At the St. Andrews Links, it is out with the Old and in with the New
For most golfers, it’s the dream of practically every golfer to play the Old Course at St. Andrews at least once. After all, it’s the home of golf, and the world’s oldest course, where people have been driving and putting for 600 years.
When you play the Old Course, you are playing where luminaries from King James IV and Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods triumphed. And once that’s over, you’ve got that long, marvellous walk up the 18th hole to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which wrote the rules of golf for centuries.
But do you really need all that?
Hitting the New Course
The St. Andrews New Course lies adjacent to the Old Course and, if you listen to the locals, will provide an even better golfing experience.
Just like the Old Course, it’s a links, but with none of the downsides. The Old Course features adjacent fairways and double greens, which means that you sometimes have to wait a while for golfers in the other direction to clear out of your way. This is especially true if you happen to slice one of your drives into their fairways.
The New Course offers no such drama. Instead, you’re playing virtually the same links layout, while listening to the waves of the Firth of Tay boiling just beyond the hedges. The same caddies who work the Old Course will pack your bag for the New, offering the same guidance and insight you would have received on the older loop.
If you’re not a great golfer, don’t even expect to get on the Old Course. You’ll need a handicap certificate to play the Old Course, with a maximum handicap of 24 for men and 36 for women.
Also, booking the Old Course can require months of advanced planning. But on the New Course, and the adjacent Jubilee Course, you can book your tee time online pretty much anytime. You can even walk up and get on, but good luck doing that on the Old Course.
You’ll also save a few dollars. Green’s fees for the Old Course are £190 (S$323.50), whereas for the New and Jubilee Courses it’s just £80 (S$136).
And don’t think you won’t be experiencing golf history if you play the New. After all, the New Course is not really that new, having come online in the late 19th century. In fact, St. Andrews bills it as the “oldest new course in the world.” When you finish your last hole, you’ve got essentially the same view of the Royal and Ancient that you would have paid more than double if you spent the money and made the effort to walk where Tiger walked.
Staying at St. Andrews
When it comes to accommodation in St. Andrews, the rule of “out with the old and in with the new” also applies.
The Fairmont St. Andrews, located on a 210-hectare swatch of waterfront property, is about a seven iron up the road from St. Andrews proper. It is built to look like a grand Scottish manor overlooking two outstanding championship golf courses. You’ve got water views from most of the holes and rooms, and the usual level of luxury and spaciousness one expects from Fairmont.
Yes, there’s something charming about staying in town, but there’s a lot to be said for five-star luxury and outstanding golf practically outside your hotel room door.
There are many beautiful and venerable hotels in the town of St. Andrews. The challenge for those hotels and their guests is the relative lack of space. It’s all but impossible to have a full-size, full-service spa, offering a wide variety of massages and other treatments, if your space is limited. But not at the Fairmont. They have all the room in the world and they know how to maximise it. In fact, their spa is the perfect “19th hole” after a long day on the golf course.
The Fairmont St. Andrews also provides the kind of quality in eating establishments that can sometimes be a hit-or-miss affair elsewhere in the vicinity. Its Italian restaurant, La Cucina, transports you from St. Andrews to Milan, which is exactly what you want, unless you really like haggis. Its sports bar even offers the only vegan and vegetarian menu to be found in the entire country.
So if your sights are set on playing St. Andrews, shift your gaze just a few metres from the Old Course to the New Course, and from the center of town to the luxury resort on the road to Crail. It’s a whole new world, and that’s where you should be.