The Auld Grey Toon has been the subject of countless books over hundreds of years, so writing about it is a tricky endeavor. Roger McStravick’s new book takes an eclectic approach to the subject and delves into the back-stories of St. Andrews, and, by extension, the evolution of golf there.
McStravick lives in St. Andrews and has a Masters in Golf Course Architecture. As he outlines at the beginning of the book he looks into questions such as “Why was the Principal’s Nose cut off?” And “when was the land for the Old Course actually created?” Not content to merely scratch the surface, he traces the evolution of the town from 370AD.
St. Andrews in The Footsteps of Old Tom Morris was produced in 2015 in three different editions:
• The 79 Leather Edition which was produced on silk Art Paper, was bound in leather with foil titles and is limited to 79 copies and is signed by the author.
• The Collector’s Edition which was produced on silk Art Paper, is limited to 250 copies and is signed by the author. Both the Collector’s and 79 editions are 300 pages each.
• The 1821 Edition, which is softcover, contains less content, running only 278 pages. This edition is limited to 1821 copies (taking its edition name from the year Old Tom Morris was born).
The construct of the book is a tour of the historic town street-by-street, and in some cases even going house-by-house to uncover the secrets and rich stories that have evolved over the centuries. Think of it as a book version of Google Street View with sepia pictures; although the book is far more high-minded and well-researched than the fleeting glimpses that the wizards of Mountain View give us on-line. For the rabid St. Andrews fan there is rich material about the history of each of the buildings along Golf Place, The Links, Old Station Road, North Street, Market Street, and South Street.
The core of what makes the book so good are the images that McStravick was able to unearth from various family archives as well as from the University of St Andrews Special Collections Department and other one-off and unusual sources.
A 19th century golfer playing out of Hell Bunker as his fan club looks on from within the testing hazard
I would be remiss if I didn’t also give credit to Chic Harper, the graphic designer that laid out the book in such an elegant and thoughtful manner.
For us Yanks who sadly don’t get to absorb the charms of St. Andrews as much as the locals, the book has an added benefit. The next time you want to dazzle someone at a cocktail party you can drop into the conversation the fact that the land the practice putting green sits on (and where people promenade to the right of the first tee) is the Bruce Embankment. If that isn’t enough to impress your prey, then I suggest stepping away and pretending it is time to have your drink refreshed. Or, alternatively, you can try one last factoid certain to make an impression: that your favorite spot to walk in St. Andrews is the Lade Braes.
How impressive is McStravick’s new book? Well, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, was impressed enough to write the foreword to the comprehensive history. And, when the USGA awarded its 2015 Herbert Warren Wind Award to the book, it used the words “extraordinary” and “one-of-a-kind.” If that isn’t enough to impress you then you are as difficult to move as the fellow we were trying to impress over drinks who didn’t take the bait.
— John Sabino