On the Road In Scotland: Golf's Homeland A Rugged Pilgrimage To History

By David R. Holland, Senior Writer

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland- Rugged beauty.

That's Scotland.

Away from its modern cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, where most of Scotland's 5,000,000 people live, the country becomes a land of Braveheart and Rob Roy.

Scotland is a one-lane road lined with aged rock walls, traversing farms highlighted in greens and golds, speckled by grazing sheep - a lane used for centuries.

Scotland is craggy coastlines, windswept and misty. More than 750 major islands are part of Scotland, which reaches from the far north to the southern border with England, a distance of 275 miles. The coastline is as rugged as northern California and it is massive - covering 6,200 miles.

Scotland is fog-shrouded mountains. The topography provides mountainous views from its highest point called Ben Nevis, then down to the wild heather covered moorlands in the north and west, to thick pine forests, pasture land and fertile farmland in the east and northeast. Scotland's southern regions boast the grassy hills of the lowlands with lochs and rivers seen at every turn.

Scotland is centuries of folklore and customs. The Scots value the differences that set them apart from the English. From kilts and single malt whisky to their own dialects rooted in the Gaelic language. A glen is a valley, a loch is a lake, a mountain is a ben, a burn is a stream, a highway is a carriageway.

Scotland is its people - warm and friendly. And they love their golf.

Ready for a world-class vacation in the birthplace of golf? Here's a suggested itinerary after British Airways delivers you to Glasgow or Edinburgh:

The Birthplace of Golf

Many say golf has been played on the Links at St. Andrews since around 1400 A.D. and the Old Course is distinguished throughout the world as the Birthplace of Golf. Any avid golfer dreams of a pilgrimage to St. Andrews once in his life.

With the North Sea and the Firth of Forth on your right, a steady breeze to your back, the history of golf floods you when standing on the first tee of the Old Course. Every great golfer in history has stood here before, except Ben Hogan, who never made the trip.

When the Old Course starter says: "Gentlemen, hit away," one feels the 100 or more spectators surrounding the first tee and 18th green complex. These golf fans are ready to critique your swing or maybe even applaud your tee shot.

Many golf pilgrims admit to knocking knees and sweaty palms when they bend over to place the tee in golf's hallowed ground. Your salvation is that this is the widest fairway in golf, all 100 yards of it. All you have to do is swing sweet and avoid the Swilken Burn that traverses in front of green No. 1.

Perhaps the most welcome sound of all comes when your Royal & Ancient caddy says: "Purrfect", rolling his R's in that distinctive Scottish brogue, after your tee shot has found the middle.

"The excitement of knowing that I was about to play the course where all the great players have played for centuries was awe-inspiring," said Dennis Wong of San Jose, CA. "Standing there on the deck waiting for the starter to call out 'gentleman, next 4 ball up' is a memory I will never forget.

"The Old Course is not the toughest or prettiest or most spectacular golf course I have ever played, but it wasn't supposed to be. It wasn't designed for trendy golf holes or ideas. What it was designed for was to enjoy the greatest game in the world. Golf. at St. Andrews lived up to that for me, I enjoyed every minute of it, even the three putts. I can now forever be satisfied that I have played on the most famous golf course in the world, played well and played where the greatest golfers in the world all call the Home of Golf."

The Old Course is 600 years of links golf history. And today, St. Andrews Links is the largest golf complex in Europe with five 18-hole courses. Many think the New Course, opened in 1895 and designed by Tom Morris, is the best course in St. Andrews. It's 6,604 yards playing to par 71.

The Jubilee Course, par 72, 6,805 yards, was first opened in 1897. It could be the most testing course on the links. A shorter version, the Bronze Course, is available and measures 5,094 yards. The Eden Course, par 70, 6,162 yards, was designed by Harry S. Colt and opened in 1914. Eden makes the most of natural features and is one of the most popular courses in St. Andrews. The Strathtyrum Course, par 69, 5,094 yards, offers a shorter, less testing layout and is suited to high handicap golfers and beginners.

For information on how to book the courses check out www.standrews.org.uk/courses/old_course.htm. A daily ballot is used for Old Course for about 50 percent of the daily tee times and it's not an automatic that you will get to play the Old Course because of high demand. Singles have the best chance - just check with the starter early in the morning for availability. The Old Course is closed on Sunday. Handicap cards are also mandatory.

The Duke's Course, designed by five-time British Open champ Peter Thomson, opened in July 1995. It was constructed primarily because the Old Course Hotel, despite its location right on the famous No. 17 Road Hole, doesn't have privilege rights for access and tee times to the Old Course.

The Duke's Course measures 7,271 yards at par 72, and is the first an only parkland golf course in St. Andrews - all the others are classic links courses. It's also the longest inland golf course in Scotland.

Kingsbarns Course, par 72, 7,100 yards, is the only links course in St. Andrews built in this century and it is becoming very popular. It opened in June 2000.

Gleneagles

Gleneagles' PGA Centenary Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, was recently selected as the host venue for the 40th Ryder Cup match in 2014. Formerly known as the Monarch's Course, it was renamed this year.

"If they wanted to stage the Ryder Cup here today we would be ready," said Graeme Marchbank, Director of Golf. "It's a great golf course for viewing, we have infrastructure with the hotel and the rail station nearby, and 2014 will be a milestone year for the resort, which will be celebrating its 90th anniversary."

The PGA Centenary Course combines the best of the USA and Scotland. Located in Perthshire, the heart of Scotland, Nicklaus' beauty measures 7,081 yards, the longest inland course in Scotland. However, the tees are graded at each hole in five stages, including a challenging 6,551 yards from the white markers down to 5,065 from the red.

Launching play to the southeast, the course aims towards the glen of the eagles, sweeping up with views of the Ochil Hills then to the summit of the pass below Ben Shee. One finds two-tiered greens, tradition deep Scottish bunkers and American-styled traps, rolling hills of green and views of the Perthshire straits. The westward view includes the rugged Grampians and the purple hue of Ben Vorlich and the mountains above the Trossachs.

The Gleneagles Hotel, a five-star facility set on 850 stunning acres, opened in 1924, and also includes the older and very popular King's and Queen's Courses, which were unveiled before the hotel in 1919.

The "Paradise in the Glens," only an hours drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh, also includes a perfect lawn for croquet, the Jackie Stewart Shooting and Fishing School, horse riding and 4 x 4 off-road driving. You can even experience the thrill of flying a bird of prey at the British School of Falconry.

The dining experience at the Stratheran Restaurant is known worldwide and the bar was designed to capture the atmosphere of a great ocean liner. This is where golfers come to recall their rounds stroke-by-stroke and sip Scotland's legendary single malt whisky. (www.gleneagles.com)

Turnberry

The Westin Turnberry Resort located on the western coast at Ayrshire features coastal links beauty that compares with famed Pebble Beach. The Hotel, built in 1915, sits high on a hill, a stately beacon with its white siding and red-tiled roof, looking out over the Firth of Clyde with an incredible view of Ailsa Craig, the steep-sided dome of granite towering from the sea.

Turnberry's history is almost as famed as its views. Aircraft landing strips dating back to World Wars I and II can still be seen on the property and the fairways were used during the war.

In 1946, the Ailsa and Arran Courses, with their spectacular views of Ailsa Craig from every fairway, the lighthouse at No. 9 and the ruins of Bruce's Castle, dating back to the 14th century, were in shambles. Golf course architect Mackenzie Ross rescued and rebuilt the courses in the 1950s and since then the hotel has hosted many amateur and professional championships, culminating in its first British Open championship in 1977.

Tom Watson won The Open in 1977, Greg Norman in 1986 and Nick Price in 1986 and the 2007 Open is tentatively set for Turnberry. The Ailsa is regularly ranked among the world's top 20 courses, while the Arran, recently renamed Kintyre, was re-designed by Donald Steel. It also has breath-taking holes on the coastline.

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, whose Links Academy is located here, calls The Ailsa Course "the finest links golf course in the world". Most likely you will also experience pure Scottish weather here. The wind can blow the flagsticks to the ground. (www.turnberry.co.uk)

Connoisseurs Scotland

Connoisseurs Scotland is representation group of nine luxury hotel properties, including the golf opportunities at Gleneagles, Turnberry and the Old Course Hotel. It includes the not-to-be-missed properties listed below - places a first-time or veteran visitor to Scotland should experience. These are luxury properties that offer the classiest overnight stays and dining opportunities.

For contact information, prices and packages log on to www.luxuryscotland.co.uk. Don't miss the following hotels, tourist, golf and travel opportunities.

One Devonshire Gardens is set in the heart of a tree-lined Victorian terrace - once the former homes of the merchants and ship owners of Glasgow. Fine cuisine and an award-winning cellar are married to caring, friendly service which make One Devonshire Gardens with its elegantly designed suites the perfect base for exploring Scotland's City of Culture.

The Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh is situated in the heart of the West End, just yards from Princes Street. Each of its 261 rooms including 17 suites offers guests 5-star luxury in one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is the perfect spot from which to explore the history of the Old Town, the arts and crafts of Scotland's capital city and the culture of the New Town. The Sheraton Grand Hotel now includes one of the best spas in Europe and the brand-new Ristorante Santini.

Turnberry Hotel, Golf Courses and Spa in Ayrshire overlooks the islands of Arran and Ailsa Craig and offers two championship golf courses and a luxurious spa. The hotel has hosted the British Open Championship no less than three times and the new Golf Academy offers teaching facilities and driving bays. Every hotel bedroom has been designed in the style of a grand Scottish country house and the spa is the perfect place to relax and to feel pampered after a good day's golf.

The Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews overlooks the 17th hole of the world famous golf course and the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. The hotel, set in the heart of 'the home of golf' enjoys a truly spectacular location and has its own golf course, The Duke's Course. All 146 bedrooms of the hotel have memorable views and many of the 32 suites enjoy views over three different championship links courses. The hotel is one of Europe's most prestigious resort properties with extensive spa facilities and a wide selection of fine restaurants. Don't miss having dinner at the Road Hole Grille.

Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire is breathtakingly situated in 850 acres of mature moorland. Known as 'the palace in the glens' it is one of the world's premier golf resorts and was established as a venue for golf 75 years ago. There are three 18-hole golf courses, The Golf Academy, The Jackie Stewart Shooting and Fishing school and horse riding at The Equestrian Center. The hotel, complete with Country Club and Spa, offers the perfect place to relax at the end of the day with luxurious suites and superb dining rooms, which offer a unique and varied taste of Scotland.

Crinan Hotel in Argyll is at the heart of a tiny fishing village with a population of only 58. The hotel has been the heart of this little community for more than 200 years. The fishermen land their catch less than 50 yards from the hotel and it is then prepared and served that evening with other fine Scottish products. Don't miss a meal here of jumbo shrimp, caught the very morning of your visit. Each of the hotel's individually furnished rooms has breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the islands off Scotland's western edge. Crinan provides an ideal base from which to explore Scotland's rugged West Coast.

Inverlochy Castle was built in 1863 by the first Lord Abinger and remained a private residence until 1969 when it was converted to a luxurious country house hotel. Its reputation for gracious hospitality goes back as far as Queen Victoria's visit in the autumn of 1873. Accompanied by her trusted ghillie John Brown, she remarked in her diary that she had never seen a lovelier or more romantic spot. Dinner is an experience to savor and the view to the distant mountains sets a visual feast that is a perfect complement to the outstanding food and notable wines before you.

The Royal Scotsman is an award-winning train which carries 36 guests for unique tours of Scotland and England in an atmosphere of restored elegance and luxury. Accompanied by a liveried motor coach, a well-informed guide will escort you to castles, stately homes and local places of interest. There is plenty of room for guests to move about and in addition to he Observation Car with its open verandah there are two dining cars and six sleeping cars of single and twin cabins each with private shower room. The Royal Scotsman offers two night tours of Scotland, a four-night tour of Scotland and a one-night tour to and from Edinburgh and London.

The MV Hebridean Princess combines the finest sumptuous country house living with the indulgent freedom of a small cruise ship. A maximum of 50 guests are pampered by a caring all British Crew of 37. Surrounded by undisturbed wildlife you will call at fascinating and remote locations to visit beautiful gardens, atmospheric castles, bustling towns and deserted beaches. This is an enchanting, away from it all, world of complete relaxation with a touch of excitement and a hint of exploration. The Hebridean Princess offers 17 different cruises from March to October leaving from Oban.

Also, visit the House of Bruar, a retail home of country clothing, located on the A9, 10 miles north of Pitlochry at Blair Atholl, Perthshire. It's open seven days a week all year. House of Bruar has recently received approval from the R&A to sell Old Course logo golf wear and a huge retail store is nearing its opening located within walking distance of The Old Course at St. Andrews. Telephone: (01796) 483236. Email: retail@houseofbruar.com.

Little's Chauffeur Drive is Scotland's No. 1 Chauffeur Drive Service. Our driver, David Whitelaw, had many stories of driving celebrities through his 35 years of service - folks like Ron and Nancy Reagan, Paul McCartney and Clint Eastwood just to name a very few. Check out their website at www.littles.co.uk for contact information.

British Airways is the only way to go from the USA to Scotland. The Business Class luxury and attention can't be matched. From the moment you find your seat you will be pampered. Your space is roomy and the first-class wide seats recline for sleeping comfort. You will also have the choice of seven movies, giving you an opportunity to see at least three different recent flicks during your flight. Contact information for British Airways can be found at www.britishairways.com.

Other Contacts

The Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa
Tel: +44 1334 474371
Web Site: www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk/
Email: reservations@oldcoursehotel.co.uk

The Westin Turnberry Resort
Tel: +44 1655 333991
Email: turnberry@westin.com
or visit www.turnberry.co.uk

The Gleneagles Hotel
Tel: +44 1764 662231
Toll Free: 0800 704 705 (UK), 1866 463 8734 (USA)
Email: resort.sales@gleneagles.com
or visit www.gleneagles.com

Connoisseurs Scotland
Jeremy Hawkings
Sybrig House, Ridge Way, Donibristle Industrial Park,
Hillend, Dalgety Bay, Fife, FY11 9JN
Telephone: 01383-825-800
Fax: 01383-825-700
Toll free in the USA: 1-877-9-SCOTLAND

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Senior Writer

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter at @David_R_Holland.


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