A Rookie In St. Andrews
One writer documents his first visit to the home of golf
July 20, 2015
My first trip to St. Andrews involved a flight into Edinburgh and a bus downtown (where I stopped to see the Edinburgh Castle). From Waverley Station, I took a train to Leuchers Station (about an hour and 15 minutes), where I got off at this stop and took a 15-minute bus ride into the heart of St. Andrews. Piece of cake.
I then set off on foot to find where I'd be staying all week. I learned quickly to be careful when walking on the sidewalks. They're narrow.
It doesn't take long to realize they're really into their golf in St. Andrews. Not that every single person who lives here is obsessed with the game. One longtime resident/waitress had this response when her boss compared the Old Course to the Sistine Chapel: "It's just a bit of grass, isn't it?" I hope she didn't get fired.
Did I mention, they're really into their golf here?
Here's where we were lucky enough to stay for the week, the Bell Craig House. It seems most of St. Andrews is made up of townhouses/B&Bs in which tourists stay. This one happened to be a five-minute walk to the golf course. That was very helpful because guest parking on the streets wasn't allowed and, well, you never know when it's going to start raining.
One of the coolest things about St. Andrews is that no matter where you stay you're within walking distance of the golf -- and the same goes for the players in the Open. I saw Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson finish up their Monday practice rounds and walk right across the 17th hole and into the Old Course Hotel.
In Scotland, bagpipes always seem to be playing. It's nice, but is it a law that the only two songs that instrument can play are "Scotland the Brave" and "Amazing Grace"?
This is the Westport Gate. One of many lovely archways in St. Andrews.
Walk around enough and you'll stumble upon one of the town's betting parlors. When in Rome, right?
Turns out, St. Andrews is as much of a college town as it is a golf mecca. Parts of the University, which was founded in 1432, are spread everywhere. Looks just like the buildings around your college quad, right?
Thanks in large part to that college population, there's plenty of nightlife in St. Andrews -- even during non-Open weeks. Here's a crew of college guys hitting the town on a Thursday night. In short sleeves. It wasn't that warm.
Maybe they were going here. Wait, they show golf highlights all night? This place must get really rowdy.
One of the most popular spots is the Dunvegan hotel. And yes, this photo was taken at night. It doesn't start getting dark here in the summer until after 10 p.m.
And apparently it's pretty easy to find a good old fashioned singalong. This guy belted out a surprisingly good rendition of the Black Eyed Peas' "Where is the Love?"
If you're looking for food, there are plenty of options. Look closely and you'll see a spot that even a picky American eater like myself could feel comfortable with.
Just know that if you want to get take-out, aka "take-away," you have to order from somewhere that is licensed for that (it says this place is right above "home delivery"). Don't worry, you can take food out of Subway.
Just across the street from the Old Course's first tee are the West Sands. It was here that the famous "Chariots of Fire" beach scene was filmed. Why don't the bagpipes ever play that theme music?
I didn't run on the beach, but I ran another 10 minutes away from the course and saw plenty of cool stuff. Here's a pub by the water called The Open Burger.
And about a wedge away from that is the Martyrs' Monument, which honors four protestants who were put to death in the town during the Reformation in the 16th century. Yeah, The Open Burger is a slightly more fun spot.
I kept going along the coast and came across the ruins of the St. Andrews Castle and the St. Andrews Cathedral.
Another look at the ancient structure that overlooks the North Sea.
The cathedral was built in 1158 and was the center of the Catholic Church in Scotland during the middle ages.
Of note to golfers, the cathedral's cemetery contains the graves of Old Tom (below) and Young Tom (above) Morris. It's a pretty easy spot to find because people are usually visiting and leaving stuff by these two legends' tombstones. Old Tom probably could have done some damage with that new Titleist.
Speaking of Old Tom, the Old Course he helped design in this old town is pretty cool, too.
With the course running right along town, you can walk by the 18th hole right from the street. . .
And you don't even need tickets to have a great view of the action. What a cool place.
"Just a bit of grass?" Sorry, but I have to disagree.