Tuesday, 18 December 2012

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Friday, 20 May 2011

Property in St Andrews

Unlike so many areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the property market in St Andrews has made it through the past couple of years relatively unscathed. A large proportion of students and travelling golfers means there is always a generous rental return throughout the year. So although a beautiful place to live, the price tag of homes is usually skewed by the very attractive ROI. 

Making a St Andrews property your primary address also affords you the distinct privilege of becoming a season ticket holder at The Links Trust. This magical piece of plastic grants you access to The Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Castle, Strathtyrum and Balgove courses at a very attractive annual fee.

So what's available just now in The Auld Grey Toon? Well, the former University dorm at Hamilton Hall is currently being transformed into 26 ultra-luxurious homes. I was placed here in my freshman year at St Andrews, and I am fairly sure that my fail in entry level statistics was directly proportional to the square root of the distance between my bed and the first tee of The Old Course. This 5th floor room was approximately 10' x 6', and struggled to accommodate a single bed and small writing desk (the former was utilized much more than the latter). How times have changed. Today, it is being transformed and incorporated into an apartment that is being marketed at £5,100,000. Hamilton Grand as it has been re-named, is being developed by Herb Kohler - bathroom plumbing tycoon, and owner of the adjacent 5* Old Course Hotel.

A little further down the fairway, Savills are marketing a beautiful 6 bedroom Georgian townhouse. Built in 1822 by the Playfair family, this home pre-dates the Royal & Ancient clubhouse, and it boasts tremendous views across The Old Course and The West Sands. The cost? A cool £1,250,000. But can anything be classed as expensive that makes the 18th your back garden?

If St Andrews were a Monopoly board then Hope Street and Abbotsford Crescent would probably be the colour green. Not quite Mayfair, but still an area of extreme distinction. Most commonly, these stone townhouses are divided into 3 or 4 separate apartments. A few are currently on the market and these range from the mid 200's to the high 300's depending on the number of bedrooms.

With great golf, schools, restaurants, nightlife, scenery and shopping, St Andrews has it all. The only problem for 99% of the population is the price. A very true summary of work, money and golf...

- When you're young you've got the spare time to play and your health but no money.

- Throughout your career you've got your health and the money but no time to play.

- In retirement, you've got money and the time to play but perhaps not your health.

It's a strange old world...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

2011 Spring Invitational Results

A week of glorious weather greeted the entrants of the inaugural St Andrews Spring Invitational by Connoisseur Golf. Light winds, clear skies and not a single drop of rain made for a great week of golf and superb scoring. Our flagship event attracted 20 players from 4 different nationalities. The Invitational's base - The 5* Old Course Hotel & Spa - again proved why it is considered one of the most luxurious accommodations in the UK.

Round 1 was played on The Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links. Bob Fagan from Royal Dublin Golf Club took the opening days spoils with a very impressive score of 36 stableford points.

Round 2 took the players to Kingsbarns, and those who were there for the first time walked around the course in awe. One player, who has been fortunate enough to enjoy invites to many of the world's most exclusive and top-rated clubs, called it the best course he had ever played. The best score at Kingsbarns was 36 points by Congressional's Greg Kubasik.

Round 3 saw the players take on the formidable challenge of The Castle Course. This is the newest of the 7 courses in St Andrews and undoubtedly the toughest. It was not a surprise to see many of the players in contention struggle on 'moving day', but Northern Ireland's Boyd Hunter posted a great score of 36 points to land the individual day prize.

The final round was played over the most famous stretch of golfing terrain on the planet - The Old Course at St Andrews. Many of the players were virgins to this experience and quite a few nerves were visible on the first tee. With perfect conditions it was inevitable that final day scoring was going to be low. Raymond McGerr (a close friend of Darren Clarke) succeeded where his old pal had formerly came up short, and captured success at St Andrews with a blistering score of 43 points. Raymond (pictured second from left), who plays off 11, traversed the Old Course in 76 shots to win the individual day prize and overall event by a comfortable margin. A mention must also be made for former world number 4 snooker player, Alan McManus, who posted an impressive scratch round of 73.

Our thanks must go to the four wonderful venues of Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, The Castle and The Old Course. The 5* Old Course Hotel were the perfect host throughout. Thanks also to our dining venues at The Old Course Grill, Sands and The Seafood Restaurant.

To register you interest for next year, e-mail info@connoisseurgolf.com.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The season begins

The 2011 season kicked off in style with the arrival of the Norcross Group from central California.

April and May are fast becoming the most popular months to travel as the weather in recent years has been exceptional. The Norcross group played Turnberry and Western Gailes before checking in at The Old Course Hotel for a week of sunshine golf at St Andrews. Steve Norcross (pictured above holing out on 17) managed a career best by shooting 85 on The Old Course, but his improvement over the week makes us think he will be back next year to post in the 70's. His brother Everett can also look back on two very near misses for a hole-in-one and be thankful that his bank balance is still intact, as the caddies at The Home of Golf are known to have an above average appetite for the occasional cold beer.

The town had an even greater buzz about it than normal this past week, with students and locals alike both preparing for the Royal Wedding celebrations on Friday 28th April. Jack and Sheena were on typically great form at The Dunvegan, and Kenny at Drouthy Neebors was again proving that his bar on South Street is becoming the place to be in St Andrews. Antoinette - host at The Jigger - never fails to impress with her customary warm welcome.

All courses are in tremendous shape, and if you would like to discuss requirements for your upcoming trip, e-mail Jim Stewart at jim@connoisseurgolf.com. We are delighted to host groups of any size at both The Old Course Hotel and The Fairmont, and there is still availability left for packages including guaranteed Old Course tee-times.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Golf Shops in St Andrews

Twenty years ago, if you wished to purchase a club shirt or hat to remember your round at a specific course, you would walk past the line of rusting pull-carts, bravely enter the small cupboard of a shop beside the 1st tee and ask the guy smoking a pipe what he had in your size. Nowadays the visiting golfer has a plethora of choices.

St Andrews is now such a mecca for golfers from around the world, that it unsurprisingly has a vast selection of official and independently owned pro-shops and golf merchandise stores. I like to consider it a golfing theme park, but in a classy, refined manner - if that makes sense...

The Links Trust (who manage all seven of the links at St Andrews) have numerous golf shops. Their flagship outlet is now situated directly to the right of the 18th green. It's an enormous store that sells countless varieties of golf shirts, hats, umbrellas, bag tags, outerwear and even tea cups - all crested with that all important Links Trust logo.With top of the line brands ranging from Burberry to Ralph Lauren, this is the place to pick up your high-end designer clobber. It doesn't come cheap though. Expect to pay around £70 ($110 US) for a premium golf shirt or £20 ($30 US) for a cap.

Perhaps the most famous golf shop in town is Auchterlonies, which sits proudly on the corner opposite the Dunvegan pub, around a hundred yards from the final green. They have been making hand-crafted wooden clubs since the firm's inception in 1895. Of course now they also offer the latest in equipment in addition to a wide range of clothing and accessories. What I like most about Auchterlonies is their honest approach and pricing. With their prime location and rich heritage, they could almost be forgiven for charging the earth - but they don't. The clubs are priced at recommended retail price, or even less in some cases, and their high quality golf shirts range from around £25 - £60. They also ensure they are at the fore-front of innovation, having the latest putters and drivers the very week they are released.

There used to be two excellent, independently owned pro-shops further into town, but since Jim Farmer left the trade to assume his position as Honorary Professional at the R&A, I have only tended to use 'The Pro Shop' on Ellice Place. This is a great little shop, owned by local scratch golfer Andrew Donaldson. Here, you can trade in your old equipment, or even pick up a quick sleeve of Pro V1's on your way to the course.

Last year witnessed the first branch of a major chain to arrive in St Andrews when Nevada Bob's opened it's doors on Market Street. Yes, they may sell 2-piece golf balls at a heavily discounted price by the barrel-load, but shopping here is a little like going to the Big Apple and buying a I♥NY tee-shirt that was made in Taiwan.

For the real experience, support the local businesses and you will be sure to leave St Andrews with your own little piece of history.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

St Andrew's Day

St Andrew's Day is celebrated on 30th November.

Andrew was said to have been a disciple of Jesus, and brother to Peter. He was a fisherman from the town of Galilee. On one of his missionary duties, he was reportedly crucified by the Romans at Patras in 69 AD. Apparently he did not feel worthy to have been put to death on the same cross as Jesus, and so asked to be bound to a different shape. This x-shaped frame is the one we see on the logo of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and also the white cross of The Saltire Flag.

In the fourth century, some of his remains were said to have been removed from a tomb in Constantinople to a Pictish settlement on the east coast of Scotland by Saint Rule. He was told in a dream to take the bones to the end of the earth for safe keeping, and this settlement went on to become known an St Andrews.

The colours of the Scottish Flag, or The Saltire, are known to have stemmed from a ninth century battle in East Lothian. The Scots were entrenched in a showdown with Northumbrians. The night before battle, St Andrews was said to have appeared in a vision to The High King of Alba. During the fighting the following day, a large cross-shaped cloud appeared in the sky, which encouraged the Scots - who eventually triumphed despite the fact they were outnumbered.

Today, St Andrew's Day is an opportunity to celebrate Scotland, it's culture and it's heritage. The 30th November is a day for bagpipes, thistles and haggis. It is also an opportunity to have a look around the clubhouse of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club which stands proud behind the 1st tee of The Old Course. Non-members are allowed in for a short visit of the club rooms and trophy room.

So although St Andrew himself had nothing to do with golf, his bones have named a town that has become almost as spiritual to golfers as the relics themselves were to the medieval religious pilgrims. Slainte Mhath!

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Torrance Course

If courses in Scotland were to be judged by scenery, course layout and quality of greens, then The Torrance Course at The 5* Fairmont Resort would be challenging for one of the top spots.

It may not share the history associated with one of it's close neighbours in the St Andrews area, but this is a serious contender among it's more contemporary peers. This was highlighted by it's selection to be one of the qualifying venues for The 2010 Open Championship at The Old Course. At 7230 yards, it's no pushover, and the scores at the Final Qualifying reflected this. Only a fifth of the players broke par over the 36 hole event, and Competition Standard Scratch was calculated at 75 (3 over par).

The Torrance also holds down a regular place on our screens each August when it hosts The Scottish Seniors Open sponsored by Cleveland Golf / Srixon. This year a four round total of -4 proved good enough for Barry Lane to capture the title.

The greens at The Torrance are magnificent. They run fast and true all 12 months of the year, but particularly in the summer season when they are undoubtedly amongst the best putting surfaces in Scotland. The course was re-routed a couple of years ago, and a multitude of Scottish revetted bunkers were added. It's a challenging but fair course from the tee. The par 5's are a classic blend of risk and reward, and the par 4's are an exciting mix of birdie opportunites and tight demanding holes.

It's definitely a course that should be added to any week long itinerary in Scotland. For corporate events, there is probably no better venue in Scotland. When you add a luxurious purpose built clubhouse to the adjacent 18 holes on The Kittocks Course (which is also a championship standard Fairmont course), you have all the ingredients for the perfect days golf.

Connoisseur Golf offer The Torrance Course and The Fairmont's 5* accommodation at preferred rates, and are also available to host corporate events of any size. For further details, visit our main website at http://www.connoisseurgolf.com/.