World-class golf experiences come in many forms, but some of the finest tees can be discovered at the game’s birthplace.
The United Kingdom’s golf résumé will garner significant attention in the next few golf seasons, as Celtic Manor hosts the 2010 Ryder Cup and Turnberry the 2009 Open Championship. If ever there was a time to make the pilgrimage, that time has come.
If the old Scottish adage is true—“nay wind, nay rain, nay golf”—then golf experiences sans the climatic elements present on the coastal courses of Britain aren’t of the purest form.
Purity reigns supreme at Turnberry, where the charm of Turnberry Lighthouse and the enormity of the distant Ailsa Craig (an island of granite once mined for curling stones) harness a unique ambiguity; most certainly the framework for what golf fantasies are made of. The majestic course itself, serves as the most blissful of distractions for golfers trekking its 7,211 yards. Home to three previous Open Championships, the venue once again assumed this familiar role for the 2009 Open Championship in July.
It’s hard to imagine that the already-perfect historic red-tile roofs that contain Turnberry’s spirit could use any sprucing. However, Leisurecorp, the Dubai World investment company that recently acquired the Turnberry Resort through a £55 million transaction, is halfway through a £30 million refurbishment of the legendary property ahead of the Open Championship.
While Turnberry is under renovation, golfers searching for a place to nest between tee times in the Troon/Ayrshire vicinity can explore another option in the form of historic exclusive-use venues like the Hill House. A 10-bedroom Georgian country manor, the Hill House boasts Ritz-Carlton-caliber touches whilst harnessing privacy and affording the leisure to roam about the entire property as if it were your own. The nearby town of Ayrshire provides an array of dining and entertainment. Stop by the Wheatsheaf Inn for true Scottish cuisine with meat pies and haggis done right.
On the opposite side of the country (which only takes two hours to drive to), is the birthplace of golf and the storybook setting known as the town of St. Andrews. For those who haven’t been, it is not quite the enchanting, charismatic and idyllic golf funhouse others make it out to be. It’s that, times a thousand.
The seventh and youngest course to grace the hollowed grounds of St. Andrews is the Castle Course. David McLay Kidd’s transformation of unexciting potato farms into a links-style layout equipped with blind tee shots, fairways guarded by rutted mounds and magnificent views of the North Sea, are aspects not to be missed. Though brutal if you find yourself out of the fairway, the Castle Course remains a fair test if kept within the short stuff. While the layout in its entirety is quite unlike any other course in St. Andrews, and even in Scotland for that matter, the homestretch of holes has been likened to that of Pebble Beach.