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by Mickey Goodman


It almost seems a sacrilege for an "upstart" resort to be built in the venerable birthplace of golf – St. Andrews, Scotland -- but one look convinced us that St. Andrews Bay will complement rather than compete with the ancient course. With the raw beauty of the 520-acre property, a premier hotel with two restaurants, a state-of-the-art conference center, spa, swimming pool and two top notch courses in the offing, its sure to be a boon to the already robust economy of Fife and to the throngs of golfers who come to golf’s Mecca.

In its hard hat stage of development, the property is still a diamond in the rough, with the facets yet to be polished. The first of two Denis Griffiths-designed courses has sprouted a fuzzy green thatch of newly developed Panoz seed; the 209-bedroom hotel rises like Phoenix from the edge of the sea; the bare bones of the Spa are taking form and the first of ten plush manor homes is in the ‘snagging’ stage. Even in the muck following torrential downpours a few days prior to our visit, the layout of the resort is breathtaking.

Artist's Impression of the Clubhouse
"These God created courses will look as if they’ve been here for 100 years," says Iain MacKinnon, operations manager. Griffiths readily agrees. Though he has developed six other championship courses for St. Andrews Bay entrepreneurs, Dr. Donald and Nancy Panoz, he calls the chance to design not one but two
courses on the property "a once in a lifetime opportunity." He has drawn on the ideals of golfing legend, Gene ‘The Squire’ Sarazen, who helped map out the site before his death last year at age 96. Scottish golfer Sam Torrance, along with Bruce Devlin make up the design team.

Designed to be "thinking (wo)men’s courses," the links at St. Andrews Bay are laid out to be enjoyed by golfers of all ability levels. "The whole exercise is very similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle," explains Griffiths. "The goal is to end up with 18 quality holes, each complementing the other." The 72-par West course covering 6,352 meters, along with the hotel and conference center, will open in July of 2001; the East course and club house, the following year. Both courses will be open to the public, a tradition in a country where golf is "the peoples game."

Even a naysayer would find it impossible not to be swept up in his enthusiasm for what MacKinnon calls "the future premier resort in Scotland." Our tour began by bumping over the Scottish countryside and around the edges of the freshly seeded West course and past the 100+ year old steadings which will be transformed into indoor tennis courts, an indoor golf range, leisure club, pub and restaurant. We passed behind the hotel and spa and slugged through the mud onto the East course. "Do you ever get stuck?" my husband asked. In reply, MacKinnon’s Jeep Grand Cherokee lurched to a halt, tires spinning, totally entrenched in the mire. We awaited rescue by a massive John Deere tractor, distracted by the striking views of the water below.

The new 209 room hotel overlooking the West Course

The 17th and 18th greens of the East course will be perched atop a cliff overlooking the Bay and adjacent to the future club house where a crows nest will offer a 360° panoramic views of St. Andrews’ ancient Cathedral and Castle, the peaks of Grampion Hills and even the Old Course. Special care has been taken to enhance rather than disturb the environment now inhabited by native deer, partridge and grouse and a foot bridge will soon connect the property with a nature preserve bound by an ancient stone wall.

Though St. Andrews Bay will boast two of the area’s finest restaurants, there is also a quaint 17th century stone inn, The Grange, walking distance from the property which offers delightful Scottish fare – venison, beef, salmon -- and a wide selection of ales. The original starter’s box from the Old Course stands sentinel in the charming garden, rescued from destruction by the restaurant’s owners.

View of St. Andrew's Bay
Even in a resort as sublime as St. Andrews Bay, the lure of the Old Course and the ancient city beckon -- and who would resist its call? Once every five years when the Old Course plays host to the British Open, the city of 14,500 bursts with 230,000 golfing fans who fill every hotel within a radius of 60 miles.

The Old Course, built upon fairways made ready by Mother Nature, lies on the edge of the North Sea and anchors the city. Tee times are obtained through a complicated daily ballot with some 50,000 golfers more than eager to cross over the picturesque stone bridge to play the famous course, even in the wee hours of the morning. Those who don’t draw a winning ballot can still claim they’ve been on its hallowed grounds by strolling the links on Sundays, a long-standing tradition.

After watching a number of lucky golfers tee off, we strolled up Golf Place just ‘a 9-iron away’ to Dunvegan Hotel’s Golfers Corner Lounge Bar for a pint of ale and the best Fish ‘n Chips in the area. Next we explored the not-to-be-missed British Golf Museum on Bruce Embankment situated opposite the world famous links and adjacent to the elegant Royal and Ancient Golf Club (the R&A). The museum traces the history of the game through memorabilia and historic data, beginning in the Middle Ages. Our favorite tale recounted the story of King James II who banned golf in 1457 because it kept his royal subjects from their archery practice!

After an easy walk up the narrow streets past St. Salvator’s College, we found the stark ruins of the St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral – circa 1300 -- which stand like ghostly giants with their backs to the sea. As a bagpiper played his mournful tune, we walked through the still-standing spires to the haunting weathered
cemetery, the final resting place for far too many victims of Scotland’s religious wars.

From the ruins, we turned onto Market Street to purchase a little memorabilia of our own and enjoyed a "touch and feel expedition" in shops filled with luscious cashmere sweaters, Scottish silver and pewterware. Though Fife boasts the highest number of sunshiny days in the UK, the Sea Life Aquarium adjacent to the Old Course and the St. Andrews Museum would be fascinating haunts for a rainy day. Within an easy drive of St. Andrews are castles, cathedrals and miles of picturesque Scottish countryside cordoned off by ancient low stone walls, not to mention a dozen additional golf courses.

At day’s end, we found our way to Rusacks Hotel for a delightful salmon dinner and spectacular view of the first tee and 18th hole of the Old Course which lie a window pane away. What better end to a day in this hallowed home of golf?

How to Get To St. Andrews Bay Resort:

From Edinburgh, by train and then a brief taxi ride or by bus directly into town. From Dundee, by bus. If driving from the South, take M90 and turn off at junction 8 to A91. From the North, cross the Tay Bridge at Dundee and follow the signs for St. Andrews and the A91. Once in the town center, travel 2Km east on the A917 St. Andrews-Crail Road. (Once the resort opens in Summer 2001, shuttle service will be available.) For information and reservations:

St. Andrews Bay
Kingask, St. Andrews, Fife
KY16 8PN, Scotland, UK

Phone: +44(0) 1334 472644