Category: St. Andrews


June 20, 2013

The 19 Best 19th Holes in Golf

Posted at 2:49 PM by Golf.com

1. Arcadia Bluffs (Sunset Grill), Arcadia, Mich.:

A world-class links course deserves a world-class 19th hole, the aptly named Sunset Grill, high above Lake Michigan, where good things come to those who wait. In the summer the sun doesn’t go down until almost 10, and the view is heaven on earth.

2. The Country Club at Castle Pines (Panorama Bar), Castle Rock, Colo.:

Scenic views of Pikes Peak and a cozy mountain atmosphere serve as a reminder that the PGA Tour committed a flagrant party foul by dropping the quirky but beloved International tournament in 2007.

3. Doonbeg (Darby’s Bar), County Clare, Ireland:

Darbys

Great fireside atmosphere and views of the seaside par-5 1st hole join a backdrop of enormous, shaggy sand hills. With the warmth of Ireland and a touch of New England charm, Darby’s has all the modern conveniences, including a huge flatscreen TV behind the bar.

4. Dunvegan Hotel and Lounge Bar, St. Andrews, Scotland:

Dunvegan

It’s not affiliated with the Old Course, but it’s only 112 yards from the 18th green, and this quaint retreat offers just the post-round vibe you crave after dueling with the ancient links. Open lore abounds at what Sam Torrance has called “the perfect 19th hole.”

5. Edgewood Tahoe (Brooks’ Bar and Deck), Stateline, Nev.:

Brooksbar

Indulge in the signature mojito and take in the sumptuous mountain and lake views. Sweeping, vaulted ceilings and a wall of windows, plus flatscreen TVs, make this a mash-up of a Frank Gehry building and sports bar.

6. Fallen Oak Golf Club (Fallen Oak Bar), Biloxi, Miss.:

Exclusive to guests of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Fallen Oak is a low-key, Old South treat. A sunken bar peers out at the 18th hole, a lake and the eponymous Fallen Oak. Beer from the state’s only microbrewery is on the menu.

7. Granite Links Golf Club (Tavern at Quarry Hills), Quincy, Mass.:

Floor-to-ceiling windows give the bar its expansive views of the Boston skyline, and the busy kitchen serves award-winning food. Look for golf-loving local sports heroes such as retired Boston Bruin Ray Bourque.

8. Grayhawk Golf Club (Phil’s Grill), Scottsdale, Ariz.:

Philsgrill

A roaring fire, leather couches and a cool hardwood bar are among the touches that give the place character. Phil Mickelson is the club’s Tour ambassador, and among the Phil artifacts on display is the persimmon driver he swung in his junior days.

9. Half Moon Bay Golf Links (Ocean Terrace), Half Moon Bay, Calif.:

Whether you play the Ocean course or the Old, cap your experience next door at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, a cliff-top retreat 25 miles south of San Francisco. Cocktails around the fire pit as the sun sets over the Pacific will cure whatever’s ailing you.

10. The Inn at Spanish Bay (Sticks), Pebble Beach, Calif.:

Sticks

Picture windows and an outdoor area overlook the 1st fairway and the Pacific Ocean at Sticks, where you can get a cold one and then stick around for dinner.

11. Pasatiempo (The Tap Room), Santa Cruz, Calif.:

Located inside the historic Hollins House restaurant, the Tap Room is lined with classic, 1930s- and ’40s-era photos of PGA Tour and Hollywood stars. Gaze out at the sailboats in Monterey Bay as you ponder the genius of course designers Alister MacKenzie and Marion Hollins.

12. Pebble Beach Golf Links (The Tap Room), Pebble Beach, Calif.:

Pebble_taproom

Peruse memorabilia from past Bing Crosby Pro-Ams and U.S. Opens, keep your eyes peeled for Clint Eastwood and other celebs sipping from the bar’s deep reserves of spirits, and close your eyes and imagine the late, great Jack Lemmon making the Crosby cut.

13. Pelican Hill Golf Club (Pelican Grill), Newport Beach, Calif.:

The place is bound to impress with its extensive, by-the-glass wine menu, two nine-foot plasma TVs and a heated outdoor terrace that overlooks the Pacific.

14. Pine Crest Inn, Pinehurst, N.C.:

Pinecrestinn

The 19th hole of choice for nearly 40 area courses, the Pine Crest Inn is a shrine to former owner Donald Ross, whose image is everywhere in paintings and photos. The famed “chipping hole” in front of the fireplace gets busy at cocktail hour.

15. Pinehurst Resort (Ryder Cup Lounge), Pinehurst, N.C.:

Behold the signature cocktails, crab cake sliders and cool golf memorabilia at this 19th hole, which will be hoppin’ when Pinehurst No. 2 hosts the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on back-to-back weeks in 2014.

16. Princeville Resort (The Tavern at Princeville), North Shore, Kauai, Hawaii:

The bar and restaurant by Roy Yamaguchi offers local food and drink in a casual setting that overlooks the 18th hole, the Sea Cliffs and Hanalei Bay.

17. St. Andrews (The Road Hole Bar), St. Andrews, Scotland:

Enjoy a Scotch and have your picture taken at the Home of Golf, all while looking out at the tourists and dog-walkers traipsing along some of the game’s most iconic architecture. You’ll be drinking in the footsteps of many an Open champion.

18. Trump National Golf Club (Golfer’s Lounge), Los Angeles:

Trump

With big, leather chairs, flatscreen TVs and great views of this stunning, oceanside course, what’s not to like?

19. Whisper Rock Golf Club (The Hang), Scottsdale, Ariz.:

With PGA Tour players congregating at almost every table and a sublime chocolate-banana milkshake, it’s clear why so many want to hang at the Hang. Be sure to check out the Masters flag signed by Lower course designer Phil Mickelson.

--By Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine

Photos: Darby's courtesy of Doonbeg; Dunvegan by Erick W. Rasco/SI; Brooks Bar courtesy of Edgewood Tahoe; Phil's Grill courtesy of Grayhawk Golf Club; Sticks courtesy of Pebble Beach; The Tap Room by Alex Vertikoff/Pebble Beach Company; Golfer's Lounge courtesy of Trump National

October 16, 2012

Deal of the Month: Fairmont St. Andrews

Posted at 2:59 PM by Joe Passov

Standrews
Behold the ultimate good news/bad news deal. The good news: the Fairmont St. Andrews Winter Golf Package guarantees tee times on the Old Course at St. Andrews, an iconic track that's sky-high on any golfer's list of Must Plays.

The (possibly) bad news: You'll have to play the Old Course from rubber mats, in order to protect the fragile turf.

And the weather could be dicey for an offer that runs from November 6 through March. But I look at it this way: You get to play the famed Old Course — encountering every burn, bunker and green you've seen on TV — as well as stay in a terrific cliff-top hotel. And who knows — fickle Mother Nature might just give you a November day that feels like an afternoon in June.

The package includes two nights' lodging, a full Scottish breakfast in the Squire Restaurant, and 18 holes each on the Old, New and Jubilee courses. November rates start at 239 pounds ($379) per person, per night, based on double occupancy with a minumum of a two-night stay.

011 44 1334 837000, fairmont.com/standrews

(Photo: Eric Hepworth)

July 22, 2011

Scotland Golf Trip, Part III: The Old Course at St. Andrews

Posted at 10:24 AM by Golf.com

Hell-Bunker By Charlie Hanger

My caddie, Nelson, was right, but I shouldn't have listened to him.

Standing on the first tee with Brad and the Chicago couple we'd been paired with, as well as the other three caddies, Nelson was worried that my driver could reach the Swilcan Burn on the first hole at the Old Course (£140, roughly $228.). He wanted me to take an easy 3-wood down the middle. (Brad and I had asked about playing the back tees, but the starter said only single digits were allowed. Brad is a nine and could have played them, but he stuck with me, an 11, on the yellow tees.)

Deep down, I longed for the comfort of my gigantic new driver, but his logic was spot on, so I went with the 3-wood. I was up first, with an audience, on the most famous course in the world. I took a nervous swing and hit it off the hosel, a dead-left shank (yes, I invented a new shot) that went skitting across the first and 18th fairways and stopped a few yards short of the road and out of bounds. The starter, in what my caddie told me was an unprecedented moment of generosity, offered me a breakfast ball. I declined.

Going for the green with my second was out of the question because of the burn, so I took out my 6-iron. I hit it flush, into perfect position, then wedged on and two-putted for bogey. Disaster averted, we moved ahead to No. 2.

A light mist was falling, it was 50 degrees and the sky was socked in with thick gray clouds -- exactly the conditions I wanted for my round on the Old Course. I still hadn't bought a rain jacket, so I was hoping the mist wouldn't get any heavier. It stopped during the first few holes, and we played in nearly perfect links conditions -- overcast, cool, and only slightly windy.

Road-Hole-Bunker My second through sixth holes were steady but mediocre -- five more bogeys, so I was six over through six. I rallied with pars on the par-4 seventh and par-3 eighth, and I drove the 289-yard, par-4 ninth and made a two-putt birdie for a 41 on the front nine.

After nine holes, I was surprised at how playable the Old Course was. It's tough, and has nasty hazards, but our group sailed around without any major disasters. The wind was mild when we played, and the rough was not at Open Championship length, so we didn't see the Old Course at its meanest. Still, it was a surprisingly accessible place, especially if you hit the ball right to left. Brad's caddie, a Euro tour veteran named John, called it a "hooker's paradise," and he was right -- we missed several shots left that didn't really hurt us at all.

I started the back nine par-bogey-double bogey-bogey, four over for Nos. 10-13. Then came the par-5 14th, home of the Hell Bunker. I pulled my drive into some tall grass, and Nelson told me to take a hybrid. I striped it right at the flag, but it came up short and nestled into the thick grass on the good side of the Hell Bunker (pictured above). I hit a 56-degree wedge shot from there that miraculously checked up about 15 feet from the hole. I rolled it in for birdie, my second of the day on the Old Course. I could've quit happy right there.

Swilcan-Bridge A par and a bogey later, I was on the tee of the Road Hole, No. 17. Nelson told me to take a conservative line, over the left edge of the old railway sheds that are now part of the Old Course Hotel. The more aggressive play was right over the middle of the sheds, but that would bring out of bounds into play on the right side. I had a little more draw than I wanted but still had a relatively easy shot into the green. I hit it fat, however, leaving myself well short of the green. My putt from off the green was short as well, and I two-putted for another bogey. With that, we headed to the 18th.

I hit a low screamer of a drive on 18 into good position and, after taking our obligatory photos on the Swilcan Bridge, we walked to our balls. I had just a 9-iron left. With an audience of tourists watching behind the green, I hit it fat (of course), so I chipped on and two-putted for a back-nine 42 and a total of 83. It was a disappointing end to a nearly perfect day on the most famous, and fun, course I'd ever played.

Haggis One final note: On Thursday afternoon, I finally bought a rain jacket at one of the many golf shops in town, virtually guaranteeing that it wouldn't rain again on this trip. I also tried haggis for the first time at the The Dunvegan, the world-famous bar and grill (and hotel) in St. Andrews. Served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), it was delicious. Inspired by Darren Clarke, I had a Guinness as well.

Up Next: Thursday

Leaving St. Andrews for a final round at the North Berwick Golf Club.

Part I: Kingsbarns | Part II: The Duke's and The New Course

(Photos: Charlie Hanger)

 

July 21, 2011

Scotland Golf Trip, Part II: The Duke's and The New Course

Posted at 3:03 PM by Golf.com

The-Dukes_600x337

By Charlie Hanger

Tuesday
Before heading to St. Andrews, it's important to know the distinction between the Old Course Hotel and the Old Course. The hotel, a Kohler property, is as close to the 17th hole as physically possible but is not able to guarantee tee times at the Old Course or the other links tracks, which are public and controlled by the St. Andrews Links Trust.

The hotel's official course is The Duke's (£115, roughly $185), an inland or "heathland" layout about 15 minutes away. It's an interesting change of pace, and possibly the most challenging course in the area. Originally designed by five-time Open champ Peter Thomson, and revamped by Tim Liddy for a 2006 reopening, The Duke's (pictured above) features sweeping views of the town of St. Andrews and the coastline.

We were the first group out a little before 8, and we thought we were playing fast until the sixth hole, when two 60-something women and their dog, Gatsby, caught us. We were searching for my ball, which was nestled in tall grass on the lip of one of the course's many bunkers, when they appeared on the tee. We waved them through and didn't see them again the rest of the day.

Bunker-Failure_298x216 It was good they went ahead because our round involved a lot of searching. In addition to all the defenses the links courses have -- deep bunkers, wind, tall grass, gorse -- The Duke's has trees and relatively fast greens to contend with.

We finished our round exhausted from our many swings and vowed to play better in our afternoon round at the New Course. After lunch of steak pie and Scotch broth at The Duke's bar and grill, we headed back to the Old Course Hotel to talk to the golf stewards. These indispensable members of the hotel staff are dedicated to helping guests navigate the local courses. After assuring us that we had been entered in the ballot for Wednesday's tee times at the Old Course, they arranged our 2 p.m. tee time at the New Course and shuttled us there in a hotel van.

The New Course (£70, roughly $113) is relatively easy to get on, and in many people's opinions, just as good if not better than the Old. A classic links layout from 1895 that was "set out" by Old Tom Morris himself, the New's first hole is right next to the Old's second, and the two courses run parallel for much of their layouts.

The course is mostly straight and flat and slightly scruffier than the more manicured Old Course, but its pot bunkers, gorse, heather, wild flowers, and shared greens and fairways made for a true links experience. (As you can see from the shot above, the pot bunkers were too much for me. This shot nearly hit me on the ricochet off the bunker face, but the next one got out.)

Umbrella_298x173 As we neared the end of the front nine, we saw a huge storm brewing in the distance. It seemed frozen in place but troubling, seeing as I had yet to get that rain jacket. We hoped for the best and we headed to the back nine.

At No. 14, the rain caught us. Walking in wasn't an option, so we put on whatever gear we had and soldiered on in a downpour. I would've paid anything for a good rain jacket at that moment.

The rest of the round was a blur as we hurried to finish and get out of the weather. Afterward, we trudged back to the hotel across the Old Course, where several other groups of pilgrims were finishing their rounds come Hell Bunker or high water.

Back at our room, we were soaked and exhausted, but we found an envelope that had been slipped under our door by the hotel staff: we'd won the ballot, and we had a 7:30 a.m. tee time for the Old Course. Our week was made.

Up Next: Wednesday
A near whiff on the first tee of the Old Course, a nearly perfect day on the links and a first taste of haggis.

Part I: Kingsbarns

(Photos: Charlie Hanger)

July 20, 2011

Scotland Golf Trip, Part I: Kingsbarns

Posted at 5:32 PM by Golf.com

Kingsbarns_650x371

By Charlie Hanger

On Monday after the British Open, I drove to Heathrow with three colleagues. As they took flights back to the States, I headed to Edinburgh on a noon flight. My friend Brad Reagan, who had flown in earlier to play North Berwick and watch the Open with the locals, met me at the airport, and from there it was an easy and scenic drive to St. Andrews for the start of a four-day golf trip. Here is the first of a four-part diary.

Monday
We checked in at the Old Course Hotel, so close to No. 17, the Road Hole, that sliced drives bang onto the metal roof on the first floor and guests enjoying the view from their balconies are wise to keep an eye out for incoming shots. This is the place made famous by, among other things, years of British Open broadcasts in which pros use the hotel's sign as an aiming point for their tee shots, which carry a corner of the structure.

After dropping our bags, we headed to Kingsbarns for a 5 p.m. tee time and our first round of the trip.

It stays light until about 10 p.m. here this time of year, so we had plenty of daylight. On the way to the course, about 20 minutes southeast of St. Andrews, we considered stopping at one of the many golf shops in town to pick up a rain jacket. I'd failed to get one before leaving the states and had balked at the prices for the British Open-logoed models at Royal St. George's. The forecast was good, and the tee time was fast approaching, so we drove on. (We would regret that decision 24 hours later, but we'll get to that in Tuesday's post.)

Kingsbarns, a Kyle Phillips design that opened in July 2000, is a truly spectacular place, with prices to prove it. At £185 (about $300), it’s a splurge, but the views alone are worth the price. With five oceanfront holes and countless stunning views of the North Sea, it's a rolling links that's challenging without being punitive. My favorite holes were No. 3, a par 5 with the ocean running the length of the right side; No. 12, another oceanfront beauty that's reminiscent of the 18th at Pebble Beach; No. 15, a 185-yard par 3 that requires a shot over beach and water; and No. 18, a par 4 fronted by a severe slope that feeds any short shots back into the "cundie," a stream that was originally built to drain water from the surrounding fields. (After steeling my nerves and getting a 6-iron on the green, I three-putted for bogey, choking a short putt. This would become a theme of the week.)

Rainbow_298x224 The weather was spectacular, low 60s with skies that fluctuated between bright sunshine and ominous clouds, but we stayed dry and even got to see a rainbow right out of a Scottish golf brochure (photo right). We were back at the hotel in time to have a late dinner and beer in the Road Hole Bar, which provides sweeping views of No. 17 and the Old Course. That helped ease our disappointment about failing to win Monday's ballot, the daily lottery-style drawing for open tee times on the Old Course. We'd have to try our luck again on Tuesday for a Wednesday time.

Up Next: Tuesday
A round at The Duke's, an inland course, in which we were passed by two fast-playing 60-something women and their dog, Gatsby; an afternoon round at the New Course, which borders the Old Course; and a massive downpour.

(Photos: Charlie Hanger)

January 25, 2011

Kohler converting St. Andrews landmark into luxury housing, with a view

Posted at 10:20 AM by Golf.com

Hamilton-Grand-Image The Kohler Co. has announced its plans for the Hamilton Grand, a new development in a famous building that overlooks the 18th green of the Old Course.

It was formerly Hamilton Hall, a dorm for the University of St. Andrews, and before that the Grand Hotel, which opened in 1895. The property's third incarnation will be an over-the-top, luxurious residential building. Its 26 units will include two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments with butler service, valet parking and a golf concierge. For an extra fee, a private chef and sommelier are available for home-cooking, and residents also get a membership at The Duke's Course, Kohler Waters Spa and all the amenities of the Old Course Hotel. Prices for a 99-year lease will start at £1.35 million.

Floorplans are available at HamiltonGrand.co.uk, and if you're ready to pull the trigger, you can e-mail [email protected] The complete press release is below:

KOHLER, Wisconsin - January 18, 2011 - Kohler Co. today announced official development plans for Hamilton Grand, one of golf's most photographed and iconic buildings. Located adjacent to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland, Hamilton Grand overlooks the 18th Green of the Old Course, The West Sands Beach and the Bay of St. Andrews. Encompassing 26 luxury residences, Hamilton Grand will become the fourth historic property restored and renovated by Kohler Co.

Kohler Co., through its subsidiary, The Old Course Limited, purchased Hamilton Grand in late 2009. In conjunction with the Kingdom of Fife, Kohler Co. held a two-day public consultation and welcomed St. Andrews citizens to learn more about the plans and to provide feedback for restoring the building to its former glory. The meetings were met with overwhelming support, underscoring the fact that Kohler Co. is sensitively developing one of the town's most famous landmarks.

With thorough input from the townspeople and the Fife Council, Kohler Co.'s first step was to officially change the name to "Hamilton Grand," combining the titles of the building's previous uses, the Grand Hotel, which opened in 1895, and Hamilton Hall, the University of St Andrews dormitory named after its Founder Thomas Hamilton.

"Our goal is to restore Hamilton Grand and create a dwelling that will make the people of St. Andrews proud," said Debbie Taylor, President - Hospitality and Real Estate Group, Kohler Co. "We have been honored to work with community members throughout this process. With their support, we are pleased to unveil our plans to the rest of the world."

Hamilton Grand will offer a total of 26 private residences ranging from two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, including a penthouse with expansive 360-degree views and a private balcony. Residents will experience award-winning hospitality with butler service, valet parking and a golf concierge. Hamilton Grand will also feature a Grill Restaurant and Bar, open to the public, and a Members' Library on the ground floor. For an added premium, a private chef and sommelier is available to cook in the comfort of resident's apartments. Residents will have exclusive membership of The Duke's Course, Kohler Waters Spa and all the amenities of the Old Course Hotel including 4 distinct dining experiences.

Featuring unparalleled views of the Old Course, The West Sands Beach and the Bay of St. Andrews, the residences are available unfurnished or fully furnished with handcrafted furniture from Baker, a Kohler-owned company. Signature KOHLER plumbing products will be included in each residence.

"Hamilton Grand will be a unique real estate opportunity for those who want to own a home in the birthplace of golf and a premier destination that is rich in history - the holy grail of golf," said Taylor. "We are looking forward to restoring the building using our restoration expertise, and returning a piece of Scottish history to its landmark status."

Included in Kohler's renovation profile is The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, which opened in 1918 as a dormitory for immigrant factory workers.  The property was restored and reopened as a resort hotel in 1981, and today stands as the Midwest's only AAA Five Diamond Resort Hotel, recognition it has earned for 25 consecutive years.  The American Club is included on a list of Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

The company also restored Riverbend, an estate home constructed in 1923 by Walter J. Kohler, then Governor of Wisconsin and President of Kohler Co. It was considered one of the 40 great mansions of North America. In 2001, Kohler Co. refurbished the estate and re-opened it with 31 rooms and its own spa as an exclusive private membership club.

For additional information on Hamilton Grand, visit www.HamiltonGrand.co.uk.

Notes for Media:
- 99 year lease, prices start at £1.35 million
-Floor plans can be downloaded at www.HamiltonGrand.co.uk
-Rental program available
-Membership of The Duke's Course and the Kohler Waters Spa included
-Reservations are being taken now [email protected] or with Savills: International Tel: + (44) 207 016 3740; New York: (212)-328-2800

July 13, 2010

Stay and Play: The Fairmont St. Andrews

Posted at 5:12 PM by Jessica Marksbury

Fairmont
While it's every golfer's dream to play the Old Course, getting a tee time is no easy task. So when you're planning your trip to the hallowed ground of St. Andrews, make sure to leave room in your itinerary for some of the other local gems; namely, the Fairmont St. Andrews courses, the Torrance and Kittocks. The two tracks are certainly worthy of your attention, and with Kingsbarns and all seven St. Andrews courses no more than fifteen minutes away, the Fairmont property is a great "home base" option -- it really is close to everything.

My Scottish golf experience began with a round on the Torrance, a course that was selected to host a 2010 Open Championship qualifier and the 2010 Scottish Senior Open, so I knew I'd have my work cut out for me. As a first-timer in Scotland, I prepared for the worst: I swaddled myself in three long-sleeve layers and a brand new rain suit. Unbelievably, the weather turned out to be perfect. The sun was shining and the wind was down -- a shockingly gentle introduction to the famously brutal elements.

The Torrance is a traditional links-style design with enjoyable carries and pretty benign-looking pot bunkers -- benign, that is, until you land in one. I was cruising along on the front side quite well until the ninth hole, where I under-clubbed my approach to the front pin and landed in the front greenside pot bunker. Undeterred, I opened my blade and took a mighty swing. Sand flew, but the ball thudded back in the bunker, not even close to clearing the lip. I tried again. And again. I won't bore you with the rest of the gory details, but let's just say that without the trusty hand-wedge, I might still be stuck in that forsaken abyss.

My ego bruised, I took the requisite double-bogey (hurray for Equitable Stroke Control!) and managed to finish the round respectably. Thankfully, the back nine was filled with enough gorgeous views of the St. Andrews coastline to take my mind off the possibility of landing in another bunker. The course certainly provides a good test, even from the red tees. I can only imagine how challenging it can be when the elements aren't in your favor.

The day I played the Kittocks course was the sunniest and warmest day of my trip, so I decided to challenge myself by playing the yellow tees, despite the fact that the wind had kicked up a notch. The extra yardage made a huge difference -- I just about wore out my fairway woods and hybrids on approaches, but I loved it. The challenge of the course as a whole can be capably demonstrated by the difficulty of the fourth hole, a par 4: my 220-yard drive left a 200-yard approach that needed to carry over a burn to an elevated green. Oh yes -- and the shot played into the wind. It's a super-tough track, especially for women, but very rewarding aesthetically. The Kittocks certainly has the upper hand on the Torrance in elevation drama, and several more impressive water vistas from the tee boxes. Maybe it was because the sun was shining so brightly, but if I didn't know better, I could have easily convinced myself that I was playing the Kapalua Plantation Course on some holes -- the scenery was that riveting!

The Fairmont St. Andrews hotel itself occupies a stunning and expansive piece of property. With only 209 rooms, however, it manages to maintain a feeling of intimacy, and the staff is wonderful -- friendly and helpful without being overbearing. As far as dining goes, there are several options on-site, but if you're in the mood for a gourmet experience, there's no better place than Esperante. The décor is hip and modern, and if you're a foodie, you will love "A Taste of Esperante," seven courses that can be served with or without wine pairings. No matter what you decide to order, make sure to leave room for the Fairmont's nightly bedside gift: a mini-bottle of Scotch whisky paired with fresh butterscotch fudge -- a delectable way to end the day.

For more information on the Fairmont St. Andrews, log on to Fairmont.com/standrews or call (866) 840-8208. And for information about everything there is to see and do in Scotland, check out VisitScotland.com.

June 23, 2010

St. Andrews quiet as town prepares for British Open roar

Posted at 11:58 AM by Chad Conine

Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.

When I walked out of The Dunvegan at 2:30 Monday morning, the sky over North Street in St. Andrews was already beginning to turn light blue with a hint that sunrise wasn't far off.

It doesn't stay dark for long here in Scotland these days — the sun is up for about 18 hours, though it never really dips too deep below the horizon — and with the spotlight of The Open Championship set to shine on this small town in just a few weeks, I'm wondering if I'll forget what darkness looks like.Standrews

Nevertheless, it is starting to go a bit quiet at the moment. 

Two months ago, The Dunvegan was packed and cheers went up all over the pub at key moments as we watched The Masters come down the stretch on Sunday afternoon. And while enough locals came through the pub to fill it up briefly around midnight this past Sunday, by the time Graeme McDowell tapped in for his victory at about 2 a.m. here, my friends Lindsay Allan and Luke Fotheringham — the bartenders who stayed late upon my request — a couple of other buddies and maybe half a dozen others sleepily looked on as the year's second major ended. (Of course, the contrast is partially due to The Masters finishing a little past 11 p.m. here, whereas the U.S. Open didn't exactly finish early even for Americans watching in the Central and East Coast time zones. Did it?)

So the sun came up almost before I went to bed, but I persevered and slept until mid-morning. When I finally crawled out of bed and headed for my usual coffee shop, the streets of St. Andrews definitely had a work-day feel. Everybody seemed to be diligently going about a normal Monday. With The Old Course closed for Open preparations, the flow of golf tourists has slowed to a trickle, thus taking away the town's usual holiday feel. My caddie friends are scarce too. Several of them hail from Ireland and told me last week they were headed home for a few days before they return for The Open.

This left me in an awkward position because I'm not sure what a work day for me is supposed to feel like these days. Pretty much all I do is play golf, hang out at the pub and talk to golfers and/or watch golf or football (meaning soccer) on the television.

But it was a sunny and warm day, so I played nine holes at Strathtyrum, then walked The Old Course, shooting video of key spots on the course. After watching the constant struggle that is U.S. Open golf, I have to say, I see easier days ahead in the next major. Compared to Pebble Beach, The Old Course didn't seem to bear menacingly sharp teeth. But then, The Old Lady never seems scary. But she manages to defend herself pretty well, especially if the wind blows off the North Sea.

It's been unusually warm at times the last several days and it hasn't rained much in the last couple of weeks. If those weather conditions hold up from now until mid-July, I'm guessing the fairways and greens will be hard and fast, but the rough won't be too dense. But when do prevailing weather conditions in Scotland ever last more than half an hour?

Either way, we're in full-scale get ready mode here in The Auld Grey Toon.

June 16, 2010

Fairmont courses offer a fantastic St. Andrews starting point

Posted at 3:22 PM by Chad Conine

Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.

I suspect that most first-time golf pilgrims in St. Andrews encounter the Fairmont Resort the way my dad and I did in 2004.

Just off the plane the day before, we headed out from St. Andrews to make the 10-minute drive for our first round of Scottish golf at Kingsbarns, and passed along the way the elaborate landscape architecture at the entrance that heralded St. Andrews Bay. Perhaps, unless you're staying at The Fairmont, you drive by and wonder if — assuming The Torrance and The Kittocks courses aren't on your golf agenda for the trip — you're missing something great. Fairmont

Well, yeah, considering The Torrance course, like it's neighbor Kingsbarns, will host final Open Championship qualifying in a couple of weeks, it definitely belongs on any list of superior Scotland golf courses and it's sister course, The Kittocks, doesn't take a back seat at all. But most golfers probably run out of money in the golf fund long before they run out of great golf courses just in the Kingdom of Fife.

Most likely, the golfers who experience The Torrance and The Kittocks do so because they're staying at the Fairmont Resort — and that's not such a bad way to go.

"Being set in the home of golf, there's a complete gluttony of golf," Fairmont director of golf Jason King said. "Obviously we have two courses here, but we also offer a shuttle into town and golfers can access The Old Course and the Links Trust courses there. So it's one of the most fantastic setting for golf in the world."

Built in 2001, the Torrance and Kittocks, which was originally called Devlin after designer Bruce Devlin, were intended to be the draw to the resort. Sam Torrance designed the course with his name attached and Gene Sarazen is credited on the resort Web site as the original architect of the Kittocks. Recently, the layout of both courses have been reconfigured with the courses swapping some holes so that The Torrance more closely resembles links golf while the Kittocks runs mostly along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the sea.

"With Bruce Devlin and Gene Sarazen and Sam Torrance you have three designers with very different characteristics and egos in a positive way and they each want to make their stamp," King said. "So we didn't set out to have a main draw course and then a "B" course."

The Fairmont courses differ drastically from the courses on either side of it — The Old Course and it's family to the west — including The Castle right next door — and Kingsbarns to the east. With checkered patterns and dramatic bends in the fairways, the courses sort of resemble Arizona golf transported to beautiful, ocean-front property on the Scottish cliffs along the North Sea. So tourists, particularly Americans, might arrive at the Fairmont resort and find it to be somewhat familiar. Heck, you can event ride a golf cart on The Kittocks if that helps ease the adjustment from American golf to the glorious battle that is Scottish links golf.

"Both courses keep some of the similarities to links golf that should be kept," King said. "You can see that in the bunkering and the way holes set up on the Torrance course. You can see it with the fairways roll toward the sea on the Kittocks course."

Staying at The Fairmont means having two fantastic golf courses on the premises and the rest of what St. Andrews golf has to offer just a short shuttle ride away. And at the end of the day, it's hard to beat the view from the back porch of the clubhouse.

(Photo: The Fairmont St. Andrews Bay Torrance is one of four course will host final local qualifying for The Open Championship later this month.)

June 09, 2010

The Old Course and Willie Nelson: Two legends in one day, well worth the wait

Posted at 12:09 PM by Chad Conine

Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.

Chip Foye arrived at 4 a.m., just about on the dot, Monday morning at The Old Course starter's box. Foye, from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, wore a rain jacket and a baseball cap, prepared for the rain on an overcast morning. In his pocket, he held his handicap card, prepared to prove he was eligible to play the esteemed links in front of him.Standrews

But mostly the first golfer in queue on this day was prepared to wait. 

Every day, golfers like Foye — he didn't have a tee time, but was looking to join up with whoever would let him — line up well before the starter opens his window at 6:30 a.m. Because daylight persists for almost 20 hours per day at this time of year in St. Andrews, Scotland, Foye didn't have to stand in the dark. The sky lightened well ahead of the supposed sunrise time of 4:25, and the rain held off.

And Foye didn't have to wait alone for long.

Charles Rolen, from Washington D.C., walked from his hotel room, just off the 18th fairway, to the starter's box and met Foye at a quarter past 4. Both were hoping to play The Old Course for the first time and both had a limited opportunity to do so. Foye would be leaving St. Andrews and continuing a European vacation with his wife that evening.

"I'm not much of a traveler," Foye said. "My wife's bucket list included seeing Paris and London. I said I'd do it, but my caveat was that we add Scotland, specifically here — St. Andrews — to the list."

Similarly, Rolen and his wife were celebrating their 20th anniversary with a tour of England, Ireland and Scotland. And like Foye, the thought of traveling near St. Andrews piqued Rolen's desire to tackle The Old Course.

"If I don't get on today, I'll try again tomorrow," Rolen said. "But that's it. I've got two chances."

I arrived at the starter's box about five minutes after Rolen, but with totally separate motivation. I had a ticket to see Willie Nelson in concert that evening in Dundee, about a 20-minute drive from my flat in St. Andrews. I intended to play The Old Course once a month in my April-to-August stay in St. Andrews. So why not June 7, thus experiencing two legends — The Old Lady and The Red-Headed Stranger — in the same day.

I thought I might be the first to arrive at the starter's box at 4:30, but I wasn't surprised to be third. Foye, Rolen and I passed an hour discussing our timing and our chances. Rumor had it that golfers began queueing at 2 the previous Friday. Then there's the story about the golfer who put a lawn chair in front of the starter's box at 12:30 one night and slept there to make sure he'd be first in line.

As for our chances of playing The Old Course, we agreed they were good. The evening before, I perused the ballot and saw that, though tee times were all taken, the number of two- and three-balls left plenty of open slots before 9 a.m. Rolen said the concierge at his hotel wouldn't guarantee a round, but put the percentage-chance at 99.9. That seemed about right to me. In April and May, I walked up to the starter's box at noon and had no trouble getting a time on either occasion.

Ed Allen, from Ottawa, Canada, joined us at 5:30. He had the distinct advantage of the most rest and the least time on his feet when our four-ball teed off at 7:10.

That's right, the group that had the 7:10 time cancelled, giving us early birds a round together. By the time the starter opened business, there were 12 hopeful golfers in the queue. I'm assuming the other eight got a time, but I didn't really look back after teeing off.

With only one group ahead of us, Foye, Rolen, Allen and I forged ahead as the clouds backed off and the threat of the rain let us play through. On the second hole, Al, the ranger, strongly encouraged us to keep pace with the group in front of us. An early time on The Old Course comes with the responsibility of not backing up play for the rest of the day. We held up our end quite well and we didn't have to worry about golfers on the 11th tee where the 7th and 11th fairways cross. (Sadly, the absence of this stress didn't keep me from putting a ball in the Shell Bunker). By the time we made the turn, Al told us we were doing well and, though we were about half a hole behind the group in front, we would certainly catch them from what he'd seen of our games. Willie

Our round concluded a little after 11. It was easy to see the early wake-up time had taken its toll on Foye and me as we struggled in. He still claimed a moment of glory with a remarkable up-and-down from just beyond the road on the 17th, while I made a curling 12-foot putt for a satisfying 5.

With the golf-half of my mission accomplished, I crashed for an early afternoon nap and then headed to Dundee in hopes of scoring an interview with Mr. Nelson. Though I staked out the stage door for longer than I waited at the starter's box, I had to settle for an introduction and a handshake with the Texas legend.

Still, it was a successful day. Seeing the massive Texas flag draped behind the stage made me feel a little closer to home. While playing the The Old Course in the morning, I sang "Good Hearted Woman" to calm myself at times. Sitting in the balcony, I smiled as Willie sang it himself.

"She loves him in spite of his ways that she don't understand."

(Top Photo: The Old Course is quiet at 4:30 a.m. before the starter, the caddie master or even the greenskeeping crew arrives.)

(Bottom Photo: Country music legend Willie Nelson signs an autograph just minutes before going on stage at Caird Hall in Dundee, Scotland.)

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