I’m kicking myself for not trying harder to play golf here. – Brady Nichols
That sentence was uttered several times throughout the day. But why? This isn’t your typical golf course. We were in St Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf, walking on the Old Course, the oldest golf course in the world.
FUN FACT: The Open Championship has been played on the Old Course 29 times.
We caught a plane from Dublin to Edinburgh and sat impatiently at Waverley Station awaiting our train’s departure to St. Andrews. An hour later, our train stopped in Leuchars and we took a ten-minute cab ride into St. Andrews. We checked into our accommodations for the night, The Golf Inn, and the manager showed us to our room, one of just six in the hotel.
Bundling up in scarves and rain jackets, we ventured out in to the cold, blustery, wet evening to explore. We walked along the road in front of the sea burying our faces in our hoods to block the wind. Much to our disbelief, there were actually people golfing! I guess when you’re playing one of the most famous golf courses in the world, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like; you play. After about 20 minutes of walking, we were pretty well frozen so we grabbed a bite to eat and then went back to our hotel for a few pints. Brady began conversing with an older gentleman whose accent would’ve been hard to understand on a good day and even harder to understand since he was sloshed. Despite the heavy accent, we found out this man is a caddy at the Old Course. Brady took his number and was told if he ever wanted to come play the Old Course to call and he could get Brady on. This was the first time I heard, “I’m kicking myself for not trying harder to play golf here.”
The next morning we had reservations to take a guided walking tour of the Old Course. When I pulled back the curtains, I muttered a string of cuss words. It was raining, foggy, and a horrible wind was blowing right off the North Sea. Once again, we bundled up and walked the 100-yards down to the Old Course Pavilion for our walking tour.
FUN FACT: 45,000 rounds of golf are played on the Old Course each year.
Our hour-long tour took us around the 1st, 17th and 18th holes of the Old Course. Our guide talked about the history of the Old Course, believed to date back to the 12th century. We also got to stop for a photo-op at the famous Swilcan Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the world dating back to the 13th century, as well as the Road-Hole bunker located on the 17th hole. After the tour, we were given a souvenir score card and golf ball at the pro shop (included in the price of the tour).
“I’m kicking myself for not trying harder to play golf here,” Brady mumbled.
Maybe next time, Brady!
So, how exactly do you get to play the Old Course? First, the green fee is £175 during high season. Oh, players also must have the following handicap: 24 for men and 36 for women. If that’s not enough, an application must be filled out and applicants will receive a ballot (lottery) to determine the order of allocations. Because of the high demand to play this course, tee times cannot be offered to every applicant. Nearly half of the total tee times on the Old Course are allocated to the ballot to give those unable to book a chance to play. It is drawn 48 hours in advance and the golfers information must be provided before 2 P.M., 48 hours before the day they wish to play. But don’t worry, there are 7 courses that make up St. Andrews Links, so even if you can’t play the Old Course, there are 6 other courses to choose from! You can find out more on how to book all the courses here.
After some souvenir buying and lunch, we had a few hours to kill before catching our train back to Edinburgh, so we set off to explore the town. We took in the beautiful architecture of St. Andrews University and explored St. Andrews Cathedral (built in 1158) and Kirkyard. Not having enough time to take a tour, we stopped outside St. Andrews Castle for some pictures. This castles dates back to the 13th century and the tour also includes a 16th century underground siege mine, counter-mine, and ‘bottle dungeon.’
Sadly, we only had an overnight stay scheduled in St. Andrews before heading off to explore Edinburgh for the week. Even though I don’t golf, I would gladly have stayed here a few more nights. Our accommodations were fantastic and everyone we talked to was very nice and more than helpful. If you’re going to be in Edinburgh, St. Andrews is definitely worth an overnight visit.
We’ve been home for a little over a month now and every so often, Brady still says, “I’m kicking myself for not trying harder to play golf there.” I think he needs to go back and play so I can tag along.
CHECK IT OUT!
The Golf Inn: King w/ breakfast from £159/night. Hotel has luggage storage.
Things to see/do
Old Course Walking Tour: Tickets are £10 per person
St. Andrews Castle: Tickets from £3.30 per person
St. Andrews Cathedral: Free but cost £4.50 per person to climb St. Rules Tower
British Golf Museum: Tickets are £7.00 per person
Tom Morris Golf Shop: Oldest golf shop in the world, opened in 1866
From Edinburgh’s Waverley Station & Haymarket Station, take the train towards Aberdeen and get off in Leuchars. From Leuchars, catch a taxi to St. Andrews. It is approx. a 10-minute taxi ride and will cost around £12.