While it's every golfer's dream to play the Old Course, getting a tee time is no easy task. So when you're planning your trip to the hallowed ground of St. Andrews, make sure to leave room in your itinerary for some of the other local gems; namely, the Fairmont St. Andrews courses, the Torrance and Kittocks. The two tracks are certainly worthy of your attention, and with Kingsbarns and all seven St. Andrews courses no more than fifteen minutes away, the Fairmont property is a great "home base" option -- it really is close to everything.
My Scottish golf experience began with a round on the Torrance, a course that was selected to host a 2010 Open Championship qualifier and the 2010 Scottish Senior Open, so I knew I'd have my work cut out for me. As a first-timer in Scotland, I prepared for the worst: I swaddled myself in three long-sleeve layers and a brand new rain suit. Unbelievably, the weather turned out to be perfect. The sun was shining and the wind was down -- a shockingly gentle introduction to the famously brutal elements.
The Torrance is a traditional links-style design with enjoyable carries and pretty benign-looking pot bunkers -- benign, that is, until you land in one. I was cruising along on the front side quite well until the ninth hole, where I under-clubbed my approach to the front pin and landed in the front greenside pot bunker. Undeterred, I opened my blade and took a mighty swing. Sand flew, but the ball thudded back in the bunker, not even close to clearing the lip. I tried again. And again. I won't bore you with the rest of the gory details, but let's just say that without the trusty hand-wedge, I might still be stuck in that forsaken abyss.
My ego bruised, I took the requisite double-bogey (hurray for Equitable Stroke Control!) and managed to finish the round respectably. Thankfully, the back nine was filled with enough gorgeous views of the St. Andrews coastline to take my mind off the possibility of landing in another bunker. The course certainly provides a good test, even from the red tees. I can only imagine how challenging it can be when the elements aren't in your favor.
The day I played the Kittocks course was the sunniest and warmest day of my trip, so I decided to challenge myself by playing the yellow tees, despite the fact that the wind had kicked up a notch. The extra yardage made a huge difference -- I just about wore out my fairway woods and hybrids on approaches, but I loved it. The challenge of the course as a whole can be capably demonstrated by the difficulty of the fourth hole, a par 4: my 220-yard drive left a 200-yard approach that needed to carry over a burn to an elevated green. Oh yes -- and the shot played into the wind. It's a super-tough track, especially for women, but very rewarding aesthetically. The Kittocks certainly has the upper hand on the Torrance in elevation drama, and several more impressive water vistas from the tee boxes. Maybe it was because the sun was shining so brightly, but if I didn't know better, I could have easily convinced myself that I was playing the Kapalua Plantation Course on some holes -- the scenery was that riveting!
The Fairmont St. Andrews hotel itself occupies a stunning and expansive piece of property. With only 209 rooms, however, it manages to maintain a feeling of intimacy, and the staff is wonderful -- friendly and helpful without being overbearing. As far as dining goes, there are several options on-site, but if you're in the mood for a gourmet experience, there's no better place than Esperante. The décor is hip and modern, and if you're a foodie, you will love "A Taste of Esperante," seven courses that can be served with or without wine pairings. No matter what you decide to order, make sure to leave room for the Fairmont's nightly bedside gift: a mini-bottle of Scotch whisky paired with fresh butterscotch fudge -- a delectable way to end the day.
For more information on the Fairmont St. Andrews, log on to Fairmont.com/standrews or call (866) 840-8208. And for information about everything there is to see and do in Scotland, check out VisitScotland.com.