St Andrews in Scotland is many things to many people: a quaint Scottish town, a classic seaside resort, the site of Scotland’s oldest University – and (oh yes) home to seven great golf courses
The Old Course is globally regarded as the most famous golf course and has hosted the Open Championships on many occasions. However, for those of us who have known and experienced St Andrews (I have known it for over 40 years) it is the range, quantity and diversity of golf on offer that is most appealing. Many people are not aware that there are 7 St Andrews Links golf courses in total, including the most recent addition The Castle Course, which I will come back to later.
Within a few yards of The Old Course lie the New Course (1895) and the Jubilee Course (1897) both of which present different challenges than their more famous big sister. The New Course has some of the best links greens anywhere and the course meanders away from the town and then back towards it, never allowing the golfer to quite settle into the prevailing wind. The Jubilee Course is a stiff challenge. Longer and narrower than the New Course it provides a truly championship length experience and is not for the faint-hearted, especially when the wind blows (and it does)! On the other side of the Old Course lies the Eden Course, a gentler and more open layout, which runs adjacent to the Eden Estuary with its considerable indigenous wildlife. As a complete contrast it also is the nearest course to the roar of the military jets from RAF Leuchars. For those just beginning in golf there are the Balgove & Strathtyrum Courses, which offer a great introduction to golf at St Andrews.
Within a 30 minute drive of The Old Course it is possible to play many championship standard courses of varying styles and golfing genealogy. On the outskirts of the town lies the Fairmont Resort, which has 2 championship courses – The Torrance and the newly renamed Kittocks. The Torrance will re-open in July 2009 after a major overhaul to take its place amongst The Final Open Qualifying courses in Fife. It has a fine clifftop location (as does The Kittocks) with spectacular views over St Andrews and to the north towards Carnoustie and the Angus coastline – arguably the oldest strip of golfing land in the World.
A few minutes drive from St Andrews takes you to Kingsbarns Links, a host to the annual Alfred Dunhill Championships and probably the most enjoyably playable 18 holes in Scotland. With a fantastic location beside the sea, gently undulating fairways and receptive greens, it also has a great Clubhouse with a friendly atmosphere – all adding up to a wonderful golfing experience.
Only 10 miles form St Andrews lies the 7th oldest golf club in the World – Crail Golfing Society (1786), which has 2 courses: the most famous is Balcomie Links, first laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1895 and the challenging Craighead Links (try to play to your handicap here!). A 36 hole day at Crail is a golfing experience that will last long in the memory. The Clubhouse sits on the edge of a disused quarry and the views are quite spectacular. Crail is one of the ‘Links With History’ Clubs, which have over 800 years of golfing history between them - we also recommend the other members: Ladybank, Scotscraig and Lundin Links. All are Final Open Championship Qualifying courses and all are just a short drive from the St Andrews golfing hub.
Back in St Andrews itself you can play a heathland course at The Duke’s. Owned by the famous Old Course Hotel it occupies an elevated position on the hill to the south overlooking St Andrews. Recently revamped this very long track really needs a golf cart to allow the golfer to fully appreciate its setting and fine panoramic views. Tree lined, it has hosted several Championships and complements the more famous treeless seaside links courses in the town.
As previously mentioned The Castle Course became the latest addition to St Andrews in 2007. Having already taken its place in the “Golf Digest 100 Best Courses Outside the USA” (at no 65) the Castle occupies a stunning and exposed position on the clifftop to the east of the town of St Andrews. The fast and difficult greens are tricky to read and posting a good score is extremely unlikely! However, the location alone is worthy of placing The Castle on the ‘must-play’ list.
All of the St Andrews Links courses, including The Old Course, are owned by the local public authority and it is not uncommon to see the townsfolk walking over the courses – some even taking their dogs for a walk on the hallowed turf! On a Sunday The Old Course is never open for golf (except for major Championships) and presents everyone, regardless of golfing ability, the chance of walking in the footsteps of their golfing heroes.
So, I hope this has given you the slightly broader picture on St Andrews as the perfect golfing hub. By all means come to play The Old Course, the Grand Old Lady of Golf, but don’t forget all of the other ‘must play’ courses within a short distance. There really is so much to experience - it would be a shame not to include a St Andrews visit at some stage of your golfing life. See you in St Andrews!