ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — If you didn’t know it was there to begin with, you’d almost certainly miss one of the most unique, coolest features of the Old Course while walking the grounds this week. Perhaps you’d walk right over it. In fact, tens of thousands this week have done just that.
Right of the 1st green, not far from the 2nd tee, sits a massive expanse that rolls wildly up and down with rollicking humps and swales. This week spectators walk over Item. open buggy park on Item. Other weeks? It’s the St. Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club, also known as The Himalayas — believed to be the first-ever mini golf course.
According to club history, in the 1860s, few acceptable recreational activities existed for women, but there were many who summered in St. Andrews with their families. So in 1867, Old Tom Morris laid out a putting course. Over 150 years later it’s still there, open to the public and an uber-popular concept copied throughout the world.
On Friday at The Open, two kids tossed golf balls off the swales, trying to run them close to sprinkler heads. “Let it work! Let it work!” one yelled at his friend from him, trying to get him to back off as the ball inched closer.
On Saturday, a family of four sat on top of a hump and ate ice cream. Another spectator wondered aloud why that specific terrain was so bumpy. Fact is, if you didn’t know it was there to begin with, the only way you’d find it is if you happened to see the few signs pointing it out. But Open Championship week is loaded with signs — SPECTATOR WALKWAY; PHONE CHARGING; TOILETS; REFRESHMENTS; THE HIMALAYAS — who can pay attention to them all?
But don’t be fooled — this isn’t all for kicks and giggles. This is real competition. The first tournament there happened in 1867. A gold locket was given to the winner and a silver pebble brooch went to the runner-up. Both of those prizes are still handed out.
Now competitions are April to September on Wednesday afternoons, and Thursday morning shotgun starts have 60 competitors. It has both 9- and 18-hole routings.
The club was a hit when it opened. Membership rose to 400 women in 1900, but numbers took a hit during the war. Faced with financial difficulties, the club opened the green to the public in 1920, and it’s continues to be a St. Andrews staple. Nowadays, it’s £4 for adults and £2 for seniors and children under 16.
But don’t plan on joining the current St. Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club anytime soon — the waiting list is full and closed.