In St Andrews, where golfing royalty regularly convenes to compete on one of the most internationally recognisable courses in the world, history and tradition come as natural bedfellows when it comes to partaking in a round.
Boasting 42 courses within 12 miles radius, the small Scottish town has developed a revered reputation for its rugged, sea-swept, picturesque courses that have challenged many a professional golfer to their limit over the years, not to mention one or two amateurs too.
To this day, those living in the town can play the Old Lady for a very reasonable rate and members of the general public can apply by ballot to play on the day, as has been custom for decades. On Sundays, the course stays closed thanks to a centuries-old edict that is a sacred part of the traditions, giving the historic land momentary pause as it separates itself from most of its brethren, and that much will never change.
But not everything stays the same in this corner of Scotland. Speaking to Callum Nicoll, the new head of golf and estates at Fairmont St Andrews over a round in tricky conditions, we both agreed that the game has evolved into something more than just thumping a ball across 18 holes. For the modern golfer, it is becoming increasingly important to make it an experience that extends beyond the first and 18th tee, with what happens off the course just as vital as what happens on it.
Torrance and Kittocks: How do they fare?
This is where Torrance and Kittocks, the two 18-hole world-class courses that live within the grounds of Fairmont St Andrews, excel.
The short drive from the hotel to the clubhouse (shuttles available) offers spectacular panoramic views of the coastline, skirting the 9th hole of The Torrance before arriving outside the state-of-the-art driving range and a putting green that overlooks the North Sea.
The courses themselves are, in keeping with many others in the vicinity, quite superb. The greens – often shared – sprawl across rough terrain, offering lines that swing dramatically from one side to the other. The fairways are carpet smooth while the rough is shaggy and coarse. The bunkers are – at times – impossibly difficult and the rolling hills act like magnets for wayward balls.
As such, good golf is rewarded and bad golf is punished, although playing in the winter months can perhaps be kinder to those prone to the odd leftfield shot, with the long rough cut short and perfectly playable from.
@jackpeat00 I travelled from London > St Andrews for a round of golf. #standrews #Heathrow #travel #golf #scotland #fairmonthotel ♬ A Gift Of A Thistle – James Horner
The Kittocks boasts the most number of holes with a coastal view. On the back 9, there is a passage of holes where the scenery is simply stunning and very much in keeping with what one would expect from this part of the world. It has a certain majesty, like it’s puffing its chest out at the beauty it beholds.
Torrance, meanwhile, has more ‘links’ characteristics. The dunes are more pronounced and the fairways are less forgiving. In the past, the course has been selected as a Final Qualifying Venue for the 150th Open and was host to DP World Tour, Hero Open for a second year in 2022. It is, as such, the more challenging of the two, particularly if you’re playing off the back tees when the green is at times only reachable with two perfect shots on some par fours.
Whichever course you play, refreshments will be warmly welcomed after the round concludes, and you will find them in ample supply in the newly-refurbished St Andrews Bar & Grill Restaurant, where sharing platters can be wolfed up alongside cold beers and cool sea views.
18 holes of Golf
Mar-Apr: £75.00 per round
May: £95.00 per round
June to Sep: £130.00 per round
Eating and drinking at the Fairmont
The Fairmont offers a superb array of drinking and dining options. La Cucina sits in the heart of the resort and offers simple, traditional Italian dishes. Classic antipasto nibbles pair well with a glass or two of bubbles, while the more robust Bolognese – consisting of slow-cooked beef and pork – stands up well to a hearty bottle of red.
But my recommendation would be to stick to the local stuff. Kick off the night in Kittocks Den with a superb Old Fashioned using local whiskies or sample the Kittocks Gin, made in conjunction with local distillers, Kingsbarns. From there, you can indulge in a ‘Taste of Scotland’ as you work your way through a superb array of dishes including haggis, neeps and tatties, forage mushroom strudel and a highland venison burger. The fish and chips also really hit the spot after a long round.
In the morning, breakfast is served in The Squire restaurant, where a buffet selection of hot and cold items can be found. Remember, it wouldn’t be a stay in Scotland without sampling some of the local haggis and black pudding. Both can be found as part of the counter selection and pair very well with a few rashers of bacon, sausages and eggs.
Deluxe Sea View Guestrooms
A highlight of any stay at the Fairmont is its stunning deluxe sea view guestrooms, which offer ample space and stunning, panoramic sights. The bathrooms boast deep baths which sooth weary legs after hours out on the windswept coast, while the beds envelop tired bodies after a good dinner and a few warming whiskies have been had.
Deluxe Sea View Guestrooms from £299.00 B&B per night
Of course, it would only be right and proper to make the most of the local area during your stay, and all the delights of St Andrews can be found on your doorstep at the Fairmont. A shuttle service runs regularly to and from the town where the drivers can recommend good local spots to eat, drink and visit.
Elsewhere, the Kingsbarns Distillery – roughly a 10 minute drive away – is worth a visit. They produce their own whisky and gin and you can even partake in a gin making session yourself if you fancy seeing what goes into the process.
In the resort, a golf simulator in the Zephyr Sports Bar ensures that you can play the renowned 18th on the Old Course – even if you can’t get on in person. The spa also offers a range of treatments and there’s good walking to be had down the Fife Coastal Path. In the summer, the hotel will even pack you a luxury backpack picnic to enjoy on the way. It includes all the picnic essentials with blanket, plates, cutlery, glasses, salt & pepper, napkins and full of delicious treats.
Related: Five reasons to consider Dubai for your next golf trip