Jubilee golf course in St. Andrews: Locals' stomping grounds and a championship links
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Meet any local and, eventually, they'll rave to you about the Jubilee Course in St. Andrews, one of six St. Andrews Links Trust golf courses.
Tee it up yourself on what they call "The Joo" and see their adoration with your own eyes. You're also in for a links test worthy of its location in golf's grandest town.
After a morning round at Kingsbarns Golf Links up the road, I arrived at the Jubilee for a casual 4 p.m. round. I was pulling out my driver on the first tee to play a round solo when a player appeared and asked if I'd like to have a game.
His name was Ben, a 13-handicapper who lived in town. His address gives him access to the coveted "Links Ticket." Besides a membership at Augusta National or Cypress Point, a Links Ticket is about as good as it gets for a golfer. A small yearly fee gets you unlimited access to the seven courses in town.
And the locals take advantage. It was early May, and Ben told me he already had about 90 rounds under his belt for the year. On late afternoons he often ends up on the "Joo" and seemed to have a back-of-his-hand knowledge of how each hole played and what club to hit off the tee before I could even pull out my stroke saver. With a downwind on the first few holes, he chose to play an iron, and it's a smart play, given the smattering of small, deep pot bunkers in the fairways.
Not every local out here is a golfer. As the course closest to the West Sands beach, it's easy for people to park their car and bring their dog out for an afternoon workout -- and they aren't shy about it. Among those out for a stroll without their sticks was one man with his three incredibly well behaved border collies. He told us they learned to not walk on the greens or into the bunkers their first time out.
Locals flock to the Jubilee, golf or not, when they don't want the jammed tee sheet and small playing corridors of the Old Course. You can technically bring your dogs onto the Old Course as it's a public park. But you better equip them and yourself with armor, because side-by-side fairways and nervous golf swings make the grounds a dangerous place.
The Jubilee, on the other hand, is less crowded but still has that unmistakable St. Andrews aura. The best part? We got around 18 holes in just more than three hours.
That's Scottish golf. And yes, he beat me handily in my match, 4 and 3.
The many faces of the Jubilee Course
The Jubilee originally opened in 1897 as a 12-hole course, intended for women and referred to informally as "The Nursery."
Alister MacKenzie once wrote, "I have seen women wheeling their babies in perambulators and playing 'round the Jubilee Course."
The Jubilee was later stretched to a full 18 holes in 1905 by extending the course through a gap in dunes to the north, but it was a tight squeeze in many spots and played just 5,330 yards.
It was extended in 1946 to more than 6,000 yards, but the biggest changes came at the hands of Donald Steel. He enhanced the links to the championship challenge it is today, playing more than 6,700 yards from the medal tees. Curtis Strange hit the opening tee shot on the bigger-than-ever Jubilee in 1989.
Now, the Jubilee is as much of a championship test from the medal tees as any of the courses in St. Andrews. Links Trust officials note that scores are usually higher on the Jubilee during qualifying rounds of the St. Andrews Links Trophy than when it is staged on the New Course.
Aesthetically, there aren't many standout holes on the Jubilee so much as a consistent playability to them. The greens are smaller than the Old Course's monstrosities, but they are defended with a mix of natural bumps and deep pot bunkers. Like the Old Course, angles are everything when attacking the Jubilee from the fairway. There is just one double green on the Jubilee, shared by the fourth and 14th holes.
The most dramatic hole is the par-4 15th, named "Steel's Gem." From the tee, you can't see the green because the fairway wraps around one of the mightiest dunes in town to a well-protected green. The green itself is armed with not only a lack of full visibility, but also a steep, false front. Approaches missed short or right will find their way well down the slope, leaving golfers with options of either lobbing a shot over the slope onto the surface or running it up the slope.
From here, it's three holes straight back toward the town, and in all likelihood into the wind. The church spire and R&A clubhouse are the backdrop that gives the course that unmistakable feeling that you're on the grounds of where the game began and does it better than anywhere to this day.
Jubilee Course in St. Andrews: The verdict
For visiting golfers, the Jubilee will likely check in at No. 4 in the pecking order among the seven Links Trust courses behind the Old, New and Castle. But at green fees similar to the New and half the cost of the Old, it's a suitable and affordable links-style play with a championship pedigree.
And with a tee sheet that is often more open, it's a favorite course of locals and repeat visitors to the home of golf.
Stay and play in St. Andrews
St. Andrews is loaded with accommodation options, from the Rusacks Hotel beside the 18th fairway, to the Old Course Hotel off the 17th.
If you're looking for something more understated and affordable, look into a guest house. I stayed at the Six Murray Park, just a block from the Old Course and within walking distance to everything you want to see in town. The rooms have modern furnishings and are different sizes and shapes. Rates come with a full breakfast menu to order from in the morning.