David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, click here.
If there is one name that defines the game of golf more clearly than any other - that name can only be St. Andrews, a small, Scottish town with a population of barely 16,000, fondly known as "The Auld Grey Toon"
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Whatever St. Andrews may lack in physical size, is more than made up for by it's rich and colorful history, not only surrounding the game of golf, but also as Scotland's ecclesiastical capital during medieval times. The town has been the scene of bloody ancient battles, burnings at the stake of witches, of revolutions, pillaging and plundering and many other dastardly deeds - acts that epic movies are made of. As if to display its diversity, St. Andrews is also home to one of the most respected universities in the entire British Isles that was founded in the year 1413.
Most visiting golfers don't take the time to discover this other side of an intriguingly historic town, with many tales to tell those who would only listen.
St. Andrews' fame today, centers around both its prestigious university, still occupying the original 15th century buildings in which it was born, together with the game of golf -- St. Andrews is golf's Mecca and the heart and soul of the game that started here, more than 600 years ago.
This is home to The Royal & Ancient Golf Club, one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in existence and it's the headquarters of The R&A, the ruling authority for golf around the world (except for the USA and Mexico). The town of St. Andrews boasts 7 municipal courses, including the fabled St. Andrews Old Course and is surrounded by more than another 20 world-class layouts, mostly links courses, all within a 15 minute drive of the town center. It's where you will find The British Golf Museum, containing the world's most impressive collection of golf memorabilia and where everyone, no matter what age or gender, seems to be a golfer. In St. Andrews, golf fills the air, permeating every breath you breathe.
St. Andrews is a very special experience, both for the wealth of its history and the unique atmosphere that immediately evokes feelings of being at the very heart of golf, as you follow in the footsteps of the greatest names the game has ever known. It's a place every golfer owes themselves the privilege of visiting at least once in their golfing lives and if you are like most, you will learn that one visit is simply not enough. Whether this will be your first visit or your twenty-first -- you will never get your fill of this seductive charmer, who somehow manages to reveal another secret or two on every visit.
First time visitors will arrive, their hearts set on only one thing - to play the legendary, St. Andrews Old Course. Some will have secured a guaranteed visitor time beforehand, but with demand to play this piece of golf history, far exceeding the number of guaranteed times available for visitors, the majority will take their chances with the daily ballot, or by arriving in the early morning hours at the Old Course Starters Hut, to see if they can fill a vacant slot. Be patient, the longer you stay in The Auld Grey Toon, the better your chances of playing the dream.
There was once a rule of thumb that said, "Stay in St. Andrews for 4 nights and your chances of being successful in The Old Course's daily ballot will be about 90%". That was once upon a time, but probably no more as ever-growing numbers of golfers flock to golf's Mecca for a couple of days, eager to see if Lady Luck just might be on their side.
Seasoned golf travelers will spend a full week in St. Andrews and for good reason. Not only do they increase their chances of playing The Old Course, perhaps getting to play it more than once, but they also get to know this utterly enchanting slice of Scottish history better than most and they get to play a few more of the gems of courses just a few minutes from the town center. The names may not be so familiar, but that doesn't detract from the wonderful Scottish golf experiences they all offer.
Crail, Scotscraig, Kingsbarns, Lundin Links, Elie, Levin Links and The Dukes Course are only a taster of the possibilities that will gain the attention of any golfer trying to squeeze in an extra round or two. For a particularly inspiring experience, the two championship layouts at The Fairmont St. Andrews Spa and Golf Resort are especially tempting.
Located barely 10 minutes from the first tee of The Old Course, The Fairmont Resort is a 5-star, luxurious palace of a hotel, operated by Canada's prestigious Fairmont Group. The group's established reputation as a quality operator of some of Canada's most respected golf properties in The Rockies has prepared them well for the marvels they have accomplished in the Home of Golf.
In less than 10 years since first opening, The Fairmont St. Andrews has earned a Top Twenty position on the well-respected, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine's rankings of the Worlds Top 100 Golf Resorts and the two courses, The Kittocks and The Torrance, have done equally as well in climbing in the rankings of Scotland's Top 40 Courses.
The Torrance Course, which boasts some of the best greens in all of Scotland, was selected by The R&A as a final qualifying course for The 2010 Open Championship and in August will host The 2010 Scottish Seniors Open
Taking full advantage of the unique, cliff-top site, with sea views from practically every hole, the track starts off in a cordial, gentlemanly fashion, as player and course become acquainted. By the sixth hole formal introductions are completed and The Torrance gets down to business, revealing its many devilishly links-like characteristics -- what a challenge it is and never more so than on the back half.
Total exposure to the elements is only exaggerated by the elevated, cliff-top setting, making the always unpredictable winds even more cantankerous. The fairways rock and roll their often perilous way, peppered with bunkers, an occasional meandering stream and a generous share of doglegs, from green to green - some literally perched at cliffs edge, dangling above the rocky shoreline, 100 feet below. The Torrance is a solid test for all, but it's the thinking golfer who will be rewarded most.
The Fairmont's second championship course opened in 2002 to a rapturous standing ovation; those who had been impressed with The Torrance, fell head-over-heels for the new course, with its even sterner test of golfing skills. Far from being a typical "second course", the Kittocks Course, immediately became the resort's star attraction.
Tough as the course is, designer Bruce Devlin has shown some sympathy toward we mere mortals who tremble at thoughts of monster layouts such as this. Generously, Devlin has provided four teeing areas to choose from, shrinking the ominous 7,049 yards from the tips, down to a far more human 5,195 yards from the forward tees. Filled with risk/reward holes, there's a sense of adventure ahead for all who take on this tantalizing teaser of a course as it sweeps for almost a mile along the handsomely rugged coastline.
Kittocks eases its challengers into the full weight of its examination with a kindly start that may at first seem too forgiving -- don't be impatient and accept this gentler side while it lasts. By the time you reach the par-5 seventh, forgiveness will be a forgotten word. From here on pure excitement crops up at every hole, with each challenge totally different from the previous. The thrills continue to build, reaching a crescendo on the closing stretch, the precariously close cliff-edge only adding to the exhilaration.
St. Andrews has added not one, but two more jewels to its already glittering golf crown, with even more reasons for golfers to linger a little longer in this golf heaven. For more ideas on how to get the very most out of your golf trip to Scotland, including playing a few British Open venues, contact the Scotland experts at Golf International by calling toll free, 1 (800) 833-1389, or click here.
©2010 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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