Reasons to visit St Andrews
They don't call it the 'Home of Golf' for nothing. St Andrews is steeped in golfing history with stunning coastal views to match. Never been? Read on to see why it's somewhere not to be missed.
There are countless reasons why you would consider taking a trip to Scotland. to experience golf in St Andrews. And, as a service to golf and golfers worldwide, we felt obliged to come up with a few of the more pressing arguments for making the pilgrimage.
Players all relish the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Old Tom Morris, or to play the holes that have defined generations of Open Championships. So, we’ll now attempt to condense the Auld Grey Toon into memorable soundbites that encapsulate what this remarkable small town is all about.
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1. The Old Course and the legends
It’s so obvious that it doesn’t really need to be stated, but it’s nonetheless true; the Old Course is the number one reason why any golfer would make the pilgrimage to Fife. When you ask someone about St Andrews Links, they will mention that historic layout, Tom Morris, and all of those Open Championships and iconic moments.
Golf’s oldest and most prestigious major has been played on the links a record 29 times; most recently in 2015 when Zach Johnson memorably won in a playoff. In previous years, the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Snead, Nick Faldo, and Bobby Jones have all made that famous walk up the 18th fairway to collect the Claret Jug. When playing the Old Lady, you are literally walking in their footsteps, recreating the great images of the past that those legends have left behind.
With the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse sitting prominently behind the first tee, and Old Tom’s original golf store situated across from the 18th green, you are surrounded by the breathing origins of the game. St Andrews is where golf, as we now know it, was born. It’s a heritage worth celebrating in person and etching your own chapter into its history.
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2. Bragging rights!
Oh yes, there really is nothing more satisfying than to share your tales of success and grandeur with your golf buddies. Any chance to regale them with that great iron shot you played to the last green, or the 40-foot putt you holed on the most difficult hole, is something to be relished. Playing the Old Course and experiencing St Andrews is taking those bragging rights to another level. And, if you haven’t done so already, pull out that picture of you on the Swilcan Bridge.
You can tell them all about that adrenaline-inducing drive on the opening hole, or the dramatic par you made on the fearsome Road Hole, before striding up the 18th to drain a lengthy putt for birdie in front of the assembled fish and chip munching gallery. Then go on to describe the mouth-watering selection of malts and ales in the Jigger Inn and Dunvegan, and how beautiful the sunset was every evening (although unfortunately we can’t promise that last bit!).
As well as taking in the surroundings, playing these links courses is also a chance to play the game at its purest and give a thrill to serious players who love to challenge themselves. Having to judge the bounce and roll on the firm fairways, and play for the wind and elements, will test all of your skills!
3. In Golf Links We Trust
Considering the understandable, and sometimes obsessive, attention paid to the world’s most famous course, it’s easy to overlook that there are six other courses in the town managed by the Links Trust. The New is the best known of the sibling layouts, and it was designed by Mr. St Andrews himself, Old Tom Morris, in the late 19th century. Despite possessing this somewhat ironic name, it remains an excellent and thrilling layout to play and is frequently cited as being the favorite of the bunch for locals.
The Jubilee features a challenging 18 holes that were only remodeled a couple of decades ago. It runs through dunes along the edge of the striking West Sands beach, where an iconic scene from the 1981 film Chariots of Fire was shot. It’s also, if you believe him, where nine-time major winner Gary Player slept during the 1957 Open. This impressive beach is definitely worth a visit as it stretches out for more than two miles from the edge of town and provides majestic views across the North Sea and back towards St. Andrews itself.
If you’ve seen the back-nine of the Old Course during an event on TV, and ever wondered about the course running alongside it; that would be the Eden. It’s a course that’s shorter and more playable than the others, but it retains some imaginative and testing Harry Colt-designed greens that place an emphasis on your short game. Further afield, the Strathtyrum and nine-hole Balgove tracks are less significant but are popular with residents and beginners.
The most recent addition to the roster is the Castle Course, which is a few miles outside of town along the coast. It boasts an undulating and craftily envisaged 18 holes that possess stunning views and can sometimes be a little bit infuriating to play with a card in your hand. But it is great fun and is a wonderful complement to its older cousins. With so many courses and such little time, you will need to choose wisely.
4. Gateway to Scottish golf and more
Yes, St Andrews is the world’s golf capital, but it’s also an ideal base to embark on an expedition of your own across Scotland. With Edinburgh only 50 miles away, the opportunity to visit that great city, which is among the most picturesque in Europe, is more than a good reason to make the journey to St Andrews.
When it comes to simply golf, Kingsbarns, a breathtaking modern classic that is considered to be one of the best on the planet, is only a short drive from the Old Course, and the renowned links of Crail and Scotscraig are also within near proximity.
However, if you are planning to be a little more adventurous, you’ll discover many of the other greats slightly further afield, such as Carnoustie, the revered Open Championship venue, only a 40-minute drive away. The region of East Lothian (past Edinburgh) is only a couple of hours to the south, where Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane, and Kilspindie could all be checked off your bucket list.
Heading north, you’ll reach the city of Aberdeen, which features some of Scotland’s finest on its doorstep, including Royal Aberdeen, Murcar, and the quirky and enchanting Cruden Bay, which has become a cult favorite with visitors from across the globe. Fraserburgh is perhaps the ultimate hidden gem in the area and worth the journey to uncover.
It’s true to say that St Andrews is the definitive golf destination, but it’s also a perfect gateway to the rest of the country’s world-class golf venues.
5. The majestic Auld Toon
Though world-famous for its everlasting connection to golf, the St Andrews town itself is a vibrant, fascinating, and atmospheric place to visit. It’s a living, breathing monument. Its internationally renowned university (the one where Prince William met Kate) is the third oldest in the English-speaking world, and the striking castle and cathedral possess a colorful and often bloody past dating back to the Middle Ages.
Despite its prestigious label, playing golf isn’t the only activity on offer inside these historic walls. On your first day in the town, it would naturally be a perfect time to explore and gain a feeling of the surroundings. Being a relatively small place, walking through the historic streets and lanes of St. Andrews would not take particularly long, and there are several notable attractions to keep the most ardent of explorers contented.
This striking old castle ruin that overlooks the North Sea, providing stunning views of the coast, is a monument to a dark and murky history that touches back centuries in both the town and the whole of Scotland. First built during the 12th century, the structure was dismantled during the Wars of Independence. It later became home to Kings, with James III being born there in 1445.
As the years moved on, the castle took on a more sinister life, becoming a fearsome prison and site of religious persecution and murder during the Scottish Reformation, which led to a lengthy siege between Protestant and Catholic forces. Both sides cut deep into the rock to create underground tunnels. These remain open to the public today and serve as a reminder of a bloody past that hangs over the town. It’s a must-visit for anyone with an interest in medieval history.
Although there is a significant history to the town, it remains alive and buzzing due to the youthful population of students, which gives it a unique atmosphere. So many factors have come together here to create a magical old place full of secrets.
6. Pubs, restaurants and nightlife
7. Eden Mill
Situated just a few miles outside of the town in the village of Guardbridge, the Eden Mill is an active and thriving distillery, producing beer, whiskey, and gin. The various tours of the facility have proven to be extremely popular for the many visitors looking to gain an insight into how these drinks are created, or to even sample some for themselves.
Tours are available for each of three main offerings, from the distilling of whiskey to the brewing of the finest beer, meaning there is something for everyone. We also recommend that you book them in advance to ensure that you secure your place. If you don’t take a tour, you can always pop into their store alongside the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, which looks across the 18th fairway of the Old Course.
Always busy and vibrant, there is a wonderful atmosphere to it, with the combination of families, students, tourists, and dog walkers creating a mood that reflects its beautiful surroundings. It’s comfortably among the finest beaches in the UK and is the perfect location for a stroll, particularly in the evening, when the low sunlight transforms it into something truly breathtaking and magical.
West Sands beach at sunset
8. British Golf Museum
Considering St Andrews can make the claim of being the cradle of golf as we know it today, it’s no surprise that the British Golf Museum is to be found here. Sat across the road from the R&A Clubhouse, the facilities were renovated ahead of the 2015 Open Championship, which led to the opening of an upstairs café and restaurant that boasts striking views in all directions.
Contemporary building of the British Golf Museum
Featuring more than 17,000 items and golfing artifacts, the museum takes you through 500 years of the game’s history, from its origins during the Middle Ages in Scotland to the historic majors that have been played just yards away on the Old Course. It’s time well spent for lovers of golf.
9. New Picture House
If you are fortunate enough to be in town when there is a decent movie on show, then the New Picture House is an appealing opportunity to be transported back to an era when cinemas were less cynically commercialized and more intimate in nature.
Being the absolute antitheses of the huge multiplex theatres that you see across major cities today, this old building oozes character and charm throughout its modest three screens (which regularly show the major releases) and is a treat for anyone who misses the old days.
Senior Golf Vacation Specialist
Senior Golf Vacation Specialist, I advise clients on golf courses and accommodation options across the US, Mexico, and Caribbean