These are exciting times for the Fairmont St Andrews. The Scottish Seniors Open will be at the redesigned Torrance course in August 2009 and next year when the Open Championship returns to the Old Course, the Torrance will be one of the final qualifying venues.
The redesign has seen the Torrance acquire new state of the art drainage, new tees on every hole plus eight new holes and several new greens, and all the bunkers have been revetted in traditional Scottish style.
Last month the new layout opened for play and some clever thinking has seen two holes taken from the Devlin course – now re-named the Kittocks and two holes transferred to the second course. The 2nd is the former 4th from the Devlin and has been beefed up considerably – now 507 yards from the championship tee but still a par 4!
The 3rd is another Devlin conscript and this long par 5 has been lengthened further to 570 from the back tee. The 6th is a beauty of a par 5 at 498 yards and there’s a nice risk or reward par 4 of 316 yards at the next. The 10th is a cracker of a par 4 and the short 11th has views of St Andrews which is a real distraction.
The holes coming in on the back nine are all testing but by no means impossible, and the finish is superb with the 16th moved closer to the boundary wall running along the left side. The 17th is a dramatic par 3 at 207 yards from the back tee. Both holes have spectacular views and the 18th is an excellent par 5 finishing hole at 557 yards, which can play shorter.
The resort’s second course has been renamed Kittocks and with stunning cliff-edge holes and breathtaking views. It is a joy to play – but be advised and take a buggy unless you’re quite fit. Some of the holes down the coastline are simply beautiful. The hotel was recently the subject of a £17 million refurbishment program including a spa with 11 treatment rooms and a salon, a state of the art health club that includes a 1000 sq foot Techno gym and a 16-metre swimming pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi.
Recent enhancements include the new sports-themed Rock and Spindle bar and the renovation of the conference centre. The hotel is first class with 209 bedrooms, seven suites and two four-bedroom Manor Homes, which sleep up to eight people in four bedrooms. The two courses also have their own clubhouse which features a restaurant and bar and all the facilities you’d expect.
St Andrews is the place every golfer wants to visit with the Old Course a magnet, but there is much more to it than that with the likes of Kingsbarns and the new Castle Course, which is a valuable addition to the St Andrews Links stable which includes the Old Course, the Jubilee, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove. The Dukes, Crail, Lundin Links, Leven Links, Elie and Scotscraig are all within easy reach, especially if you stay at the Fairmont.
Do not pass up the chance of playing the Castle Course which has undergone some fine-tuning since its opening and it now also boasts a terrific rotunda clubhouse overlooking the 9th and 18th double green. There’s no doubt 17 is the signature hole. A long par 3 played over an inlet with the sea crashing onto the rocks to a green perched on the cliffs is a real fearsome test.
Besides 17, all the holes along the coastline are terrific. The second is a lovely par 4, the 3rd a great par 3, the 6th another fine par 4 and the 7th, 8th and 9th are sublime as are 15, 16, 17 and 18 – but the 17th is something else.
There are many ways to play all the courses at St Andrews Links with a variety of three and seven-day tickets as well as one-off green fees, while the Fairmont Hotel also has golfing packages that are well worth investigating.
Kingsbarns opened just nine years ago, but looks as if has been there as long as the Old Course. While the Old Course has the history, Kingsbarns is infinitely more scenic.
Every single hole has a view of the sea and several run parallel to the shoreline and 12, 13, 14 and 15 stand in comparison with anywhere in the world and would not be out of place at Pebble Beach, Augusta or County Down.
The 12th is a stunning par 5 around the bay with a green that seems to be almost in the sea, a par 3 from a raised tee follows, then a short par 4 with a wicked bunker on the line of the drive. Then there’s another par 3 and this green is in the ocean.
It’s also got a great clubhouse which is comfortable and welcoming with proper golfing grub.