A High-class Course

Most of the talk of St Andrew's in the last couple of years has been about the new Castle Course - and there's no doubt it is a quality lay-out.

Most of the talk of St Andrew's in the last couple of years has been about the new Castle Course - and there's no doubt it is a quality lay-out. But then it's hard to find fault with any of the 11 courses, which make up the paradise that is the home of golf.

Before the Castle Course and Kingsbarns, the Duke's Course was the new kid on the block and was always different. It still is, being a heathland course set among the links lay-outs which dominate this unique tract of golfing land.

Originally designed by five-times Open Champion Peter Thomson, the Duke's has always been a wonderful test and since its extensive remodelling, which includes a much better finish and some truly stunning bunkers, it has become a real joy.

With its setting at Craigtoun Park above St Andrews, there are some truly magnificent panoramic views over the surrounding countryside to the sea and with five separate tee positions at every hole it has the flexibility and challenge to appeal to golfers at every level.

Revised and renovated by Tim Liddy in 2006 with five completely new holes and revamping of some 100 bunkers, plus another 350 yards to make it 7,512 off the back tees, the Duke's is truly an experience.

The rough has been allowed to grow on top of the bunkers and while it's not a new idea, it is a good one and lends to the natural look of the course. Along with the riot of colour from the gorse, whins, bracken and trees, the Duke's is a beauty.

If I had to pick out any holes, it would be the short third and the fifth, a terrific par four, as is the seventh while the new finish with fine holes at 17 and 18 are a definite improvement.

The Duke's lies in the grounds of the Mount Melville Estate, which was originally owned by the Younger family - the famous brewers.

In the heart of the estate is Mount Melville House, a beautiful Grade B listed Victorian mansion which is being restored to its former glory and it includes a leisure and health club, apartments and suites to complement the excellent five-star clubhouse.

Despite its unrivalled position on the edge of the famous Road Hole at St Andrew, the Old Course Hotel has no privileged access to the Old Course - no hotel has - but it does own the Dukes,

which is only a short transfer from the hotel.

Kohler, the USA based company who acquired the hotel and golf course in 2004, have spared no expense in their revamp of the Duke's and their plans for its future, much as they done since they took over the Old Course Hotel, refurbishing the 144 rooms and 35 suites, some 23 of which have been revamped in the style of French designer Jacques Garcia.

Garcia's rich, red silk-lined walls and opulence is everywhere and many of the rooms have private balconies with picture-postcard views of the Old Course and the town of St Andrew's. Many suites feature the distinctive Kohler touch, including chromatherapy (colour therapy) baths.

I had the privilege of staying in a suite overlooking the 17th and second holes of the Old Course and was able to experience both the Road Hole Bar and Dining Room, the excellent Sands Grill and a visit to the ultimate 19th, the Jigger's Inn. There's also been a transformation in the spa where a series of rooms have been revamped and rebuilt to provide the Kohler Waters Spa which boasts a thermal suite, hydrotherapy pool, plunge pool, 20-metre swimming pool, steam room, 11 treatment rooms and even a rooftop deck with outdoor whirlpool and hot tub. While the Old Course Hotel is ideally placed for the golfer, it is also a superb base for exploring St Andrews, one of Scotland's most interesting towns with excellent shopping, restaurants and bars, plus a great beach and plenty of history.

It's well worth taking in the heritage of the town with a guided tour of the cobbled streets, the university, St Andrew's Castle and the cathedral ruins.

The Fife coastal path takes in a stunning coastline, or you can enjoy a gentle stroll along the award-winning West Sands Beach.

There are also many picturesque fishing villages nearby and many family-friendly attractions including the Sea Life Centre and Aquarium, the Botanic Gardens and Craigtoun Country Park, while the surrounding area offers many delights from the sand dunes at Tentsmuir to horse riding at Kilconquhar Castle.

All these an more can be arranged by the excellent concierge staff at the Old Course Hotel, who can also take care of your golf needs including booking any of the courses as well as a visit to the Himalayas, the famous 18-hole putting green, which ensures an afternoon of fun for adults and children alike and no visit is complete without a visit to the British Golf Museum which tells the story of golf from its origins in the Middle Ages through to the present day.

Factfile

Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa, St Andrews, Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, KY16 9SP. Tel: 01334 474371; website: www.oldcoursehotel.kohler.com

 
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