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The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews: a spiritual experience at the home of golf

 (Old Course Hotel)
(Old Course Hotel)

There are some golfers who describe the game as spiritual; far more than hitting a ball around a field, and instead something more telling about the human experience.

Until my trip to the stunning Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, I’d have dismissed it as new age nonsense. But looking out across the home of golf, pleasingly weary from the day’s round and with the traces of a large Scotch on my lips, I’d have to agree with them.

Where is it?

The Old Course Hotel has nestled right alongside the 17th hole of the Old Course in St Andrews since 1968. Looking out towards the restless North Sea, the AA five-star resort is one of the most famous properties in all of sport in the UK.

 (Old Course Hotel Kevin Murray)
(Old Course Hotel Kevin Murray)

It sits close to the old town of St Andrews itself. Walk along the high street and you’ll find a mix of university students and golfers – most of which having flown in from the US on the trip of a lifetime. There’s a good reason they’re all here. St Andrews is more than just the game’s spiritual home, it is the sport’s actual home. It was first played here more than 600 years ago, and the layout designed by Old Tom Morris has set the blueprint for courses across the world ever since. For players, it’s a big deal just to be in the vicinity.

Style

Pulling up to the Old Course Hotel, you’ll find yourself struck by the sheer size of the place. It’s a major presence around the town and the surrounding courses. Inside, the venue mixes tradition and modern finishes. While different areas of the hotel offer different experiences, expect to find yourself in any number of plush rooms, often decked out in polished wood and studded leather sofas perfect for sinking into with a whisky. Certain areas hold the charm of a refined Scottish country lodge, while others offer a much more luxury contemporary edge.

 (Old Course Hotel Quoin Images)
(Old Course Hotel Quoin Images)

As you’d expect, it’s reverent of its sporting legacy. The elegant and spacious twin room I stayed in was adorned with past winners of the Open and other British golf tournaments on the walls.

Which room?

The hotel underwent a major renovation ahead of The Open in 2022, which saw the introduction of 31 new rooms. There are now 175 on offer with many of the hotel’s suites brought to life by French designer Jacques Garcia.

If you’re staying at the Old Course Hotel, we’d strongly recommend booking a room with a view of the course itself. For fanatics like me and my brother, who was very happy to join me on my two-night stay, it was like having our own private art gallery: the undulating fairways and ominous pot bunkers like having Grand Masters hanging on the walls.

 (Old Course Hotel)
(Old Course Hotel)

For something extra special there’s also a penthouse which was added during the renovation, which comes with a private lift, balcony, outdoor seating and a fire pit, plus a private dining area.

Food & Drink

The Road Hole Restaurant is the hotel’s fine dining option, where you can get yourself an incredible steak and peruse an impressive wine list. The beautiful wooden paneling in the dining room adds to the feeling of timeless quality, but if you’re after a more modern offering, the room next door offers something a little different. The light and airy Swilcan Loft is coming up to its one-year anniversary, and the new addition adds a splash of contemporary flavour to a building steeped in tradition – it also offers panoramic views of the 18th hole which are the best you’ll find in the entire town.

We ate well all weekend, but the breakfast, which is served in the Road Hole Restaurant from 6.30am, was a real highlight. A generous buffet is stocked with all the components required to construct one of the best fry-ups you’re ever likely to have.

 (Old Course Hotel)
(Old Course Hotel)

It wouldn’t be a proper golf trip without a good drink, and there’s a cozy whisky lodge on the 4th floor which we settled in for a dram of Glenfiddich 15, a staple on our golf trips up to Scotland together. The hotel is also next door to the famous Jigger Inn and is just a short walk away from legendary boozer The Dunvegan, which has played host to every famous name in golf and has pictures on the walls to prove it.

Spa

The Old Course Hotel features the only Kohler Waters Spa outside the US, and there are plenty of facilities to make use of. There’s a 20 metre pool, steam room, sauna, plunge pool, hot tub and experience showers, as well as a well-stocked fitness centre if you’re not already worn out from walking the fairways at one of the golf courses nearby. Hotel guests have complimentary access to the spa from 6am-10am, and then again from 7pm-9pm.

 (Old Course Hotel)
(Old Course Hotel)

There’s a wide selection of treatments available, including massages, wellness treatments, facials, body wraps and scrubs and bathing treatments, plus plenty more, with 13 treatment rooms and two twin rooms for couples.

I was booked in for a ‘golfer’s recovery massage’, which mixed extreme relaxation and rejuvenating muscle tissue treatment across the space of 80 minutes. It’s tailored to individual guest’s needs (mine involved attention on a problem left shoulder and extra time spent working out recurring knots in my back, most of which have outlasted several UK Prime Ministers).

Extracurricular

Golf, of course, is the main draw here, and with 11 courses in St Andrews alone there is a host of superb options when it comes to places to play. The hotel is officially linked with the Duke’s course a few minutes’ drive away, which we played on the first morning of our trip. It’s beautifully designed and full of character, with stunning views of the town and the bay. While wind-swept links courses are the first thing that come to mind when thinking of St Andrews, the Duke’s is a fantastic option for players looking to mix things up and take on a championship heathland track.

 (Old Course Hotel)
(Old Course Hotel)

We were also lucky enough to play the Jubilee course, which is widely regarded by St Andrews locals as the toughest track on the property. It offered a very challenging experience with stunningly framed designs, hole after hole. While it is impossible not to be overshadowed by the Old Course, if these two were anywhere else in the world you’d imagine both would be regarded as brilliant destination courses in their own right.

The chances of getting out on the Old Course itself are slim (joining a private ballot or queuing up by the starter’s hut at the crack of dawn are your best bets), but you don’t necessarily have to play to enjoy it. On weekends when there isn’t a competition taking place, the Old Course is open to the public on Sundays. Families like to head on long walks and take picnics, letting dogs run across one of the most prestigious properties in sport. Being able to set foot on an elite sporting venue is pretty unique, and it led to one of the main moments that will stay with me from the trip. On the second morning of our stay, my brother set his alarm early and headed out run the full length of the course. When he got to the famous Swilcan bridge a while later, a woman cheerily greeted him and they got to chatting. To his surprise, she told him that she had just finished spreading the ashes of her late husband in the burn by the 18th hole. He felt honoured to have inadvertently stumbled across such an emotional moment, and it brought home just how meaningful this place is; a reminder that the hallowed ground just yards away from our hotel window means so much to so many people who love the game of golf.

The Old Course Hotel is a fabulous place to experience it all from. My stay offered luxury at every turn, and an unforgettable weekend at the home of golf; a spiritual experience at a truly special place.

Details

Rooms start from £305 a night. Old Station Road, St Andrews, KY16 9SP; oldcoursehotel.co.uk