From Dukes to Castles St Andrews is King

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With all due respect to the Monterey Peninsula, Pinehurst, Melbournes Sandbelt and the eastern end of Long Island ' and much is due to those legendary golf destinations ' another one stands above the rest: St. Andrews, Scotland. Youll see it again when the British Open returns there for the 28th time next summer.
 
Yes, theres the history and the ghosts of all the greats (Old Tom Morris, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead) whose footsteps you will be tracing when you finally get there. But theres so much more to why this small university town of approximately 16,000 residents on Scotlands east coast ' an hours drive north of Edinburgh ' should top the list of any golfers trip list.
 

Top 10 Courses in Scotland
First off, you can (with some planning) play the games most famous course and then choose from a weeks worth of other above-average layouts. You can stroll the compact streets where lifetime residents mix with college students and golf tourists, get a sugar fix at the Fisher & Donaldson bakery on Church Street (try the yum-yums), contemplate swing thoughts along the West Sands beach where scenes from Chariots of Fire were filmed, or get lost in the handful of golf merchandise shops for hours buying souvenirs (start at Auchterlonies, 50 yards away from the 18th green on The Old Course).
 
As for the history angle, check out the British Golf Museum located across the street from the Old Course, or head to the southern end of town to visit the graves of Old and Young Tom Morris, the local father and son duo who captured eight Opens overall between 1861 and 1872.
 
Walking 18 or 36 holes a day will develop a thirst and a hunger; satisfy both at the Dunvegan Hotel, a wedge away from the 18th green at The Old Course, or try the fish and chips at The Jigger Inn, adjacent to the 17th fairway. If you want to go more upscale, theres The Seafood Restaurant or The Russell Hotel, both up The Scores road behind the British Golf Museum. Or take in the panoramic view from the Road Hole Bar at the top of The Old Course Hotel overlooking its namesake.
 
But golf is what youre here for, and you can easily fill up seven days of tee times. Green fees will vary due to season (peak is May to October) and fluctuations in the dollars value, but here are a few you should consider putting on the itinerary:
 
The Old Course
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Youll never be more nervous on a first tee than here, in full view of fellow golfers, locals, tourists, and R&A members gazing out the window of their nearby iconic clubhouse. But thats to be expected ' youre standing on the same hallowed ground where Nicklaus and Woods won British Opens while looking out at 129 yards of fairway that the first and 18th holes share.
 
st. andrews
The first tee at St. Andrews.
Good times go by the fastest, and so will your round here. The combination of history, gorse, wide fairways, deep bunkers and unbelievably wide greens (seven are home to two holes each) will leave you bewitched and bewildered.
 
Remember that on this layout, left is right and right is wrong. Getting a tee time ($215) may be even harder than breaking par; 44,000 rounds were played last year (the adjacent and worth-playing New and Jubilee Courses hosted 36,000 and 33,000 rounds, respectively). You can enter the daily ballot (except for Sundays when the course is closed to play but open to the public for walking purposes), buy an expensive but guaranteed tee time through The Old Course Experience (Website), or get in line at the starters hut before the sun comes up to walk on. No matter how you do it, there are few experiences like it.
 
The Castle Course
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The newest layout in town ($190) debuted a year ago and sparked a strong debate thanks to David Kidds mind-boggling design, so vastly different from its neighbors. Take a look at the before-and-after pictures on the courses Web site to get a better understanding of how his vision took shape.
 
the castle course
The Castle Course is the 7th in the St. Andrews family.
The wild ride (and pricey at just 10 pounds less than The Old Course) includes infinity-edge fairways and greens, blind shots, tumbling and rising fairways, and seriously undulated greens. In fact, a few areas around the latter have been smoothed out a bit to enhance playability while numerous center-of-fairway mounds have also thankfully been removed or relocated.
 
You wont set a personal best or make a daily diet of it, but The Castle Course is like nothing else in town ' plus the views on a clear day are jaw-dropping, thanks to a cliff-top location adjacent to the Fairmont St. Andrews resort.
 
Torrance Course
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After a multi-million-dollar renovation of two courses and a hotel (including refurbished rooms, a new sports bar, and an expanded spa), the 8-year-old Fairmont St. Andrews is now generating renewed interest despite the long shadows cast by its higher-profile neighbors.
 
torrance course at st. andrews
The newly-renovated Fairmont Hotel.
The Torrance Course (originally designed and named for the former Ryder Cup captain; $149) reopens this July with a more definitive links look, and next year will host final qualifying for the Open Championship. Eight holes were re-routed, including two from the adjacent Kittocks Course. Other work included the narrowing of fairways, revetting and rebuilding more than 60 bunkers, and new drainage that is providing more consistent conditions, especially firmer fairways. The aforementioned Kittocks, renamed last year for a wildlife area on the layout and now with two new holes, dazzles the eye a bit more, especially on the back nine, which no longer ends with an anti-climatic par 3. You also might not find a better gourmet dining experience in town than the menu offerings here at the resorts Esperante.
 
Kingsbarns Golf Links
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Rarely has a new course become as highly regarded as Kingsbarns ($266) did upon opening in 2000. Its easy to see why: a stunning coastal location just 10 minutes
kingsbarns
No. 18 at Kingsbarns.
south of St. Andrews, a memorable layout, and the best chili this side of Texas (seriously ' homemade with grated Scottish cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips). A stretch favored by many is the four holes separated from the others by a stand of trees on the south end of the layout: the long par-5 12th that hugs the shoreline, the short par-3 13th, the almost drivable par-4 14th, and the precarious par-3 15th, which requires a carry over water or rocks if the tide is out.
 
Dukes Course
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A completely different golf experience sits 10 minutes away in the hills above St. Andrews at The Dukes Course ($178). Opened in 1995 and originally designed by five-time Open champion Peter Thomson, the course received a facelift completed two years ago after being bought by American Herb Kohler (of Whistling Straits fame who
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Natural bunkering is a distinguishing characteristic of The Dukes Course.
also owns The Old Course Hotel). One of two courses in St. Andrews to offer carts (the other is the Castle Course, but here the wheels are complimentary for hotel guests), The Dukes offers the complete opposite of links golf: a heathland design with fescue-lined fairways and sprawling bunkers.
 
Conditioning has undergone massive enhancements thanks to improved drainage, while the final six holes underwent a total renovation. You wont soon forget the view from the 13th, a short par 4 with panoramic views of the towns ancient skyline and the coast. New green sites here and on the 14th are better fits, while the 15th was reshaped to remove most of what was a seriously uphill fairway. The 16th, a downhill par 3, is brand new, as is the 17th, a dogleg right par 4.