Andrew Marshall and Paul Marshall sink some putts and pints at the ‘Home of Golf.’
A game of golf just isn’t complete without a post round tipple at the 19h hole. Discussing the highs and lows of the round – a snaking downhill putt holed from long range or a topped drive on the first tee, become legend over a wee nip of local whisky or a refreshing pint in a comfortable bar. And what better place to do it than the watering holes at ‘The Home of Golf.'
In addition to being home to the British Open every five years, the Old Course along with Kingsbarns and Carnoustie also features in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a favourite event on the European Tour calendar where celebrities such as Hugh Grant, Ian Botham and Samuel L.Jackson tee it up alongside the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose on three classic courses.
For keen golfers such as ourselves, the Alfred Dunhill Links in early October, is an excellent time to visit St Andrews with plenty of opportunities to watch golf, play golf and visit some 19th holes.
After a challenging round at the nearby Kittocks Course we find a perch in the Dunvegan Hotel only a well-struck nine iron away from the 18th green of the Old Course. This is a popular haunt for caddies and anyone remotely connected with the great game. Photographs of past Open Champions from Old Tom Morris to Tiger Woods grace the walls and Arnold Palmer’s Open bagman Tip Anderson was a regular here and had his customary seat by the door. Today, it’s a sea of colourful golf caps and pints, as customers chat and watch the latest action unfold in the Dunhill Links showing on three plasma screens.
Inspired by a love for golf, Jack Willoughby, a fourth generation Texan and his Scottish wife Sheena started the Dunvegan in 94’ and it’s since become a St Andrew’s institution. “When we took over the place it was a boarding house, but because of its location we had the vision that it could become a great 19th hole. We wanted to create a casual atmosphere where golfers could walk in wearing golf shoes and carrying their clubs to drink, eat and relax amongst fellow golfers,” says Jack.
The husband-and-wife team are very ‘hands on’ when it comes to running the hotel and really enjoy talking about the game with their customers. "We’ve built up a strong clientele over the years and had great support from caddies bringing their clients in after a round and recommending the place,” says Jack. “Over the years we’ve got to know people from all areas of the golf world, whether professionals, celebrities or returning golfers from places such as Scandinavia, America or Australia.” As she pulls a pint for a customer Sheila adds: “We are busy week in, week out, especially during the British Open when it’s held here. I could say hand or heart, we are the 19th hole at St Andrews.”
The beauty of St Andrews is the short distance between drinks, and in less time than it takes to swing a club we find ourselves standing by the bar inside The Golf Inn just round the corner from the Dunvegan. The fist ever ‘Golf Inn’ in St Andrews was established here in 1827 (the street was built in the same year) when the game was fast gaining popularity. During its history, the inn on this site has been called various names including the Niblick, Links Hotel and 1 Golf Place.
Before it was built, there were no amenities at all around the Old Course and members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club assembled at the cobbled end of Market Street in their red jackets and goose-necked clubs tucked under their arm. The Golf Inn has some interesting memorabilia and displays highlighting the history of golf at St Andrews. In an excerpt from a local newspaper, the St Andrews Citizen Report from the 1870s the correspondent says: “Young Tom Morris has won the belt for the third time” were the words on everybody’s mouths when the news arrived of his success and they seemed to convey the aura of satisfaction. A flag was displayed from Old Tom Morris’s workshop and when it became known that the champion would arrive on Saturday night with the 10 o’clock train, a number of his friends awaited his arrival, and he had barely set foot on the railway terminus when he was hoisted shoulder high and borne in triumph to Mr Leslie’s Golf Inn, where his health was drank with every honour.
We take a short walk alongside the Old Course’s 18th fairway and past the green of the famous Road Hole 17th to arrive at the award-winning Road Hole Bar, located on the top floor of the five-star Old Course Hotel. After ordering a couple of fine single malts we sink into one of the huge leather armchairs to enjoy the amazing views of the Old Course through the floor-to-ceiling windows and try to identify golfers and celebrities as they make their way up the 17th fairway.
Whisky loving golfers will think they have stumbled into heaven here with a stunning selection of over 200 whiskies including a Tullbardine (the hotel’s own label malt), Highland Malt 1988, which is only sold in the top 10 per cent of bars in the UK, and a rare Ben Wyvis, Highland Malt 1972.
Right next to the 17th fairway is one of the most famous golf pubs in the world, the Jigger Inn. This former stationmaster’s lodge dates back to the 1850s and is a favourite with golfers such as Open champions Darren Clarke and Tiger Woods and local caddies who enjoy a pint here with their guests after a long day on the links.
As we enter this typical Scottish snug, an Edwardian open fire casts a warm glow over the small green wooden bar and numerous alcoves with tartan furnishings. On offer is a superb selection of Scottish beers and hearty home-cooked food - this is Scottish hospitality at its very best.
In one of the cosy booths we get chatting with David Williams, Hugh Grant’s caddie at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a few years ago. “He’s a nice bloke, just how he appears in the movies, and not a bad golfer either,” he tells us, as we enjoy our pints watched over by an impressive black-and -white photograph of Old Tom Morris.
We ask David about the 19th hole and what it means to him. “Every golfer understands the tradition and importance of the 19th hole, it’s all about fellowship and camaraderie. After your round you go there to socialise with friends, perhaps celebrate your best ever round, or more likely drown your sorrows after a poor one,” he says. “Golf is a common language and it’s easy to chat to the people at the next table about the course you played that day or team up with new golfing friends for a round the next. It just snowballs from there and before you know it everyone is talking to each other.”
St Andrews has several other golfer-friendly taverns including the Scorecards Bar (near the Old Course’s 18th green), where the walls are lined with scorecards from the British Open and Dunhill Cup Championship including some historic final rounds. There’s also the Pilmour Hotel (just up the road from the Dunvegan), Whey Pat Tavern and Ma Bells (inside the St Andrews Golf Hotel), a regular hangout for Prince William during his university days.
But the 19th hole just wouldn’t be the same without playing the eighteen holes before it, and St Andrews is known as the Home of Golf for good reason.
Not only is this game's hallowed birthplace – ‘On May 14 1754, twenty-two” Gentlemen of honour, skillful in the ancient and healthy exercise of Golf,” founded the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St.Andrews,’ but today’s golfers have a choice of around 20 courses to play within a short drive of town. Although the venerated Old Course is the best known here’s six others to test your game…
Kingsbarns: Designed by leading golf architect Kyle Phillips, Kingsbarns (used as one of the venues for the Dunhill Links Championship) is a tribute to classic Scottish links and has come on in leaps and bounds since opening in 2000. The course meanders along more than one-and-a-half miles of rugged seashore offering ocean views from every hole. Featuring spacious fairways rolling and twisting through dune ridges and hollows, true links turf and large greens, the course is challenging yet playable. http://www.kingsbarns.com
Castle Course: Opened in June 2008, the Castle Course has been internationally recognised as one of the top courses in the world. As with all courses operated by St Andrews Links, including the Old Course, the course is open to the public. Designed by leading Scottish course architect David McLay Kidd, the course sits on a 220-acre cliff-top location and has spectacular views overlooking the ancient town of St Andrews and St Andrews Bay. Ranging in length from 5460 to 7188 yards, the par-71 layout offers a challenging yet enjoyable experience with five tees to suit most levels of ability. http://www.thecastlecourse.com
Balcomie Links (Crail): Laid out in 1895 by one of golf’s founding fathers, Old Tom Morris, this windswept par-69 course offers magnificent ocean views and it’s not uncommon to see seals, dolphins and gannets as you negotiate the wonderfully varied 18 holes, including six par 3’s. http://www.crailgolfingsociety.co.uk
The Duke’s Course: With a spectacular setting above St. Andrews this championship course gives magnificent panoramic views over the surrounding countryside to the sea. Opened in 1995 and designed by 5 times Open Champion, Peter Thomson, the Duke's course was re-designed in 2007 by the U.S. based Kohler Company, home to the famed Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run golf venues. Today, the Duke's course is a rare non-links course in the St Andrews area. Gone are the pot bunkers and in their place are rough-edged spacious sand traps synonymous with bygone years of heathland golf. Added to The Duke's credentials is the fact it was chosen to host the 2014 International European Amateur Championship, one of the four majors in the world of amateur golf. http://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk/golf/the-dukes
Kittocks Course: Designed by Bruce Devlin and Gene Sarazen the Kittocks course uses the surrounding environment’s natural contours to blend stunning landscapes with authentic Scottish features, including the powerful medieval skyline of St Andrews. At par-72 and 7,049 yards, the layout is both entertaining and challenging. The approach to the coastal holes begins with a roller coaster ride up, over and around the rugged wilderness of Kittocks Den, then moves on to holes that feature greens that appear suspended over the rugged cliff edge. www.fairmont.com/standrews The Torrance Course: The Torrance Course is the first design by the victorious 2002 European Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance and the late Gene Sarazen. At par-72 and 7,037 yards, the course sweeps its way around the Fairmont St Andrews hotel and down to the coastal edge, where it uses the natural contours of the land and the dramatic coastal setting to create unforgettable links-style features including fast running greens, fescue rough and daunting bunkers that protect the greens. www.fairmont.com/standrews
WHERE TO STAY
Fairmont St Andrews: Located just a few miles south of St Andrews the five-star Fairmont St Andrews features two exceptional championship golf courses that hug Scotland's dramatic coastline, the Kittocks and the Torrance. The Fairmont has several bars to enjoy a 'wee dram' including the Clubhouse perched high on a cliff edge offering breathtaking views of both courses, the North Sea and St. Andrews skyline. http://www.fairmont.com/standrews
Old Course Hotel: Overlooking West Sands Beach and the Links Golf Course, Old Course Hotel features a luxury spa and award-winning restaurant. Check out their Road Hole bar and the Jigger Inn. http://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk
Dunvegan Hotel: http://www.dunvegan-hotel.com
Scorecards Bar: http://www.bw-scoreshotel.co.uk
Jigger Inn: http://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk
Road Hole Bar: http://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk
The Golf Inn: http://www.thegolfinn.co.uk
FURTHER INFORMATION: http://www.visitscotland.com/golf