Let's face it–people just don't have the money they once had. Unfortunately for golfers, this likely means a grand tour of the British Isles' great courses simply may not be in the cards. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go.
Experiencing golf in its birthplace as well as the sights, sounds and unique culture of St Andrews will give you an entirely new appreciation for the game and a greater understanding of its true character. For instance, one of the first things you'll realize is that golf, at its core, isn't a genteel game for coddled elites. In Scotland, golf is a game of the people. All people. Cab drivers and bartenders in St Andrews play to single-digit handicaps. And, the Old Course at St Andrews, generally accepted as the most cherished golf course in the world, is tantamount to a muni. The course is closed to play on Sundays, becoming a city park where locals and tourists picnic, walk their dogs, kick soccer balls and throw Frisbees. Try that at Pebble Beach, Augusta or Pine Valley.
The game is more rugged in Scotland, too. Locals walk every round, carrying their own bags, and think nothing of pressing on in weather that would send most North Americans scurrying for the comforts of the nearest clubhouse. Of course, this is befitting a game created by shepherds following their flocks along the "links land," connecting the sea and the fields.
So let's say you have limited funds and limited time to explore St Andrews–what do you do and how do you do it? Well, you can get a terrific introduction to St Andrews with a quick four-day/three-night trip. Here's how.
|Three Nights In St Andrews
Here's a sample do-it-yourself itinerary:
Day 1: Sunday
Day 2: Monday
Day 3: Tuesday
Day 4: Wednesday
By far, the easiest way to book a whirlwind trip to St Andrews is through one of the many excellent tour operators. Among the best is the Old Course Experience (oldcourse-experience.com). This com-pany has an exclusive contract to guarantee tee times on the Old Course, and the three-night package they offer provides three rounds of golf (one at the Old Course), three-night accommodations, one dinner, souvenirs and a dedicated trip coordinator to help with details.
Of course, this convenience comes at a bit of a cost, and it funnels you into a ready-made (albeit very good) itinerary. For maximum flexibility, the other option is to simply do it yourself. It's really not that hard.
If you've never been to St Andrews and you want to tackle planning a trip on your own, make your first call to Fairmont St Andrews (pick that option if you go the tour-operator route, as well). Though other resorts and hotels in St Andrews have their charms, none can touch Fairmont (fairmont.com/standrews) when you consider facilities, service and value.
The five-star resort, which sits on a cliff top overlooking the North Sea and the village of St Andrews, is ideal. It has all the comforts, convenience and outstanding service befitting the Fairmont name. The rooms have been freshly redone with high-def televisions, exceptional beds, even heated floors and towel racks in the bathrooms. Dining, from fine to casual, is excellent. There's a terrific sports bar off the main lobby as well as an excellent spa and fitness facility. And the staff simply can't be beaten.
Most importantly for golfers, Fairmont St Andrews employs a full-time golf concierge who can arrange tee times for you at any of the dozens of exceptional golf courses in and around St Andrews. Additionally, Fairmont St Andrews offers two acclaimed 18-hole golf courses on site. The recently remodeled Torrance Course has been widely acclaimed for its beauty and challenge, even being selected to host the final qualifying round for the 2010 Open Championship (British Open) and placing No. 20 on Golfweek's pick of the Best Golf Courses in Great Britain and Ireland. Its sister course, the Kittocks, is stunningly beautiful and highly rated, as well. Plus, it's one of the very few courses in the area offering golf carts (buggies in the local parlance), a welcome relief for North Americans not used to walking multiple rounds.
Airfare is getting more expensive, and deals are hard to find. To get the best rate on a quick trip, plan your departure for a Saturday night. Costs for such flights can be substantially less. Plus you can sleep on the plane and hit the ground running on Sunday morning.