INSIDE: The Old Course, Hole-by-Hole; Other Courses; Where to Stay; Where to Dine; Where to Drink; The Best Off-course Plays
Returning to St. Andrews for the 2000 British Open will be like going home. Along with winning the 1991 PGA Championship, at Crooked Stick, winning my second major on the Old Course in 1995 ranks as my proudest achievement in golf. It's really something to see my name on the claret jug trophy beside all the past champions. I also think it's pretty cool that the last time the Open was held at the birthplace of golf it was won by a nontraditionalist like me.
I don't know what it is, but I just feel comfortable at St. Andrews. The fans make you feel like they really appreciate what you've accomplished. An added attraction for me is that you can get chocolate chip muffins at the Old Course; they're the good kind, just like the ones they sell in the Shell stations back home in Arkansas.
A lot of people have pointed out that St. Andrews seems to suit my game more than many of the courses on the PGA Tour, and I couldn't agree more. The wide fairways accommodate my grip-it-and-rip-it style off the tee. But there's also a more subtle aspect that's often overlooked. Except for a handful of holes, you can miss the fairways left all day long. Because of the way the nines are routed going out and coming in, most of the trouble spots — the beach, the out-of-bounds walls, the gorse and the heather — are on the right side. And when I miss a drive, I usually miss it left.
Unlike most PGA Tour courses, which consist of four par fives and four par threes, the Old Course (7,115 yards, par seventy-two) has only two par fives and two par threes. That setup would seem to favor short hitters, but during the four rounds of the 1995 Open, I drove six par-four holes — three, nine, ten, twelve, sixteen and eighteen.
I've heard that the folks at St. Andrews are "Daly-proofing" the Old Course for this year's Open by lengthening some par fours. Number fifteen, which used to measure 413 yards, will now play 456 yards. Number sixteen, which was drivable for me downwind at 382 yards, is going to be a 424-yarder. Although the added yardage will make both these holes a lot tougher, I figure long hitters like Tiger Woods, David Duval and me will still have an advantage over the rest of the field.
Another feature of the Old Course that plays to one of my strengths is the fact that there are six double greens shared by twelve of the holes. Remembering which holes share which greens is pretty easy because the numbers always add up to eighteen (the second and sixteenth, the third and fifteenth, the fourth and fourteenth, the fifth and thirteenth, the sixth and twelfth, the eighth and tenth). The double greens offer big targets: Most of them are about the size of a Canadian football field. But they can also leave you with some unbelievably long putts. Fortunately the greatest asset of my game has always been lag putting. During the second round in 1995, I was faced with three putts of more than a hundred feet and one putt that was close to two hundred feet long. I got down in two all four times.
Then, of course, there's the wind.
In 1995, it blew hard the first three days, then started howling fifty miles per hour on Sunday. Costantino Rocca and I were tied at 282, only six under par, at the end of regulation, and I probably would have shot a much higher score if it hadn't been for a great tip Jack Nicklaus gave me two years earlier at Royal St. Georges. Back then, I always tried to fight the wind, hitting a cut when it was blowing right to left, hitting a draw when it was blowing left to right. Jack said, "John, just let the wind be your friend." So I quit fighting the wind and started riding it. If the wind was blowing hard from right to left, I'd just aim way right and let the wind blow the ball back to the target. Sometimes at St. Andrews I'd aim as much as thirty yards out of bounds.
Whatever happens this year, it'll be hard to top the drama of the 1995 Open. When Rocca chili-dipped his approach on eighteen and then sank a sixty-five-foot birdie putt through the Valley of Sin to tie me and force a four-hole play-off, my heart sank. But I tried to channel all my emotions into positive thoughts. It wasn't until I was marching down the fairway on eighteen with a five-shot lead that I realized I was going to be the 124th British Open champion.
If you've followed the Tour even casually, you know I've been through a lot in my personal life since 1995. But I plan to be at the top of my game at St. Andrews. Only three things worry me about returning to Scotland for the 2000 Open. One is that I hate flying; I looked into taking a cruise ship, but the trip takes a whole week, which is just too long. The other two things that concern me have to do with the trophy. When I was flying back from the Open in 1995, I got really paranoid carrying the claret jug on the plane. I was afraid something might happen to it or someone might try to steal it. Also, when I returned the trophy after a year, they made me pay to get a replica, which I think is wrong.
THE OLD COURSE, HOLE-BY-HOLE
1st Hole: 376 Yards, Par Four.
The opening hole on the Old Course is one of many places where you can miss your tee shot left. The first and the eighteenth share a huge double fairway, but there's out-of-bounds and beach to the right. Most players keep their drivers in the bag because Swilcan Burn loops in front of the green about 250 yards out. I hit anywhere from a one- to a three-iron off the tee. The ball rolls forever over there. If the pin's up front next to the burn, you can have an extremely tricky second shot.
2nd Hole: 413 Yards, Par Four.
Downwind, the second hole is almost drivable. Even against the wind, I usually have no more than thirty or forty yards for my second shot. Number two has the first of the six double greens, and you're in trouble if your second shot falls short and left between a pair of mounds near the sixteenth-hole side — which is what both Rocca and I did in the play-off.
3rd Hole: 397 Yards, Par Four.
This hole's also drivable for me downwind, but you've got to be careful of the Cartgate Bunker on the left, which hooks around in the shape of a croissant. I hit my drive onto the front edge of the green in round one in 1995 and two-putted from more than one hundred feet for a birdie.
4th Hole: 464 Yards, Par Four.
This is a great hole. There's a wall that's OB on the right and a small pot bun-ker in the middle of the landing area on the left about 305 yards out. With the wind, you can reach that bunker because you get so much roll. But the hole usually plays against the wind, which means a good drive can still leave a full six-iron to the green.
5th Hole: 568 Yards, Par Five.
Hit the fairway on the fifth hole with a decent drive and you can get home pretty easily on your second shot. You have to funnel the ball between the two fairway bunkers about seventy yards in front of the green, after which there's a deep swale. If this hole's playing upwind, you must be careful not to tee off into one of the seven pot bunkers on the right of the fairway — you can only chip out. Then you still have a two-iron to the green.
6th Hole: 412 Yards, Par Four.
This is only a medium-length par four, and if the wind isn't blowing, you have a good chance at birdie here. But there aren't too many days when the wind isn't blowing on the Old Course, and most of the time it's against you on the sixth. During the final round in 1995, when the wind was howling fifty miles per hour, I had to hit a driver and a three-iron to reach the green. I felt lucky to come away with a par.
7th Hole: 388 Yards, Par Four.
The seventh can be a pretty easy par four, but you have sort of a blind tee shot because there's a thick row of gorse and heather on the right side that runs out about 250 yards. When the prevailing wind's quartering against you from the left, that stuff can come into play if you hit a little heel cut off the tee. I usually go with a driver or a one-iron here and try to keep the ball left, away from the shrubs. Then you'll have a lob wedge into the green. This is the start of what folks call "the loop," a series of four short par fours and two par threes that form a circle, and it's probably the best place on the course to pick up birdies.
8th Hole: 175 Yards, Par Three.
Number eight is a really good short hole because of the wind, which is usually howling hard from right to left. You can play anywhere from a nine-iron to a knock-down four-iron on this hole. In the final round in 1995, I aimed fifty yards to the right of the pin and hit a solid eight-iron to about twelve feet to set up a birdie.
9th Hole: 352 Yards, Par Four.
A lot of guys can drive this green, especially when the wind is at their backs, and I birdied it twice in 1995. But this is one hole where you usually can't get away with a pull or a snap hook off the tee because there's a bunch of heather on the left side. I got a huge break here in the final round last time. I yanked my drive way left, but the ball ended up on a cart path between the shrubs. I could've been in that stuff for days. Instead, I just had a lob wedge to the green, and I made a par that kept me at the top of the leaderboard.
10th Hole: 379 Yards, Par Four.
Bobby Jones won the British Amateur leg of his Grand Slam on the Old Course in 1930, and they named the tenth hole after him when he died in 1971. Again, you can't hit your tee shot to the left because there's a row of heather and gorse, but you've also got to look out for the four little fairway bunkers on the right side.
11th Hole: 174 Yards, Par Three.
This is a great hole. It's normally just a seven-iron or an eight-iron for me if there's not much wind, but I've hit a three-iron against the wind. The pot bunker in front can be really brutal, especially when the pin's cut on the right side, because the green slopes away from you. In 1995, I played this hole in one under par, and as a result, I probably picked up three to four shots on the field.
12th Hole: 314 Yards, Par Four.
The last hole in "the loop" is another drivable par four, but you can't hook your tee ball too much because there's another line of shrubs on the left. I birdied this hole three times in '95, and two of those were pretty spectacular. One time, I drove a one-iron over the green, chipped back over the front edge, then chipped in. Another time, I hit a one-iron so far left I wound up by the pin on number six. I had 186 feet back to the pin on number twelve, and I two-putted for birdie.
13th Hole: 430 Yards, Par Four.
The landing area on number thirteen is sort of a little neck with shrubs on both sides, so I usually lay up with a three-iron or a four-iron off the tee. That leaves me anywhere from a wedge to an eight-iron to the green. But when the pin's cut on the right side, I always play to make a par here because the green falls off to the right, and there's a bunker in front and four more bunkers in back.
14th Hole: 581 Yards, Par Five.
The fourteenth hole is a very reachable par five because it usually plays downwind. I birdied it three times in 1995, but it can swallow you up if you leave your second shot in Hell Bunker, which is about ninety yards short of the green. In the first round that same year, Jack Nicklaus took four shots to get out of Hell Bunker and ended up with a ten. (He still made the cut, which is pretty remarkable.) I always try to hit my drive way over to the left, into the seventh fairway, because the fourteenth green slopes off to the right and there's a ridge in front that can kick the ball hard right. I've gotten home in two on this hole with a seven-iron.
15th Hole: 456 Yards, Par Four.
Number fifteen is going to be a tough, tough hole in this year's Open. Back in 1995, I hit anywhere from a two-iron to a driver off the tee and aimed for the rough on the far left. If you're long enough, the grass isn't too thick over there. You also take the out-of-bounds on the right and the three bunkers in the middle of the fairway out of play. But St. Andrews is lengthening the fifteenth by forty-three yards, so I may have to lay up with an iron off the tee, which will leave me with a second shot of more than two hundred yards.
16th Hole: 424 Yards, Par Four.
As with fifteen, the sixteenth is also being lengthened this year — by forty-two yards. So I won't be able to get away with driving into the left rough beyond those bunkers because the grass is really thick in there. The added yardage will also bring the cluster of three bunkers called the Principal's Nose into play off the tee.
17th Hole: 455 Yards, Par Four.
The Road Hole doglegs sharply right, and it's the hardest par four in the world. I know because I played it three over par for the week in 1995. When there's no wind, I try to drive over the word "Old" on the old course hotel sign that's in front of the tee box to the right. But when the wind's howling from right to left, I aim thirty yards out of bounds — and still hit a cut! If you end up with a good drive, go for the right side of the green and try to run it up with a draw. Just avoid that damn greenside pot bunker! I hit my ball in there in the final round of 1995, and I couldn't even aim straight for the pin because my ball was lying near the face of the bunker, the pin was tucked close by and the green rolls off to the right toward a stone wall. I aimed way left and blasted one twenty-five feet from the pin to set up a two-putt bogey. That shot saved the tournament. A double bogey would've been a disaster.
18th Hole: 357 Yards, Par Four.
The eighteenth is named after Old Tom Morris, the famous pro whose shop still stands across the street from the fairway. Everybody thinks the eighteenth's a birdie hole because lots of guys can drive the green or come close. But if you drive short of the green, your chip shot is really tough because it's usually downwind and you've got to play over that deep depression known as the Valley of Sin. I got the greatest break of the tournament here in the third round in 1995. I drove all the way over the green and up the steps in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse. But then the ball came back down the steps and ended up about one foot in bounds. I got down in two for a birdie. I also came close to having a heart attack as I sat beside the eighteenth in 1995 and watched Rocca drain that improbable birdie putt through the Valley of Sin to force a play-off. I'm hoping to have at least a two- or three-shot lead this year just in case something like that happens again.
WHERE ELSE TO PLAY
Want to play the Old Course?Get in line. The St. Andrews Links Trust has a list stretching into the summer of 2005. However, the Trust reserves about half the tee times for a daily ballot — entries by 2 p.m., winners drawn at 4 p.m. for the following day's play. From June to September, you've got about a one-in-twelve chance of getting on — odds that will no doubt get worse as more hotels go up here.
So, what's a pilgrim to do?A number of tour companies include the Old Course in their Scotland packages. Among the best is InterGolf (800-468-0051), which for roughly $3,500 gets you to Scotland and onto the Old Course and other fabled Scottish links over ten days. You can also contact the Old Course Experience (888-390-1811). Through an exclusive deal with the Trust, the Experience offers prime tee times plus two-night stays at the Old Course Hotel or comparable digs for roughly $2,000 (airfare not included). Then again, you could go in November or March, pay the $135 green fee and have your own Old Course experience. The bloom may be off the gorse, but you'll be in clover.
The New Course
Don't make the mistake of thinking the Old is superior to the New. Old Tom Morris designed the latter in 1883. Lying along the seaward side of the Old, it is regarded by locals as a harder, truer test than its showy neighbor. Pilmour House, St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-466666.
Ten miles north of St. Andrews sits a hidden gem. Founded in 1817 and redesigned by James Braid in 1904, Scotscraig is the ultimate in hybrid golf: links, heathland and parkland. It puts a premium on accuracy over length, and memorability over hype. Golf Rd., Tayport, Fife (secretary, Barry Liddle), 011-44-1382-552515.
The Crail Golfing Society plays on the Balcomie links and dates to 1786. Twelve miles from St. Andrews, the treeless links roll over tight fairways and slope down to the beach. There's a second eighteen (Craighead links), but stick with the first. Crail Golfing Society, Crail, Fife (secretary, Jim Horsfield), 011-44-1333-450686.
Lundin Golf Club
On a beach in the Bahamas, one former touring pro dreamed of playing Lundin in the rain. That's fame. This Open qualifying test has the truest greens in the game. Golf Rd., Lundin (secretary, David Thompson), 011-44-1333-320202.
Almost four miles from the St. Andrews coast at Craigtoun, The Dukes is a parkland design by five-time Open winner Peter Thompson. There are terrific panoramic views of the town and the sea and north into the Grampians. The Dukes belongs to the Old Course Hotel, St. Andrews (secretary, Stephen Toon), 011-44-1334-474371.
WHERE TO STAY
The Old Hotel's New Wing
The five-star Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa has just unveiled an eight-million-dollar expansion, which extends the hotel's frontage along the seventeenth fairway of the Old Course, with views of the Old, New and Jubilee layouts. Each of the new rooms and suites (the hotel now has 146 total) has French windows with ground-floor garden access and a balcony off the sitting area. Noteworthy is the trio of new 270-square-foot deluxe suites, which offer a 240-degree-angle view of the first tee of the Old Course across to the beach and all six links courses. Each wood-lined suite has a raised dining area, cozy fireplace and whirlpool spa for two. For more information, call Leading Hotels of the World, 800-223-6800.
A half hour from St. Andrews, this private estate features a Georgian mansion with grand rooms and comfortable period furniture. Minimalists, stay clear. The grounds include a par-seventy-one golf course. Markinch, Fife (managing director, Alan Russell), 011-44-1592-610066.
Rufflets Country House
A hotel on the outskirts of St. Andrews, Rufflets has ten acres of formal gardens, including a minireplica of the Swilcan Bridge. Strathkinnes Low Rd., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-472594.
The Old Station
This recently opened new-generation guest house has all the ambitions of a hotel with none of the ceremony. Set in two acres of gardens on the outskirts of St. Andrews, the conversion of the Old Station, with six en suite bedrooms, has an Edwardian, country feel. Stravithie Bridge, St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-880505.
WHERE TO DINE
Sands and The Road Hole Grill
The opening of Sands in the Old Course Hotel last year heralded a revolution in the town that has now seen the opening of West Port (see below). Sands offers all-day dining, sushi-inspired tapas, minimalist decor — and an alternative to the Road Hole Grill, which has a gourmet dining room overlooking the courses, the town and the sea. For both, call 011-44-1334-474371.
This restaurant's understated decor and modern cuisine shook the establishment when it opened this year. Chef Alan Mathieson's adventurous entrees include pan-fried halibut with leek rondelles. 170-172 South St., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-473186.
The Seafood Restaurant
In the fishing village of St. Monans, this exquisite restaurant prepares fresh fish with sauces like spicy Thai coconut, and chili salsa. Director Tim Butler has a strong wine list, with good half bottles in case golf has to follow. 16 West End, St. Monans, 011-44-1333-730327.
The Peat Inn
This restaurant has had problems, but chef David Wilson's inventive cooking still matches his sterling reputation. Cupar, Fife, 011-44-1334-840206.
The Doll's House
This candlelit brasserie offers good food, including such Scottish-fusion dishes as grilled black pudding. Church Sq., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-477422.
WHERE TO DRINK
The Jigger Inn
This small white cottage at the edge of the Old Course Hotel was once the haunt of caddies. The old place is too clinically neat for its own good, but there's magic in the air when it's really busy.
The Road Hole Bar
Here, on the penthouse floor of the Old Course Hotel, the "auld alliance" between Scotland and France comes in the shape of bar manager Regis Lemaitre. The bar has 150-plus malts. Regis, though hard-nosed Scots are reluctant to admit it, is the man. Order a dram from this Frenchman and see why.
This student pub has a solid range of beers and no pretensions to being "old and traditional." South St., St. Andrews.
THE BEST OF ST. ANDREWS
Scottish insider James Cusick reveals the best off-course plays in the Old Town.
New Private Club
The St. Andrews Golfing Society is a members club, housed in the Gateway building, with a gym, sauna and whirlpool. It has three restaurants and many bar and cigar-bar areas. Its balconies have views across the St. Andrews courses. The Society has access to selected tee times at Kingsbarns, with networks expected to link into other local courses. The Gateway, St. Andrews, 877-302-1325.
At the musty Quarto Bookshop, you'll find such rarities as W. G. Simpson's 1887 The Art of Golf, the first book with photographs of the swing. And if you don't see it, just ask Mrs. Margaret Squires. 8 Golf Pl., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-474616.
Pay your respects to golf's great champions at Cathedral Burial Ground. Buy a map of the Graves of the Golfing Greats and see the final lies of legends Allan Robertson and both Tom Morrises.
The Original Witches Tour of St. Andrews is a nighttime walk around the old town, where the "jumpers oot" will scare the hell out of you. 3a Drybriggs, Balgarvie, Cupar, 011-44-1334-655057.
Tastings of classic malts, a stash of more than five hundred whiskies and a savvy staff make Luvians Bottleshop essential to any connoisseur. If this shop hasn't got it, it'll get it. 66 Market St., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-477752.
Butler & Company is a treasure trove of local and international specialties. Speak to owner Angela Butler—whose family runs the Seafood Restaurant—for quality local fare, such as Bishop Kennedy cheese. 10 Church St., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-470077.
Fish & Chips
Among those in the know, Murray's Chippy—a mobile fish-and-chips shop—uses the freshest fish in the area. Look for the white van with purple writing.
B. Jannetta, opposite the Byre Theatre, features fifty-two flavors, including the local speciality, Irn Bru sorbet. 31 South St., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-473285.
Ask for table 104, 105 or 106 at the Rusacks Hotel. Sit down to afternoon tea on crisp linen tablecloths and look out over the home hole of the Old Course. Pilmour Links, St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-474321.
£25 ($43) You Can Spend
You can only "request" a caddie for the Old Course. So speak very, very nicely to the caddie manager, Richard MacKenzie. On the maze that is the Old Course, this is money well spent. 011-44-1334-466666.
No-Nonsense Golf Lesson
PGA pro Bill Murray is an old-school Scot. Loud, direct, full of stories and thoroughly knowledgeable. "If ye can see the damn thing, it's a seven-iron. If ye canna see it, it's a five." 011-44-1382-543339.
From the harbor at Anstruther, a forty-five-minute ride brings you to the wee Isle of May, a major bird sanctuary and nature reserve. Coastguards House, 12 Shore Rd., Anstruther, 011-44-1333-310103.
Good Walk Unspoiled
The Chain Walk at Elie is best described as a "headland scramble." Hand- and footholds are carved into the coastal rocks. Chains are attached to the rocks, assisting you as you make your way. Purchase Owen Silver's Fife and Kinross-shire Walks from the St. Andrews Tourist Office.
During the Cold War, the U.K. government built The Secret Bunker, a concrete labyrinth one hundred feet down. Enter through a farmhouse cottage and find cinemas, a café and the RAF command center, all basically intact. Take the B9131 toward Anstruther. Follow the brown thistle signs.
The Scottish National Golf Centre, at Drumoig, includes indoor golf facilities such as a full-size pitching area with water hazards and bunkers. 011-44-1382-541144.
The New Picture House is more Last Picture Show than multiplex. They don't make them like this anymore. North St., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-473509.
Place to Find History
The great thing about The British Golf Museum is that after going, you walk outside and see that little has changed from the old pictures. Bruce Embankment, St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-478880.
Place to Buy History
Auchterlonies of St. Andrews has been making and collecting clubs since 1895. Old clubs start at about $61. Golf Pl., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-475993.
Place to Make History
Chipped in from the Valley of Sin?Birdied the Road Hole?The St. Andrews Links Trust will make an iron plaque with the St. Andrews logo, your name and a description of your feat ($460). 011-44-1334-466666.
Way to Relive History
The Links Trust can arrange a video record of you playing the Old Course's first and last holes. The action is edited overnight ($265 per person). 011-44-1334-466671.
Claret Jug Replica
The Old Course Hotel jewelers make a silver-plated replica of the jug for $345. So what if it looks more like the Senior's Tradition trophy?011-44-1334-474371.
If dressing like Rob Roy will enhance your Scottish experience, visit Kirk Wynd. Highland House, 149a Market St., St. Andrews, 011-44-1334-473268.
For a Silver Shadow, call Cargill. Newport on Tay, Fife, 011-44-1382-816805.