Not far from the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland is a fabulous, authentic, old-world links course in the town of Crail called Balcomie Links. Balcomie Links is one of two courses on the property. The other course is Craighead Links which opened in 1998. Craighead Links was designed by Gil Hanse, one of today’s most popular golf architects, and the architect of the 2016 Rio Olympics golf course.
Old Tom Morris is the architect of Balcomie Links. Old Tom finished up Balcomie the same year he finished up the “New Course” in St Andrews, 1895. The course plays to a par of 69, and a total yardage of 5,861. If you are a yardage snob you’ll have to adjust a wee bit. Once you do, you’ll truly appreciate the splendor of this course and the overall par and length will matter not.
Fantastic Balcomie Golf Links in Crail, Scotland
The personality of Balcomie Links is fantastically understated. The pro shop has to be the coolest shops I’ve ever seen. I imagine golfers sitting on this bench as children, learning to golf from mom and dad. They grow up sitting on this bench. They grow old sitting on this bench, and life is good for them. I’m envious.
Coolest Pro Shop in the World!
Located a 20-30 minute drive from St Andrews, Balcomie Links is located on an unbelievable stretch of land which borders the North Sea. I can’t think of more than one or two holes which don’t have a view of the North Sea, and most of the holes are right on the water. If this course was in California it would give Pebble Beach a run for its money.
In fact, the whole time we played the course my group of pals kept playfully looking around and saying “Pebble who?”
Tee shots at Balcomie Links are so enjoyable and fun. Tom Morris was quite creative with the layout, and there are tee boxes in some very interesting places. Some tee boxes are by old buildings (below), while others cross holes. Some are by mortar and rock OB walls that must be hundreds of years old.
Par-5 2nd Tee – “Ower The Knowe”
The fairways at Balcomie links welcome golf shots and don’t provide too much penalty if they’re not perfect. The wide fairways provide an enjoyable walk, but on rare occasions present challenging angles and blind shots if the ball finds the wrong resting place.
Fairway approach to the double green on the 11th
Some fairways, in old Scottish links golf style, cross each other. Keep a keen eye open for other players and rest assured the locals who know the course will do the same for you.
Due to typical high winds, the greens at Balcomie Links only run between a seven to a nine on the stimpmeter. In other words fairly slow. American golfers may be used to faster greens, so it takes a few strokes to get used to whacking putts that hard.
Forced carry to an elevated green with the North Sea in the background. Fabulous!
The greens are not severe, but are tastefully protected via bunkering and other hazards, like the North Sea! A few holes feature some strong elevation change approaching the green.
Crail Golfing Society
The town of Crail is the home of Crail Golfing Society, the 7th oldest golf club in the world. The clubhouse overlooks the links, with the beautiful blue water in the background. Crail Golfing Society was kind enough to allow us to enjoy their fine food and a wee pint following our round. One of the best meals I had on my last Scotland trip was accompanied by one of the best views, as seen below.
Room With A View – Crail Golfing Society – click for more
When trying to come up with words to describe the experience at Balcomie Links the first two which came to mind were “authentic” and “true.” Golf here is authentic, as are the people. There’s nothing gaudy or commercial here. Balcomie Links is about TRUE and traditional Scottish links golf and is uninfluenced by the outside world.
Boy is it a world I’d love to live in.
See the whole gallery of Balcomie Golf Links images!
Carnoustie Golf Links Review
Kingsbarns Golf Links Review
Ardgowan Hotel St Andrews Review
Fairmont Hotel St Andrews Review
St. Andrews is my 2nd home. I’m so happy there. The golf, the history, the pubs, the people. No I didn’t mention the food. Four out of five ain’t bad… The “auld grey toon.” There’s no place like it.
Most of St. Andrews’ offerings for lodging, like the Ardgowan Hotel, are very old 2-3 story buildings with cramped space and tough access through tight doors and stairways. They’re just fine, and most are located walking distance from the Old Course.
The Fairmont Hotel offers something quite different than those old cramped rooms. Space. The Fairmont is a very large hotel a few minutes drive from the Old Course and about eight other courses. The hotel provides extremely spacious rooms and every amenity one might want or need when on a Scottish golf trip.
Fairmont Hotel – St. Andrews, Scotland – As seen from the Torrance Course – click to see full gallery
The hotel is located on the Scottish coast, featuring fantastic views. The property occupies some 520 acres.
The Fairmont offers several different types of accommodations: Standard rooms available with four different views, five different suite configurations, two family style rooms, and manor homes.
Even the smallest offering, the standard room, has about 4-5 times the space of the smaller hotels in town. In fact, I’d venture to guess that the bathroom in my room at the Fairmont on my last golf trip to Scotland had more square footage than my room at the Ardgowan.
Warm and comfortable rooms at the Fairmont Hotel in St. Andrews
From the robes to the heated towel racks in the bathroom, the standard room amenities are but a dream compared to the old town’s offerings.
The manor homes, which I’d love to try out the next time I’m in St. Andrews, are stand-alone homes which are over 4,000 square feet. Perfect for a golf group.
The Fairmont offers full spa treatments and unique packages which would come in handy after a long cold (yes it can be cold in Scotland) day on the links.
Hot tub and pool. I’ll be here next visit to St. Andrews!
I personally found the hot tub and swimming pool to be such a fantastic treatment for all the stiff muscles in my back and my aching lower body, a result of playing some 6-7 straight days of 36-holes. If you’ve never golfed in Scotland, there are no carts (buggies as they’re called in the UK). All golf is walked and the ground is as hard as Interstate 5. Your feet and knees WILL ache after a few rounds. Book it.
Food & Beverage
After a long day of chasing the white spheroid, a good meal and a “wee pint” are in order. The Fairmont has numerous culinary offerings and plenty of great places to enjoy a splash of scotch or a wee pint of Belhaven Best, a local brew I’ve come to love. My group spent quite a bit of time in the Kittocks Den & Bar, celebrating our triumphant shots on the Old Course, and lamenting over the not-so-triumphant ones.
May I help you? “Yes. A wee pint of Belhaven Best please!” Splendid
Each morning the hotel offers a fantastic breakfast buffet fit for a king, or a monarch. Check your Scottish history on that one. The dining area for breakfast was the gigantic atrium area, seen below.
Atrium area… Breakfast buffet
I think I could hit a full sand wedge and not hit the ceiling in the atrium.
Nearby golf courses include the Old Course, New Course, Kingsbarns, Castle Course, Srathtyrum Course, Eden Course, Jubilee Course, and Balcomie Links a short drive away.
To supplement the property and the great local courses, the Fairmont has two on-site courses, the Kittocks Course and the Torrance Course. I had the pleasure of playing the Torrance Course (pictured below), a wee combination of Scottish and American golf architecture. A mere walk from my room at the Fairmont, the on-site courses feature fantastic views of the nearby sea and the town of St. Andrews.
The Old Town serves as a backdrop for this approach shot on the Torrance Course
The Fairmont offers a different, more luxurious type of lodging and experience than the old salty rooms found in downtown St. Andrews. A far cry from a small room with a bed.
The hot tub alone is worth booking the Fairmont. It was a life-saver on the achy bones, which walked over 100 MILES of golf the last week I was in St. Andrews.
Yes, over 100 miles.
Fairmont St. Andrews photo gallery.
Ardgowan Hotel review.
Kingsbarns Golf Links review.
Castle Course photo gallery.
Old Course photo gallery.
New Course photo gallery.
Carnoustie Golf Links review.
Since it is winter here, I’m going through the HOG World Tour archives and weeding out any reviews and photos which have gotten lost in the queue. One such review is of the most hopping, happening, coolest, wildest, craziest bar and restaurant in Bogota, Colombia: Andrés Carne de Res. This is like an indoor version New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, every night of the week!
One of many floors, packed with guests who are having a great time at Andres
Andrés Carne de Res is five stories of restaurant and bar, packed with hundreds of people at all times. The food is great, with separate mini kitchens on each floor. Each floor also can be home of one or several bars. Below is but ONE bar of many in the building. Looks like the wine selection will work for me…
Do you have Coors? I didn’t think so…
Part of the craziness that is Andres is the actors, ventriloquists (photo below), and musicians who float around and perform at each table.
Performers come to each table to entertain the guests at Andres…
Hello ladies! Why are you cupping your breasts?
Andrés Carne de Res was truly an experience of a lifetime. If you are ever in Bogota, Colombia, you MUST get to Andrés Carne de Res. I just realized I got this far and haven’t even mentioned the awesome Colombian food, drinks, and appetizers!
Fantastic and unique appetizers and food, Colombian style
The Web.com Tour stops in Bogota in the first couple of weeks of each season. Those of you who are golfers, golf media, players, or caddies on the Web.com Tour should be sure to stop in and have fun and food at Andrés Carne de Res when you are in town for the Web.com Tour’s Colombia Championship.
Andrés Carne de Res photo gallery
La Cima Club de Golf – Golf at 10,000 Feet in the Colombian Andes Mountains
Gold Museum – Bogota, Colombia
Country Club de Bogota Golf Course Review
Ardgowan Hotel St Andrews
In the previous post I announced the gallery of images of the biggest hotel in St Andrews, the Fairmont. The Fairmont is a short drive from downtown St Andrews and from the Old Course. It is a very posh place with large rooms/suites.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Ardgowan Hotel, built in 1847.
Location Location Location
The key feature to the Ardgowan is its location along with a more affordable price as compared to the Fairmont or other more fancy places in the “Auld Grey Toon.” The Ardgowan is located about a 30 second walk from the 18th green and 1st tee of the Old Course, and a 20 second walk from the most famous pub in town, the Dunvegan. I’ve made that 20 second walk home from the Dunvegan at 2 a.m. on many a night. I’m guessing it was a little longer than 20 seconds, but then again I don’t really remember.
The Ardgowan’s 29 rooms are quite small but clean. They’re so small and the stairway to get to them so tight that most golfers store their clubs in the locker behind the hotel’s front desk.
There are a few different room options which feature single or double beds.
The Ardgowan features the minimum I need as a traveling golfer and nothing more: a place to store my clubs, a bed, a bathroom, a desk with wireless internet connection (for emailing pictures of the Old Course back home to my jealous friends), and a pub/restaurant in the basement (see first image).
I have to share a slightly embarrassing and funny story. One of my stays at the Ardgowan was in the top floor in a single-bed room. The architecture of the building is that of a Georgian townhouse, and most buildings on North Street share the same slanted roof style. The top floor room is basically in the attic, so part of the room “features” a slanted ceiling (see image below).
Ardgowan Hotel Room – St Andrews, Scotland
In the wee hours of the morning and after a few too many wee pints at the Dunvegan, I had the sudden need to get to the bathroom and quick. An urgent need, if you catch my drift. One or two too many wee pints I suppose. When I very quickly got up from bed in the dark I didn’t realize the ceiling was slanted. I hit my head so hard getting up fast that I nearly knocked myself out.
That morning I had to cancel my tee time at the New Course and sleep off the wee pints and the cranial impact. I did however enjoy the rest of the morning exploring the St Andrews castle while my pals were off golfing.
The Ardgowan serves purpose and does it well. It provides a perfect lodging location within walking distance of the Old Course, New Course, Jubilee Course. Strathtyrum Course, and Eden Course. No car required and that’s a good thing. Parking in the Auld Grey Toon can be tough.
This is not the Ritz Carlton. If that’s your fancy, perhaps consider the Old Course Hotel or the Fairmont. If location is important, the Ardgowan is one of the best lodging options in St Andrews.
I’ll be posting a full review of the Fairmont Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland soon. In preparation for that review, I’ve processed a gallery of Fairmont Hotel Scotland photos and posted in the Hooked On Golf Blog photo gallery. Click the photo below to see the full gallery.
Fairmont Hotel – St. Andrews, Scotland – As seen from the Torrance Course – click to see full gallery
The Fairmont is quite a place. Very large. The rooms are so much bigger at the Fairmont than the tiny rooms at the hotels close to the Old Course. In fact, I’d guess that my room at the Ardgowan last time was the same square footage as the bathroom in my suite at the Fairmont.
Stay tuned for my Fairmont Hotel St. Andrews review coming soon.