The very bricks in the walls of St Andrews whisper golf. The sport and the town have been inextricably linked for more than 400 years and it?s a mecca to golfers from across the globe.
WHERE TO PLAY
St Andrews Links Trust currently maintains six courses and, from 2008, there will be a seventh. Designed by David McLay Kidd, the as yet unnamed layout looks like being a superb addition to the portfolio.
Designed by Old Tom Morris and constructed in 1895 the New Course is more recognisable as a typical links layout than its more illustrious older brother. With an abundance of gorse, heather and thick rough it?s also considerably tighter than the Old Course.
Good, accurate driving is required all the way round, particularly when there?s a side wind to further complicate matters. When putting it?s just a question of starting the ball rolling and, if you?ve got the right line, the ball will find the cup. There were no bobbles, slow patches or excuses.
Having enjoyed a testing yet fair round on the New we had time to squeeze in a couple of pints in the Dunvegan before supper. Packed with character, this is a favourite watering hole for visiting golfers. We had the luxury of staying at the Rusacks Hotel. Although recently refurbished it retains the old-world charm it?s famous for.
On day two we headed for Crail and a game at the famous Balcomie Links. Founded in 1786, the Crail Golfing Society has played its golf over this wonderful Old Tom Morris design since 1895. Located at the easternmost tip of Fife it?s a spectacular setting with sea views from every hole. This may be a short course but it?s no pushover ? with four tough par 3s in the last six holes good iron play is essential for success.
The clubhouse at Crail is worth a visit in its own right. Apart from offering stunning vistas it is also one of the most welcoming and reasonably priced 19th holes in the country.
The final leg of our Fife expedition took us to Ladybank. A heathland track located some 12 miles inland from St Andrews, Ladybank is used as an Open qualifying venue.
Continuing the theme of the trip, the original six holes at Ladybank were laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1879. The course wasn?t extended to 18 holes until 1961 but since then it?s deservedly earned a reputation as one of Scotland?s finest inland tests.
Accuracy is paramount here as the fairways are narrow, protected by trees and heather. The greens are small and a deft short game is also required.
WHERE TO STAY
MacDonald Rusacks Hotel Course Overlooks the Old and has one of the best golfing views in the world.
Made up of two adjoining terrace houses designed by Georgian architect Sir William Playfair the Ardgowen Hotel is located just a long par 3 away from the 18th green of the Old Course.
Balcomie Links Hotel is a mile from the golf course in Crail outside of St Andrews. A small family-run set up it?s a great base from which to explore the East Neuk of Fife.
Finishing early we had a chance to head back to base and explore. St Andrews has played a critical role in Scottish history and, as a result, it?s the home of many important sites open to visitors.
The stunning cathedral dating from the 12th century and the fascinating castle should be top of your must-see list. At the former try to locate the graves of Old and Young Tom Morris to pay your respects; at the latter explore the siege mines dating from 1547.
ST ANDREWS NEW
T: 01334 46666
CRAIL ? BALCOMIE LINKS
T: 01333 45068
T: 01337 830725
WHERE TO STAY
MACDONALD RUSACKS HOTEL
T: 01334 474321
THE ARDGOWAN HOTEL
T: 01334 472970
BALCOMIE LINKS HOTEL
T: 01333 450237