ST Andrews has been the focus of the golfing world recently and now that the dust has settled on the 150th Open Championship, some sort of normality will return to the Auld Grey Toon.
But it remains the place every golfer wants to visit at least once, not least because it is the home of golf.
That’s because there is so much to enjoy at St Andrews – it’s not simply a golfing town, although the game dominates life there as it must with so many quality golf courses forming an enviable mix of the old and new.
Especially now that Kingsbarns, The Dukes and The Castle Course are blooming and the Torrance and Kittocks courses at the five-star Fairmont St Andrews have been transformed into two real gems by Gary Stephenson.
This quintet of courses are all relatively new. The Castle opened two years ago, Kingsbarns 10 years ago, The Dukes 15 years ago – although it has had a recent extensive re-design – and the two Fairmont courses have been the subject of a major refurbishment and re-routing which has proved a stunning success.
They all sit comfortably alongside the likes of Crail, the seventh oldest golf course in the world, Anstruther, Elie and, of course, the St Andrews Links Trust stable which includes the iconic Old Course.
The Torrance lay-out at the Fairmont hosted final qualifying for this year’s Open Championship and it’s easy to see why.
It stretches to 7,230 yards off the back tees but off the whites at just over 6,600 yards will be enough for most, although it may well be at its full length for the upcoming Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open. As it continues to mature and gains more definition, the Torrance promises to become a glorious test as it sweeps along the Fife coastline with its wide fairway, punishing rough and frightening bunkers.
Undulating firm and fast true greens along with those bunkers, plus several water hazards, make it a cracking test with the highlights undoubtedly the third, which is a great par five, as is the sixth, while the seventh is a great driving hole along with the ninth.
The second nine are simply superb with a cracking par four to start and the 12th is another great par five. There are also some wonderful par fours and the run in from 14 is a real test. I doubt whether you will get three better holes to finish.
Sixteen will test the nerve with the green tight to the clifftop and the tee shot at the par three 17th is also not for the faint hearted while the par five 18th with its menacing bunkers and raised green is a real tough closer.
The Kittocks is also not short at 7,192 yards but again it is a much more comfortable proposition off the forward tees.
It’s actually a slightly harder course to walk than the Torrance and many might prefer a buggy. As it is somewhat hilly it does have some spectacular cliffside holes especially the seventh, ninth and 10th.
Again the finish is spectacular with 16 and 17 running along the cliffs and water everywhere on 18.
Both courses wend their way around the hilltop clubhouse which offers the same high standards as the five-star hotel with its leisure, spa and conference facilities which are top notch after a major refurbishment programme.
All the public areas, including the lobby, Atrium and Squire Restaurant are impressive and there is a state-of-the-art spa and health club with swimming pool, steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and designated studio for yoga and spinning.
While the Fairmont embodies the best of the new, Crail Golfing Society epitomises the qualities and standards of the established club.
Golfing legend Old Tom Morris laid out the original nine holes at Balcomie in 1895 and in 1998 a second course, Craighead Links, was designed by Gil Hanse.
Both courses boast stunning coastal views and Balcomie has the unusual combination of three par fives, six par threes and nine par fours, with a tough par of 69.
Memorable holes include the first, the ferociously challenging 447-yard fifth appropriately named Hell’s Hole and the 210-yard par three 13th which involves a blind tee shot!
Craighead Links is a challenging, clifftop course in traditional links style – there are no trees – and four sets of tees on each hole means the course can play from 5,340 to 6,722 yards.
The second is a cracking dogleg par four and again some of the holes along the coastline, especially the par threes are wonderful.
Both the Fairmont Hotel and the clubhouse are noted for the quality of their food and they have recruited a new head chef specifically for the clubhouse in Scott Swift whose forte is seafood and I can confirm his reputation is well founded.
The Fairmont also has a partnership with the Inn at Lathones, the only four-star inn in Scotland and its reputation for good food and wine is richly deserved and well worth a visit.
Fairmont St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland, KY16 8PN; Tel: 01334 837000; Fax: 01334 471115: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.fairmont.com
Crail Golfing Society, Crail, Fife KY10 3XN; Tel: 01333 450686; Fax: 01333450416
E-mail: email@example.com; Web:
Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8QD; Tel: 01334 460860; Fax: 01334 460877; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.kingsbarns.com
The Inn at Lathones by Largoward, St Andrews, Fife, KY9 1JE; Tel: 01334 840494; Fax: 01334 840694; email email@example.com; Web: www.theinn.co.uk