SAINT ANDREWS est situe a l'Est de l'Ecosse, dans le voisinage de la puissante cite de Glasgow. C'est un siege de science et d'erudition. La beautė du paysage, la vigueur de l'air y attirent aussi force touristes pendant la belle saison. Et cependant a l'ouïe du plus grand nombre, ce nom de Saint Andrews n'ėvoque ni une ville, ni une Universitė, ni un site ravissant couronnė par la crėte du Loch-nagar, mais une étendue idéalement belle de Links verdoyants."
To readers weary of the worn epithets and descriptions of St. Andrews and its links, with which successive golfing authors have loaded their pages, this fresh and imaginative picture from the pen of a French author, will be pleasing indeed. With what wearisome iteration have we not been told that St. Andrews is the Rome of golf, the Mecca of the golfing faithful, whither the golfing pilgrim must go, once at least before he dies; that the Royal and Ancient Club-house is the temple and shrine of golf, the depository of its most sacred mysteries, and that Tom Morris is its High Priest, whose benediction is absolutely necessary for all who would do well in the world of golf, etc., etc.! How refreshing, then, to find an author who, on the wings of imagination, stimulated by a sly peep at "Badminton," can transport us from the region of hackneyed illustration to the domain of pure fantasy. Alas! however, for the poet, as we have often said alas ! for the pedant. In his high-souled endeavour to escape the Scylla of effete comparison, he has run over it into the Charybdis (this last is another perfectly unpe-dantic golfing illustration) of topographical error. Let us be thankful, however, for the originality of this French view, even if it is not convincing. For to say truth, "ravishing" is hardly the epithet that one can apply to the site of St. Andrews and its links. Historical interest the place has - perhaps too much of it - but it is not a gay place. The spirit of John Knox seems still to brood over the scene, so that on the usual Scotch day it is about as depressing a place as the mind can well conceive, and one shudders to think of what life at St. Andrews would be without golf. One gets a glimpse of it on Sunday, "the times of the sermonses." The decaying aspect of the town, the grey sadness of the sea, and the dreariness of the flat landscape, by themselves are insupportable, and the golfer's heart goes out in sympathy to those early martyrs of the game who suffered for their devotion to Sunday golf. Pat Rogie, John Henrie, and Robert Robertson, across the ages, we shake you by the hand! Not even "the neighbourhood of the powerful city of Glasgow," on the opposite side of the country, can raise the gloom inspired by the ruined towers and ancient buildings, where learning has her musty seat, and not all "the steep, frowning glories of dark Lochnagar," hull down on the horizon, about a hundred miles away, can charm away the air of settled melancholy which the place wears. However, most days there is golf, and "golf," as has been well said, is golf, and not scenery - and this is emphatically the case at St. Andrews. There c is no danger here, - as there is no temptation, - of the golfer's eye wandering off from the business in hand, to dwell on the beauties of nature. The holes have been so arranged that the very towers and spires of the town, which might otherwise have proved distracting, are utilised as line guides and direction posts, while the hazards, from the sinuous and dirty "Swilcan," all the way round to the "station-master's garden," are horrid and repellant to the eye.
Golf has been played on St. Andrews links from time immemorial, and continuously, as ancient statutes and records establish, since the fifteenth century. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, or, as its name then was, "The St. Andrews Society of Golfers," at its institution in 1754, fell heir to the great mass of golfing lore and tradition which had been accumulating during all these centuries, and it is to the credit of the club that it focussed and gathered up these traditions and gradually formulated the Rules of Golf. It was the acceptance of those rules by the other golfing societies, some of which were of older foundation than itself, joined to the influential character of the membership of the Royal and Ancient Club, that gave St. Andrews much of the pre-eminence and authority which she enjoys to-day in the golfing world.
As a school for golfers, the only serious rival of St. Andrews was Musselburgh; but though the latter has produced some champions of renown, like the Dunns, the Parks, and Bob Ferguson; and though that green became the headquarters of four of the oldest golfing societies in the world, its golfing history, from whatever cause, was neither so continuous nor so glorious as that of the Northern city. Which of the two greens supplies the better test of golf is a point that has been hotly contested by the adherents of each school, and there is probably as much to be said in favour of the one as the other, even although Musselburgh has but nine holes. But the fact remains that the latter could not shake the leading position of St. Andrews as the golfing capital, nor has the premiership of the Royal and Ancient Club - during this century at least, - ever seriously been disputed.
No doubt, apart altogether from the question of its merits as a golf links, St. Andrews enjoys, and has enjoyed for long, many advantages as a golfing centre, denied to other places. Though it can hardly be said, in spite of our French friend, to be "in the neighbourhood of Glasgow," or even of Edinburgh, it is still within easy access of both these great centres of population, and Dundee is almost at its doors. While the ranks of St. Andrews golf have thus constantly been recruited from the best players of these cities, the town itself has always had a large residential and more or less leisured population. In addition, the presence of the University, and, what is even of greater importance, the number of boarding schools in the town, ensure a continuous crop of golfing recruits, at precisely the right age to take advantage of the precepts and examples of the crack exponents of the game, who are always to be found on the green.