Home of Golf
Golf in St. Andrews is all around, literally. Six courses use up the land between the Eden estuary, the North Sea, and the main highway into St. Andrews. The seventh course, the Castle, lies in the hills just outside town. While golf tourism is now big business in St. Andrews, it is an ancillary activity. It coexists with the town on a parallel path: golfers come, play and go, and except for the money they leave behind, they have little effect on the town. It is not unusual that some golfers rarely leave that portion of town bounded by the golf courses, the first class Old Course Hotel, and the Scores – that portion of the town that fronts the East Sands beach and sits adjacent to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Members only please.
On the other hand, in Scotland generally and in St. Andrews particularly, golf is a widely played and loved sport by a large segment of the population, and unlike the United States, most courses are public, as is the Old Course and the other Links Trust courses. It is not unusual to see boys riding around on the bicycles with a slim golf bags slung over their shoulders, off to play around. Golf is played in schools, by the locals of all ages, in competition and just for fun. In the summer, it’s played until 9:30 or 10:00 pm because the days are so long – and dawn comes early too! Golf “clubs” do exist, but they’re not the country clubs we’re used to.
The Links Trust also operates the Links Clubhouse, a restaurant and shop and changing facilities, which overlooks the New and the Jubilee Courses on one side, and the Old Course fairways and Old Course Hotel on the other side. A more informal clubhouse is the Eden, which is located near the three newer courses, and the extensive practice center.
The seventh Links Trust course is the Castle, which is a couple of miles southeast of St. Andrews set on high ground above cliffs falling down to the sea. The view here is incredible, but its situation makes for a challenging game of golf. It has its own clubhouse.
The Links golf courses have managed to preserve some of the best natural landscape in and around St. Andrews. For the locals who don’t golf, perhaps the highlight of the week is Sunday when the hallowed ground of the Old Course is open to all and becomes the favored place for a Sunday afternoon walk with the hills of Fife on one side and the awesome North Sea on the other.
In addition to the popular St. Andrews Links courses, nearby is the dramatic Kingask Fairmont Hotel and golf courses. The courses are links-like, but unlike the St. Andrews courses which sit at “ground” level, the Kingask development sits on a plateau high above the sea and commands dramatic, windswept views of surrounding countryside including St. Andrews, 5 miles to the north. It’s exclusive, expensive, and isolated, but close enough to other spots in Fife that visitors/golfers who stay there can be easily ferried to other, more traditional spots. A heliport sits in front of the pristine hotel for those in a hurry to relax on the course. Two championship level courses, The Torrance and The Kittocks, are associated with the hotel.
Fife boasts 40 golf courses, many of them public links courses. An avid golfer playing 36 holes a day could travel no more than 20 miles in any direction and play a different course each round – though I’ve been told by those who’ve tried it, that it can be pretty exhausting. That may also be because few courses offer carts; caddies are still the rule for those who prefer not to carry their own bags.
Despite the fact the the Old Course forms the “front yard” of the Old Course Hotel, they are not related. The Hotel does, however, own the inland Duke’s Golf Course just a few miles outside of the town. It’s quite a beautiful, hilly, wooded course, complete with a driving range and its own clubhouse and restaurant. The view over St. Andrews is splendid from its terrace and the course.
The Open Golf Championship is held in St. Andrews every five years, the next tournament taking place there in 2015. Practice day, the Wednesday before the competition begins is a great time to get out and see the golfers up close and they get a feel for the course and hone their skills. (Photos from 2010)