A little bit of history at St. Andrew’s. And Golf

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.  Let’s continue on the journey through Scotland, shall we?

Hallowed halls of higher learning


The Quad at St Andrews University

St. Andrews has always been famous. Or at least it seems that way. St Andrews University is celebrating its 600th year. 600 YEARS. Let that sink in for a moment. In the words of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson “We were founded: before the printing press, before the battle of Agincourt, before the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing, before the construction of Machu Picchu in Peru, before Columbus arrived in the Americas, and before Joan of Arc waged battle.”
That’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me. My alma mater is celebrating its 175th year and it made it into our state museum so 600 years…WOW.  Romantic history:  Prince William met Kate Middleton at the University in 2001 while they studied Art History. Awwwww.

St. Andrews has a long list of distinguished graduates and an even more impressive list of honorary degree holders. IF you ever hope to be in that group don’t step on this spot. Like EVER.  I did, and although I did manage to get a university degree, the fact that I am in YEAR 12! of post-secondary education should tell you there is a modicum of truth to this legend.

History Nerd Alert: PH are the initials of the first causality of the Scottish Reformation. At 24, heavily influenced by the reformation in Europe, Patrick Hamilton returned to Scotland and St Andrews to teach reformation doctrine. He was tried and burned at the stake on campus. On the spot where he was burned, there are the initials PH. Legend dictates that if a student stands on those initials, they will fail to get their degree.


And its history

Let’s switch gears and talk about golf. I’m no master by any stretch of the imagination, but I have played a round or two in my day. Never on a course like St. Andrews though. Anyway, being the history nerd and sports enthusiast that I am I was ecstatic to learn about the history of golf. The first record of golf in Scotland dates back to the 15th century. In 1457, golf was banned by James II and parliament as it was seen as a distraction from military training [people NEED a distraction from military training]. The ban was repealed in 1502 and King James IV made the first documented purchase of golf clubs in the same year. While official records have the founding of the world’s oldest existing golf course at Musselburgh Old Links in 1672, folk history says that Mary, Queen of Scots played there in 1567. [Go, Mary, go]

Today there are over 550 golf courses in Scotland. Along a short stretch of coastline running from Largs to Ayr there is an endless procession of fairways including some of the finest links courses in the world. These include Turnberry, Royal Troon, Kilmarnock Barassie, Old Prestwick, Bogside, Glasgow and Western Gailes to name a few.

Ryder Cup

Scotland was also home to the first International Golf Match. The founding of The Ryder Cup in 1927 stemmed from the first international golf match. It featured teams from Great Britain and the United States in 1921. The PGA brought American golfers over to Britain as a team as no American had yet won The British Open. A warm-up tournament between Great Britain and the United States was arranged two weeks before the British Open at St Andrews and held at Gleneagles. This tournament marked the beginnings of what would become The Ryder Cup. The 40th Ryder Cup was recently played at Gleneagles in Perthshire, and the Europeans once again kicked American ass. [I empathized with my fellow country-mates as I have been part of a team that measured individual achievement in a team environment…of course my matches were never televised and the only thing truly at stake was my pride.]

Who says golf can’t be beautiful

St. Andrews has transformed itself from the Dark Ages town of Kilrymont to the Royal Bourough of St Andrews. Today it is an international town of about 10,000, home to the 3 oldest English-speaking universities and some of the finest golf courses in the world.
As a note of interest: St. Andrews town motto is “Dum Spiro Spero” – “While I breathe, I hope” which happens to be the same motto of the State of South Carolina. Coincidence, I think not.

A church and cliff by the sea

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