St. Andrews, site of this week’s British Open, is a magical place. Upon arriving in “The Olde Grey Towne,” the mystique is both palpable and unique. What contributes to the aura of St. Andrews is that this is a small college town, inhabited by the oldest university in Scotland.
St. Andrews is lined with cobbled stone roads, centuries old wood and stone buildings, pubs, apartments, golf shops, cafes … and more pubs. It’s oddly tranquil yet strikingly busy. As you arrive in town, seeking your quaint hotel or bed and breakfast, the immediate sense is that this is a special place. After settling in and deciding to explore, your inner map pulls you towards the Old Course. It seems all roads lead to the 18th green.
Approaching the hallowed ground for the first time, looking out towards the Old Course Hotel while standing in front of the Hamilton Grand, to your right the magnificent and iconic R&A clubhouse, there is a strange sense that fills you: you’re at the home of golf, and you feel at home. Golf here does not seem primed for the elite; it is for all who love this game and enjoy this old-world town. What an overwhelming experience it is to hit your first tee ball from the base of the town, play the links and return on eighteen, back to the warm and welcoming buildings. People out for a stroll stop above the eighteenth green to watch the players come in; hit a good shot or sink a difficult putt, and they’ll even clap for you.
St. Andrews elicits the feeling that this is how golf was meant to – and ought to – be played. It is a place for those who live
orstudy here to gather and socialize, and for visitors to play where it all began, this game that teaches us so much about ourselves.
A surprise for Americans is that citizens of the town can freely walk the course at any time (beware of the errant shots!). Locals walk their dogs on the many paths, while tourists snap photos and casually stroll the linksland. As the golf ends during dusk, a walk down the first and second holes and back down seventeen and eighteen, instills calmness and total inner peace – you are completely captured in the moment. The R&A lit in gold, the beauty of the Hamilton Grand, and the lights from the windows of the shops and hotels that line the 18th fairway, provide just enough illumination to reveal the bumps and hollows of the 18th hole. It is one of the special moments of a golfer’s life. Take as many pictures as you want – they will never capture the feeling of standing there live, in awe of the beauty that is St. Andrews.