With a plethora of championship courses and breathtaking scenery, the medieval city of St. Andrews, often coined the "home of golf," is one of the top travel golf destinations in the world.
And it just got better.
July will mark the official opening of the Devlin Course, joining the Torrance Course at St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa, which also includes a state-of-the-art clubhouse, health spa, conference rooms and 209 hotel rooms.
Sitting atop a cliff, the two golf courses, each constructed under the watchful eye of the late Gene Sarazen, provide stunning views of St. Andrews' famed Old Course as well as Carnoustie, both sites of the British Open.
The $80 million and 520-acre St. Andrews Bay is the first European venture for the America based Chateau Elan Hotels and Resorts group, headed by pharmaceutical mogul Donald Panoz and his wife Nancy. The Panozes are best known for their expansive resort 30 minutes from Atlanta, which features 63 holes of golf and a 3,500 acre, award-winning winery.
"The resort is the best of both worlds," said Director of Golf John Kelly. "You get the tradition of St. Andrews combined with the service you would get in the United States or at resorts around the world. The full service clubhouse, the accommodating staff, and the golf concierges put St. Andrews Bay a step ahead of other resorts in the United Kingdom."
The par 72, 7,037-yard track was the first course design for European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, and officially opened in October of 2001. Designed exclusively for the walking golfer, the Torrance Course offers beautiful views of the North Sea and the Tay estuary of Carnoustie from the steep cliff-edge tees and greens, including a view of St. Andrews' medieval skyline.
A traditional links course common to the area, the course is a combination of vast, undulating fairways and rolling greens. The view from the clubhouse is one of a mixture of colors, with the brown and green of the rolling slopes complimenting the gentle blue of the water.
"As soon as I saw this setting, I knew we had something special and the opening of the Torrance Course has brought a long-term vision and dream to life," Don Panoz said at the opening of St. Andrews Bay's first course. "The late Gene Sarazen visited the site with me and provided initial sketches and Sam [Torrance] has created a test of golf that can be handed down to future generations."
While golfers will be tested throughout, the final stretch of holes are perhaps the most treacherous and memorable on the Torrance course. The 14th plays directly towards the North Sea, the green sitting on the edge of the cliff.
Turning the corner, the next hole is a 183-yard par three, bordered on the left by the sea, but the main obstacle is the angled green. Swirling winds that change directions often throughout a round, make club selection challenging on this testy hole.
Wind is also a big factor on the par four 17th. Under calm conditions, a left of center drive can leave golfers with a medium length iron to the green; however, against the wind, a long iron or fairway metal may be necessary to hit the green, which is heavily guarded in front by a dangerous gorge.
The pot bunkers, the wispy grass, the swirling winds and the state-of-mind needed to conquer the course give golfers the true feeling of golf in an area so steeped in the tradition of the sport, which in the end was the deciding factor for Torrance.
"I've been asked to design courses previously and said 'no,'" he said. "But it is only once in a lifetime that you get a chance to build a course with such a dramatic settingespecially at St Andrews. This time it had to be 'yes.'"
Bruce Devlin, former Australian amateur champion and winner of eight PGA tour tournaments, will add St. Andrews Bay to his list of global golf architectural achievements when the course opens this summer.
One of the main differences between the Devlin and the Torrance courses is the style. While the latter is a straightforward links course many are used to seeing on television at the British Open, the Devlin Course is the opposite, something uncommon for the region.
Although it can be played on foot, the course is designed for golf carts. While the cliff-edge tees are still plentiful, the sea is more in play, rather than just a part of the scenery, as is the case on most of the Torrance course's holes.
As players prepare to make the turn on the 7, 049 yard, par-71 course, they must first contend with the serene, yet dangerous St. Andrews Bay that runs alongside the 9th hole. And this is only the beginning, as the most memorable visual moments come on the closing holes.
The 17th green is well protected by pot bunkers, but surviving those challenges will land golfers on the putting surface and earn them a view of the water and skyline from the cliff-edge green that Kelly compared to the likes of Pebble Beach and other American sea-side courses.
The same is true on the closing hole, as golfers looking south are greeted with the ocean and the treacherous cliff-edges that are commonplace at the resort.
According to Kelly, the Devlin's courses most dangerous attribute is the fear it strikes in the mind of the golfer.
"The greens on the Torrance course have backdrops that give golfers a sense of depth perception," said Kelly. "But the greens on the Devlin course appear as if they are suspended in midair. You see nothing but the water and the horizon, which makes just about everyone question their club selection and really makes you focus on accuracy. They are very intimidating."
The St. Andrews Bay website publicizes "short breaks a million miles from Monday," but exquisite amenities on and off the golf course may entice visitors to make their stays longer rather than shorter.
From the golf course, the resort looms in the distance like a castle. The natural materials used in its construction give it a sandstone color, which blends well with the overall medieval look of the entire St. Andrews area.
The hotel features 209 fully furnished rooms, 17 of which are suites. The Kingdom of Fife Suite contains its own private balcony with views of St. Andrews, the courses, and the North Sea.
Meanwhile, Manor Homes sit next to the fourth fairway of the Torrance Course, and each house includes four suites, fully equipped with a kitchen, living room, dining room and all the necessary business accommodations.
The six treatment health spa offers guests a chance to revitalize their bodies, drained either from the challenges of the two championship courses or from just daily wear and tear.
And while the construction of golf courses will conclude with the opening of the Devlin course, the resort is far from finished expanding. A large clubhouse, including everything from golf amenities to restaurants, will open in August, while a European-style spa, similar to the ones found in Sweden, is in the works at St. Andrews Bay, and should be completed by 2005.
St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa
St. Andrews, Fife,
Scotland KY16 8PN
Phone: +44 1334 837000
Fax: +44 1334 471115
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
While golf for the masses may be a recent phenomenon in the Czech Republic, that doesn't mean there aren't clubs with a rich tradition and storied history. Take the Golf Resort Karlovy Vary, for example. Dating back to 1904, the course has become a favorite for travelers, locals and especially corporate guests who come from all over Europe. Westerners who take a trip to central Europe, and Prague in particular, may want to consider a side trip to this region. It would be worth it.
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