St. Andrews—a Scottish seaside town famously billed as the “Home of Golf”—will host the 150th Open Championship this month on its iconic Old Course. This year marks the 30th occasion these native links have staged the major tournament, with golf’s greats teeing off on the hallowed greens where the sport has been played for six centuries.
Outside of the marquee tournament, the course is open to the public (so long as you have a suitable handicap; the max is 36). While Old Course tee times are difficult to come by, there’s a lottery system that opens up 48 hours in advance, plus a half dozen more courses at St. Andrews Links to keep amateur golfers busy.
If The Open (July 14-17) inspires you to book your own golf pilgrimage, St. Andrews is a place where you’ll find plenty to do in between tee times. From exploring the craggy coastlines of Fife’s scenic east coast to lolling about the cobbled downtown streets and checking into a golf-obsessed hotel, here’s a guide to St. Andrews.
Where to Stay:
Country club aesthetics meets Scottish warmth at Rusacks St. Andrews, a stylish 123-room boutique hotel. Bedrooms have a harmonious mix of patterns and colors, from preppy tartan carpets to Victorian-inspired wallpaper and plush emerald green bedspreads that evoke the links.
This madeover hotel is in a historic 1800s building, and it’s the ideal homebase for golf enthusiasts who will relish in the bespoke details like vintage clubs stitched onto throw pillows, hallway carpets that have Rolex clock motifs, and commanding portraits of Old Tom Morris, the white-bearded Scottish golfer who is a legend in St. Andrews.
But the best amenity at this hotel is in plain sight: Rusacks St. Andrews has unobstructed views of the Old Course, with large windows overlooking the 1st and 18th holes of the course, including the Valley of Sin. Plus, even through layers of morning fog, you can see West Sands Beach, which is where “Chariots of Fire” was filmed and where St. Andrews dogs (including the hotel’s very own canine, Bubbles) go to romp about.
With a member’s-only vibe (minus any pretense), the hotel has a snook table, as well as eateries like The Bridge, an all-day restaurant with afternoon tea and views of the stone Swilcan Bridge. One Under Bar is where you’ll find haggis fritters, steak and vegetable pie, fish and chips and other quintessential bites.
Where to Eat:
Enjoy the Sunday Roast at Forgan’s, where you can pair sirloin with Yorkshire puddings and roasted potatoes and gravy. The restaurant is located in a former cleek factory, where high-end golf clubs were manufactured. Forgan’s has its own signature gin with watermelon, citrus, elderberry and jammy.
Snag a reservation at 18, the rooftop restaurant at Rusacks St. Andrews that overlooks, you guessed it, the 18th hole. During the golden hour, the rolling greens look like velvet under the sun’s gentle light. While you’re waiting on your steak to cook to perfection, you can head out on the patio and try your hand on a mini putting green. Loser buys the next round of G&Ts?
For a special meal, book a six-course tasting menu synced with wine pairings at Haar, which translates to cold sea fog. Michelin-recognized Chef Dean Banks sources local produce from the British Isles and serves dishes like buttered lobster and scallops.
What to Do:
Through a partnership with Eden Mill, guests at Rusacks St. Andrews can book a 2-hour blendworks session, crafting their own gin. The session starts with a blind tasting of different botanicals and then the chance to choose which ones will make it into your own small-batch gin. Eden Mill will keep a record of your recipe should you want to remake it in the future.
Get a good overview of the Old Course with a tour. You’ll earn fascinating tidbits about golf’s history. Did you know, for instance, that golf was banned in the 15th century when King James II of Scotland became concerned the game was distracting young men from archery practice?
Amateurs and pros alike can have a good time at The Himalayas, a putting course with undulating hills that’s between the beach and the Old Course. Rounds are 4 pounds for adults and 2 pounds for children.