Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.Standing at the sink in a public restroom might not be the most likely place for a golf fan to begin thinking about two of this season's remaining majors. But if that sink happens to have "Kohler" written on it, then perhaps it should inspire such thoughts.
Kohler is most commonly known as a manufacturer of plumbing products. But the Kohler company also happens to be building a pretty darn impressive collection of golf holdings. The Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, for one. Obviously, it will be the place to be when The Open Championship comes to The Old Course in July. Whistling Straits, for another, site of the PGA Championship come August.
What's more, the Old Course Hotel's Suite Golf Package, which I've been sampling this week, includes a round on The Duke's Course in St. Andrews — that's right, another Kohler holding. (Also, Kohler has bought Hamilton Hall, the big red building just beyond the 18th green at The Old Course and is in the process of remodeling the property to offer apartment leases.)
So, on Day 3 of my stay at OCH, I added The Duke's to my Scottish golf list.
Earlier this month, The Duke's Course earned the distinction of 2010 "Golf Club of the Year" as presented by the UK's Awards for Business Ltd. The award took into account more than just the quality of the golf course, considering all aspects of the club. David Scott, the club manager, and golf pro Ayden Roberts-Jones both spoke with me at length about how important they feel customer service is in establishing The Duke's among Scotland's premiere golf stops.
Roberts-Jones said when it comes to taking care of members, he believes providing free amenities, such as range balls and the like, add value to the membership that exceed their costs. A good number of American clubs would do well to get closer to Roberts-Jones's philosophy.
It's easy to see that The Duke's would be a rewarding place for St. Andrews residents to own a membership. The course staff revamped most of the back nine to make the holes more playable, and also pushed back the high, eat-your-ball rough on many of the holes. The golf course is still "a beast" as Roberts-Jones put it, especially from the back tees. But golfers of any handicap can still have fun on the course without being beaten to death.
And while it will feel more like an American course to Americans who play there — Scott and I cruised along in a buggy (Scottish for golf cart) during our round — it's easy to remember that The Duke's sits on, or at least near, hallowed golf ground. The course's more scenic views feature The Auld Grey Toon and the sea just off to the north.
That's why it might be the perfect place to play during The Open this summer. A golfer who's lucky enough to book a morning round at The Duke's could play 18 holes before noon while riding along in a buggy, thus saving his or her legs for trekking around The Old Course while watching the pros the rest of the day.(Photo: The Duke's Course feels like an American course, but in case the golfer forgets, there's an impressive view of St. Andrews and the sea from the 18th green.)