ST. ANDREWS – Tiger Woods called it “historic” and his “favorite.” Jack Nicklaus labeled it “a magical place.”
They should know.
Woods and Nicklaus are two of the greatest golfers the game has ever produced, and they've each won two British Open titles at St. Andrews — arguably the most famous golf course the game has ever produced.
The Old Course is hosting the 150th Open Championship this year, making it a special event even for an Open at the home of golf. So getting a good spot to watch the action is going to be tough for nearly 300,000 spectators expected this week on a storied links so narrow and flat that there are no central viewing areas on the course.
It's a traditional links — out and back — meaning spectators can only view from the outside of the boundaries. No hole has fans lining both sides of the fairway.
So where to go?
“The grandstand at the back of the first green, because you can see the first, 18 and the 17th green,” said David Spence, a Royal and Ancient club member since 1991 who has been attending British Opens since 1969. “It’s a really good spot to watch.”
From there, you can see the players walking down from the first tee, which sits right in front of the clubhouse. You also get a view of the players coming up the 17th — known as the Road Hole, one of the hardest tests in golf.
Then, there's the start of the 18th hole, which finishes up the undulating traverse adjacent to that first tee and in front a two-tier grandstand that seats about 1,840 spectators.
For a more panoramic view with even more action, Spence offered another suggestion.
“My next favorite spot to watch is at the Loop behind the ninth green and the 10th tee. You can see the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th," Spence said. “Take your binoculars.”
Nicklaus won three British Opens in his career, first at Muirfield in 1966 and then at the Old Course in 1970 and 1978. Woods also won three British Opens, with the 2000 and 2005 titles coming at St. Andrews. His third came in 2006 at Royal Liverpool.
They spent their time playing the course, however, not jockeying for a position to get a good view.
Even Spence, as a club member, has had an easier time than most, working for years as a marshal or a tournament referee. But his experience makes him as close to an expert as you can find around town.
He was even on the course in 1995 when a streaker ran onto the green after John Daly won the title in front of the clubhouse — that small but hallowed building where the original claret jug is encased.
“I never saw it,” Spence said with a wry smile.
Regardless of what he didn't see that day 27 years ago, Spence offered yet a third viewing option for this year's patrons, again avoiding mention of the two main stands that sit on either side of the clubhouse abutting the 18th green and first tee and hold nearly 4,000 spectators between them.
“Behind the 17th green,” Spence said. “That is a similar spot to the one at the back of the first. Very good for the finishing.”
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