-west London, England, Hoylake is in north-east England, Westward Ho! and Kingsdown are in south-west England, Grouville is on the Channel Island of Jersey and Pau is in southern France and are not shown.
The only early Scottish 18-hole course that would qualify for this list, of which no part is playable today, is Innerleven's Dubbieside course. Two English courses would have qualified, had they survived. Student golfers at Cambridge University created and then abandoned 18-hole courses at Royston in 1869 and Coldham Common, which was 9 holes in 1876 and 18 holes in 1887. The Royston course was the first 18-hole course outside Scotland and was laid out by AG Murray of Trinity college, the future Lord Dunedin.
The original Leven/Lundin course is largely intact and recreated annually as the 'Macdonald' course, though otherwise only playable as two halves of Leven Links and Lundin Links. Two other courses - Old Luffness (Luffness New/Gullane 2) and Aberdeen Old Links (Kings Links)- were effectively abandoned and are playable only as minor parts of later courses.
Forfar (1871) and Kingsdown (1880) were definitely built as 18-hole courses. Royal Jersey (1878/1883) may have been, but it is not certain. All the other courses were increased from fewer holes requiring land to be acquired and the availability of this land is largely what decided the timetable of expansion to 18 holes.
By now, courses outside Scotland are coming to the fore, prompted in part by the success of Royal Blackheath golfers in the first inter-club foresomes championship held at Prestwick in 1857 as well as the later writings of the Amateur Champion, Horace Hutchinson. Eleven of these courses - St Andrews, Montrose, Leven, Wimbledon, Hoylake, Carnoustie, Westward Ho!, Pau, North Berwick, Machrihanish, Prestwick - feature in his work British Golf Links.