Scottish Links Golf, Awesome and Democratic for golfers of all kinds.
By Art Stricklin
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - American golfers hopefully watching this year's Open Championship (never the British Open on this side of the Pond) will undoubtedly have the urge to find the mystery and challenge which is true Scottish links golf for them.
Not only is the Open never, ever played at a truly private club which is off limits to the general public (just try playing at strictly private Oakmont, Pine Valley or Cypress Point or Winged Foot, site of this year's U.S. Open), but there are always adding new Scottish entries into the public golf arena.
Scotland, with its dazzling variety of world class courses in a country smaller than Texas, isn't known as the birthplace of golf for nothing.
Here, the grand game is truly showcased in its most democratic sense. That's democratic with a little "d". Not in the political sense, but great golf open to anyone with the correct green fee, handicap card and chance to book a tee time.
Never has more world class golf been so accessible to the common golfer at a price roughly half of what most similar U.S. courses charge.
Don't spend time wondering why that is or wishing it was that way in the U.S., just enjoy and appreciate it here
While golf has been played here for more than 500 years, two of the newest developments are also some of the most promising.
The Links Trust, which owns and operates all the public golf in St. Andrews, opened its latest course in early 2008, known as the Castle Course.
Designed by David McLay Kidd, who did the outstanding work on the first Bandon Dunes layout in Southern Oregon, was tapped as the architect on the par 71 layout.
After touring the links land with seven Oceanside holes and views of the water from every green or tee, it may be one of the most dramatic settings for golf anywhere in Scotland, especially in the golf rich St. Andrews area.
Reservations are being taken and views of this course, located roughly two miles from the center of St. Andrews, should guarantee a rush to the first tee as the news gets out how great this course should be.
The second promising development is coincidentally located right next door to the Castle Course in the form of the Fairmont St. Andrews Scotland.
While the hotel itself was opened in 2001, the savvy golf operators at Fairmont didn't take over until the summer of 2006, but positive changes in the 209-room hotel itself and its 36-hole golf facility can already be clearly seen.
The Fairmont St. Andrews is a huge upgrade from the dozens of local bed and breakfasts which populate the area and stands along with the somewhat stuffy Old Course Hotel as the true luxury hotels in the area.
One advantage Fairmont has is its location halfway between St. Andrews and the excellent public, non Links Trust courses of Kingsbarns and Crail.
The on-site courses at the Fairmont, the Par 72 Devlin and Torrance courses aren't bad either. Both opened in 2002 and 2003 just after the hotel itself came on line and share much of the dramatic property which was claimed by the Castle Course.
For the true golf purist the sight of buggies, better known as golf carts in the U.S., might cause one to grimace, but it also entered into a recent partnership with the St. Andrews Golf Academy, a huge upgrade from when most Scottish courses had no practice facilities.
It would be sinful, at least in the golf sense, to come to St. Andrews and not try to play the Old Course, acknowledged worldwide as the birthplace of golf.
The par 72 masterpiece, laid out in part by Old Tom Morris with a good assist from Mother Nature has challenged centuries of golfers with its truly hidden links challenge.
A caddy is a real must for the first time player if for no other reason than to point you in the right direction on some of the holes. Every hole has a famous story or historic vibe, and it's impossible to be a real lover of the game and play here without feeling your hair tingle or getting chill bumps at some point during the round.
Once again the Scottish sense of public access plays into your favor. You can pre-book an advance tee time here, but there are a few hours open every day for walk-up business, or what is known as The Ballot.
You simply submit your name to the St. Andrews Links Trust website, 48 hours before you want to play, online or in person, and your chances are fair, good, if not excellent depending on the time of year, of stepping to the first tee the next day.
In a recent Scotland Trip, I combined one pre-booked round with one Ballot tee time for two rounds in three days. An unbelievable golfing treat.
Kingsbarns, a seaside design by Kyle Phillps the next town over from St. Andrews, which opened in 1995, is actually more expensive than the Old Course. But those who have played both regularly don't think you're being over priced at all.
Crail, two miles from Kingbarns, six miles from St. Andrews, offers one of the most dramatic opening holes in the entire country.
Carnoustie, which confounds the world's best golfers in the Open Rota, is open to all along with nearby Panmure, which was the secret practice spot of Ben Hogan before the Texan made his one and only trip here to win the 1953 Open at Carnoustie.
It's a golf pilgrimage every golfer must make at least once. After watching this year's Open on TV, and hearing about the many golf-related attractions, when the current restrictions are lifted, it's as good or better a time as any.
Revised: 04/06/2020 - Article Viewed 8,332 Times
About: Art Stricklin
Art Stricklin has covered every professional and most major amateur golf tournaments in the state of Texas. He has covered both the Byron Nelson and Colonial PGA Tour events for the last quarter century, plus the Texas and Houston Open more than a decade. He has covered every Champions Tour event in the state along with the Nationwide and LPGA Lone Star tournaments.
On the national scene, he has achieved the domestic grand slam, covering the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships on multiple occasions along with the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and dozens of other professional golf events.
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