St Andrews, Fairmont

St Andrews, Fairmont

St Andrews is known as “the home of golf” and is full of a sporting history that makes visiting the ancient town on Scotland’s east coast, in county Fife, seem like a pilgrimage for golfers. Golf has been played over the links of St Andrews for over 600 years. It is the original links course. From King David I’s charter in 1123 marking it common land belonging to the townspeople, to Archbishop Hamilton’s charter in 1552 recognizing the locals’ right to play on the links, to the 1764 transition from a 22- to 18-hole layout, through to American great Bobby Jones famously defending the Open Championship’s Claret Jug in 1927, it has a truly rich history.
The Old Course (par 72, 6721 yards or 6146 meters) is a must-play, with its iconic features such as the Swilcan Bridge and 10-foot deep Hell Bunker on the par-5 14th hole, which has destroyed many a round including Jack Nicklaus’ who recorded a 10 in the 1995 Open Championship. There are seven large double greens to hit onto, as well as 112 individually-named bunkers to avoid.

Since its development in the late 1990s, Fairmont St Andrews has become a popular destination for golfers to stay at when they come to lap up the history and play the Old Course. It also has two fine courses to play. The Kittocks and Torrance courses combine traditional Scottish links play with modern golf architecture. The courses overlook the town of St Andrews, including the historic castle and university, and the Scottish coastline and North Sea. European golf writer Jo Maes summed up the two layouts after recommending the resort.
“The Kittocks, which translates as feisty lady, is named after the ravine running through the course where a family of local deer resides. It’s a course that plays along the Fife coastline with unparalleled views across the bay and even as far away as Carnoustie and the coastal town of Arbroath. The Torrance, designed by the Ryder Cup captain (Scottish golfer Sam Torrance) himself, is the more challenging of the two, resembling a Scottish links with revetted bunkers and large greens.”
Torrance worked with the Americans Denis Griffiths and the late Gene Sarazen to come up with a challenging 7230-yard (6611-meter) layout that finishes on the coastal clifftops. Fairway bunkers and traps around the green can be punishing, and watch out for water hazards on holes 1, 3, 14.

The Torrance Course hosted the Scottish Seniors Open between 2009 and 2014 and was the Open Championship qualifying course in 2010.
The Kittocks Course was designed by Sarazen, Griffiths and Australian Bruce Devlin and opened in 2002. Golfers will find double greens and deep pot bunkers, and some of the most beautiful coastal views in golf along the way, especially on holes 7 and 15, which has a cliff-top green. Amy Yates wrote on
“You’ll need to be either an exceptionally good player or a masochist to play this par-72 course from the back tees (7192 yards, 6576 meters).”

The challenges:
On the Old Course, avoid the deep pot-holed bunkers such as the Spectacles on the 5th and Hell Bunker on the 14th and bring your best links game to get the ball near the flags on the double greens. On the Fairmont courses, pot-holed bunkers, water hazards that include a stream and two lakes, and large undulating greens make both courses tough links challenges, especially from the back tees. Pro’s tips: select the appropriate tee and control your shot to avoid being out-of-bounds on a beach or hacking the ball in deep rough, and “as with all Scottish sea-side courses, try and set yourself the goal of never going in a bunker.”
When to play:
The golf courses are open 12 months of the year but will close with severe frost or snow in December through to February.
Par: All courses 72
Slope / Standard Scratch Score / Yardage
Old Course
73.1 / 132 / 6721 yards or 6146 meters
Torrance Course
138 / 75 / 7230 yards, 6611 meters
Kittocks Course
136 / 75 / 7192 yards, 6576 meters **
Best hole(s):
On the Old Course, hole 17 – dubbed ‘Road’ – is one of the best non-water holes in the golf due to the risk-reward, angles, safe routes and dangers on the 455-yard (416-meter) par 4, according to US writer Bob Fagan. The 618-yard (565-meter) hole 14 is the longest hole on the course and also has the famous Hell Bunker to avoid in the middle of the fairway. On the Torrance course, hole 16 (429-yard, par 4) hits downhill towards the sea with an exceptional view over St Andrews Bay. There is a challenging approach shot to a cliff-top green that has a 100-foot (30-meter) drop off the back edge to the beach. Don’t pick too much club here! On Kittocks, the 17th hole (502-yard, par 4) plays along the clifftop with the beach flanking the entire right side of the hole. A forced carry to a huge cliff-top green awaits the bravest (or foolhardy) golfers on approach in regulation.
The pro says:
“I fell in love with it the first day I played it. There’s just no other golf course that is even remotely close.”
Jack Nicklaus on The Old Course***

“Both golf courses offer a challenge to every level of player due to the player having the choice of four teeing areas. Every hole has breath-taking sea views. There are large, smooth and subtly undulating greens and generous fairways with deep, revetted bunkering.”
John Kerr, PGA professional, Fairmont St Andrews

The resort experience:
This is one of the United Kingdom’s most outstanding resorts. It was awarded Best Large Hotel of the Year 2015 (Scottish Golf Tourism Awards), European Resort of the Year 2012 (International Association Golf Tour Operators) and International Resort Hotel of the Year in 2009 (Scottish Hotel of the Year Awards). This five-star hotel can cater for everything from large conferences – it hosted a G20 summit in 2009 – through to golfing parties and honeymooners.
The resort is set out on 520-acres (210 hectares) of land overlooking the town of St. Andrews across the bay, including the castle and university, as well as the North Sea. The beige and blue buildings have a quaint European look to them but the interiors are both modern and elegant. The spa features an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, fitness center and 12 treatment rooms.

“This is a big hotel and conference center where many of the professionals stay when playing the Open and the Dunhill Links,” said Jo Maes. “Like everywhere in Scotland, the atmosphere is cozy, and with the staff dressed in local tartan, it has that sense of Scottish heritage.”

It’s not a bad base to use to go and play some of the other fabulous courses in the area including Kingsbarns, Crail, Lundin, and Leven. Those who want to stay closer to the Old Course should consider the five-star Old Course Hotel (

Dine and wine:
There are six restaurants or eateries to choose from. The Squire will take care of your buffet breakfast with some extravagant local touches (I’m not eating the Haggis!). St Andrews Bar & Grill has a SABG Signature Burger that you can consume as you look out over the golf courses and cliff tops – the outdoor deck is a good spot for watching sunsets. You can also pick out fresh seafood, such as a lobster from the tank, and pair it with a Josper-grilled steak – Scottish Surf and Turf.
Otherwise head to the Rock and Spindle family bar (pool tables and board games available) for a craft beer or single-malt whiskey. Kittocks Den has coffee and a juice bar that makes smoothies to order, while the Atrium Lounge is good for afternoon tea with scones and jam, pastries, cakes and sandwiches.
The accommodation:
Fairmont St Andrews has four types of guest rooms, five suite options and Manor Homes to choose from. The interiors are elegant, décor luxurious and amenities five star. The king-sized beds have thick duvet covers while the floor-to-ceiling windows provide plenty of natural light plus great views of the Tay Estuary and North Sea. An Atrium Room (22 square meters, 237 square feet) does not come with the sea view, but does have a king-size bed plus a walk-in shower and tub. Or you could go with a Kingdom of the Fife suite (141 square meters, 1518 square feet), which has a living room with fireplace, a bedroom with two dressing rooms attached and a separate Jacuzzi bathroom and shower room. The balcony has great views of the courses, coastline and St Andrews.
Other activities:
Hire a bike from the resort and explore the local area, send the teenager to Teenzone to chill out on bean bags and play games consoles or air hockey, or hike the Fife Coastal Path, which goes from Culross to St Andrews and on to the Tay Bridge. The walk has some great views of the coastline and you may want to stop off at the ruins of St Andrews Castle for some local history.
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