Lifting The Mists
As you approach St Andrews the first thing that strikes you about the "Auld gray toon" is that there is no mist at all - a challenging breeze maybe but no mist. You have seen the landmark towers of St Salvators and the ancient St Andrews cathedral - regularly used by caddies as targets "just aim at the steeple Sir"! It is now as you enter the town that you realize that you are amongst something very special - the home of golf - a golfing shrine. The back of the neck tells you so!
Turn left into Golf Place and you see the Royal and Ancient clubhouse presiding over the Old Course alongside the 18th green. The clubhouse, stern and proud, silently issues the challenge.
Every golfer professional or amateur of any note over the ages has hit off the first tee not being sure as to how the round today will work out. There are many differing views on "the Old" but all will come off the course with respect and affection. Affection drawn from the history of the course and all that it has meant to our favourite pastime.
Nobody is quite sure when golf started here but a licence was issued in 1552 to allow the local populace "to play at golf". The Society of St Andrews golfers was founded in 1754 and in 1834 this became the Royal and Ancient golf club. The original course was 11 holes played out and back - 22 in total. Two of these were deemed to be too short so the course became 9 holes out and back. Enormous double greens were designed to alleviate crowding and seven of these remain today. These can give you a length of putt that can not be matched anywhere else in the world! All the holes are a severe test of course management and patience. The Old is a minefield of bunkering with names such as Students and College, Coffin, Cats Trap and Lion's mouth and these are REAL bunkers. The finishing holes of the 17th Road Hole (with the terrifying guard bunker) followed by the magnificent 18th are unbeatable. The walk over the Swilken bridge up past the "other" clubhouses and Old Tom Morris' shop. Past the famous Rusack's Hotel arguably with the finest view that any golfer would wish to have. Through the Valley of Sin in front of the green and on to the massive putting area - you can almost hear the applause! Player and Course have established a friendship and respect that will last forever.
Behind the R&A clubhouse is the Golf Museum which contains a fascinating history of the game with many fine examples of how technology has really changed over the ages.
After the golf take time to walk up North Street and see the wonderful University buildings of St Salvator's and on to the ruins of the St Andrews cathedral where there is a delightful memorial 4 Golf Vacations 2001 to "Young Tom Morris". Many visitors have left small mementos of their own visit to this charming spot commemorating one of the original great players of the game as we know it today.
Just over two miles outside St Andrews to the South is the relatively new Duke's Course designed by five times Open Champion Peter Thomson. This provides an interesting change as it is a parkland course. It is a perfect example of nature being moulded into a golfing challenge by a Master golfer. The views from the clubhouse over the town are memorable and give a good idea of the surrounding areas.
To the East of the town is the new course of Kingsbarns. This course rates as the finest new course in Europe and to the uninitiated gives every appearance of having been in place for decades. The crafting of the course and the magnificent coastal location make for a golfing experience that rarely occurs. It should be included in any St Andrews visit.
A new golfing resort has also recently opened - The St Andrews Bay complex. This has two championship courses which can take their place against the best.
Never far from the golfers mind is the need for food. St Andrews offers a wide range of restaurants to satisfy the heartiest of appetites - and you can be sure that golf in these parts will raise the appetite to dangerous levels! Restaurants to bear in mind are Westport, Broons, Ziggys, The Dolls House, The Balaka, Alexanders, The Vine Leaf. Any visit to St Andrews will remain as a memorable even spiritual experience which will last with you forever. For this reason it is important to have your visit organized by experts. A company with over 20 years in the business is Executive Golf Tours. You need someone who knows the "locals" and can smooth the way to a great golfing experience. They have played host to giants of sport such as Nike and Michael Jordan. They also hold the USA Golden Key award for Excellence. A visit to their website www.execgolftours.com will show their most popular tours but they are more than happy to tailor tours to your own special needs.
A special mention must be made of the "VIP Old Course Experience" tour which can give a guaranteed time on the Old Course (subject to availability at time of booking). This combines unashamed luxury with the courses mentioned in the article.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.