The USGA took the unusual step this year of issuing their annual Herbert Warren Wind Award to two books. One of the worthy winners was Peter Lewis: Why are there Eighteen Holes: St. Andrews and the Evolution of Golf Courses 1764-1890. Common myth has it that there are eighteen holes because a wee flask of a Scottish gentleman held eighteen swigs and when you were out of whisky there is nea more then golf is finished.
The actual reason is a lot more complex and as the subtitle suggests has to do with how St. Andrews evolved. As St. Andrews evolved and other clubs around the British Isles looked to it for leadership, the standard they set became the norm. The book is full of interesting facts and tidbits for the history and architecture buff. In 1764 St. Andrews decided to consolidate what were previously four holes down to two. Prestwick was the host of many early Open Championships, and since it was only a 12 hole course, the competition was held over three rounds on the course to get in the required 36 holes.
Lewis is a learned historian of the game. He was the director of the British Golf Museum for over ten years and then served as the R & A’s Director of Firm and of Historical Research. He is the co-author of a three-volume History of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The meticulous history is enhanced by color pictures of early golf at St. Andrews and other Scottish courses.