10 reasons why you MUST take a golf trip to St Andrews
Ten reasons to justify a golf vacation that does not need justifying!
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.
So, we’ll now attempt to condense the Auld Grey Toon into just ten memorable soundbites that encapsulate what this remarkable small town is all about.
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 sat 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.
Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR - St Andrews Links Authorized Provider
2. The feeling on the 1st tee
For anyone who has regularly seen the famous images of the Old Course, standing on the first tee waiting to begin that walk with history can be a surreal and emotional experience. The palpable anticipation and nervous excitement can overwhelm even the coolest of characters. You may even find it difficult to tee the ball up! But that energy can be released with a crushing drive down the huge fairway, which is the start of what is likely to be the most memorable round of golf of your life.
3. The prized picture on the Swilcan Bridge
It’s the most photographed image in golf, the chance to capture yourself on the Swilcan Bridge should be enough of a reason to justify making the trip. As you prepare to take that walk up the final hole, will you elect to go for Jack Nicklaus’ 2005 wave, or the pose of the late great Arnold Palmer, or maybe just conjure up something of your own?
With that famous and stunning skyline behind you, the bridge has been crossed by all of the greats, who have stopped time for a brief moment on a structure that has been in place for centuries. Being able to capture your connection with the Swilcan (and the Old Course) is something to be treasured.
4. 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.
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!).
5. 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.
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 to 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.
6. Test your game to the limit
Requiring the ability to create shots for each potential situation, links golf is the game at its purest and a thrill for serious players who love to challenge themselves. Having to judge the bounce and roll on the firm fairways, and to play for the wind and elements, will test all of your skills!
To be successful on a seaside course, it’s vitally important to accept those conditions as being something that can assist you. There are a number of aspects to St Andrews that can be intimidating, not least the bunkers and unusual lines, but particularly the treacherous Road Hole, which is among the most enduringly difficult in the game.
When playing the Old Course, the par-three 11th and par-five 14th are among the main highlights, with the latter featuring the cavernous Hell Bunker. Elsewhere, the ninth and ten holes of the New Course are formidable. Playing these holes well, and escaping the innumerable traps, could be considered as an achievement in itself, and is part of what makes these layouts such a thrill to play for golfers of all standards.
7. So many courses, so little time
If you’ve managed to put all of the Links Trust courses to the test, there are a few more within close proximity that also demand your attention. These include the Kohler-owned Dukes, a heathland layout designed by the legendary Open Champion Peter Thomson, and the two excellent links courses on the town’s boundaries at the Fairmont Hotel, the Torrance and Kittocks, which are both a joy to play.
8. 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 trip across the pond.
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, it 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 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.
9. 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, which possess a colorful and often bloody past, date back to the Middle Ages.
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.
10. Pubs, restaurants and nightlife
When you’re not taking on the numerous courses, there are dozens of pubs and restaurants to experience. These are the places for a post-round pint or meal, and are often where the best memories of your stay are forged. It would be fair to stay that the Jigger Inn, situated alongside the Road Hole, and the welcoming Dunvegan Hotel, are two of the most famous 19th holes to be found anywhere on the planet.
From the fish and chips of Tailend or Cromars and the stunning ice cream of Jannettas Gelateria to some of the highest quality fine dining, there is something for everyone when it comes to eating and drinking in St Andrews. If you plan on taking a full tour of the town’s many establishments, the noted watering holes include the Central, Keys, or even Rascals, which younger golfers in particular will enjoy. There are more than enough pubs to satisfy the most seasoned of drinkers and also allow for a full 18 holes of pub golf!
Senior Golf Vacation Specialist - UK & Ireland
Senior Golf Vacation Specialist, I help golfers find their ideal golfing getaway