In October 1764, a momentous decision was taken by the Society of St Andrews Golfers, which would become The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in 1834. On the 3rd of October, twelve golfers had played in the Challenge for the Silver Club and the new Captain was William St Clair of Roslyn. The next day, the 4th of October, they decided that the Old Course should be reduced from 22 holes to 18.
It was minuted that:
‘The Captain and Gentlemen Golfers present are of the opinion that it would be for the improvement of the links that the four first holes should be converted into two, they therefore have agreed that for the future, they shall be played as two holes, in the same way as presently marked out.’
The Old Course thus became the first 18 hole course on the 4th of October 1764.
In a revision of the Rules of Golf by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in 1842, the concept of 18 holes as a round of golf was enshrined in Rule One, which read:
‘One round of the Links, or 18 holes, is reckoned a match, unless otherwise stipulated’
On the anniversary of this momentous decision, Angela Howe, Museum and Heritage Director at The R&A, commented: “It seems remarkable that what is so important to the game and how it is played today, emerged from a single sentence in the minutes 250 years ago.”
An article by Peter N Lewis, The Lost Holes of St Andrews: What Might Have Happened in 1764, which was published in Through the Green, the magazine of the British Golf Collectors’ Society, looks at the background to this decision and attempts to locate the lost holes. This article is available from the Related Links opposite.