Eurotrip Day 8: Playing St. Andrews – The Home of Golf

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This post is part of our Eurotrip Series.  You can find the rest of the series here.

Eurotrip Day 8 was a dream come true for me.  I spent the morning golfing a full 18 holes at the St. Andrews Old Course – the oldest golf course in the world!  Brooke opted to stay in the clubhouse, because it was literally freezing when I teed off, but she got to watch me on the first hole.  Also, golf carts are not allowed at St. Andrews, so I was required to walk the full 18 holes.  I played one of my best rounds of golf ever, ending with a score of 83.  After golfing, we explored the town of St. Andrews.  We  then drove down to Edinburgh where we ended the evening with a fascinating underground ghost tour!

  • Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
  • Hotel Spotlight – Where we stayed and our review of the accommodations.

Adventures

Day 8 Map

Golfing St. Andrews

Dream…come…true!!  The St. Andrews Old Course is known as the home of golf, because the game literally originated on this hallowed ground.  This is basically a Mecca for any semi-serious golfer.  Reservations for tee times book up over a year in advance!  By the time we put this trip together, all of the tee time reservations were long gone.  Despite this fact, I was able to enjoy a full round of golf, with minimal hassle, for the very reasonable price of 85 pounds (plus 35 pounds for rental clubs)!

I reached out to the St. Andrews reservations staff via email to get some information.  They informed me that an official USGA handicap (or other recognized organization) under 24 is required, and single golfers can go “stand by” for a round of golf.  Fortunately, my handicap (14) was acceptable, so I just needed to show up and put my name on a list.  They would “do their best” to put me with a group of two or three.  They encouraged me to come early in the morning for the best chance to play.

On day 8, we arrived at the Old Course clubhouse by 6:40am, hoping to be first on the list.  Surprisingly, I was fourth in line, but they told me I could tee off at 7:50!!  Boom!  I was placed with a group of three – a father/son pair from California and a club pro from Wales, and we had a great time!  Tip – If you are planning to play as a pair, you can make a reservation 48-hours in advance (subject to availability).  

St. Andrews is set up as a “links-style” golf course, meaning the course is very wide open, with tall rough and high winds coming off the coastline.  I was SO nervous on the first tee!  Fortunately, my drive went very well, and I managed to par the hole!  After that, I settled in and played one of the best golf rounds of my life.  The whole course was in phenomenal condition in anticipation of the spring season.  (March is technically the final portion of the Winter season, and golfers must use mats for any shot in the fairway.)

Apart from simply playing this legendary course, my round had a few definite highlights.  After nearly driving my opening tee shot into the bern, I started the day with three straight pars.  My drive on the 316-yard 12th hole found the middle of the green, and I completed a 2-putt birdie!  On hole number 17, the famous “Road Hole,” I hit my best drive of the day directly over the wall and down the middle of the fairway.  I even had the opportunity to hit a shot from one of the famous pot bunkers!  What a day!

Exploring St. Andrews

After the round of golf, Brooke and I took some time to explore the actual town of St. Andrews, which is home to the third-oldest University in the English-speaking world (behind Oxford and Cambridge).  Fun Fact – Prince William & Kate attended and met each other here. 

St. Andrews University Campus
St. Andrews University Campus

We strolled down the street toward the University Campus, St. Andrews Castle, Cathedral, and the harbor.  St. Andrews Harbor enabled this town to become an important academic and trading center during medieval times.  The picturesque castle is a 13th century structure that sits on the edge of the sea, overlooking the harbor.  The oldest structure in the area is the St. Andrews Cathedral, which was originally built in 1158.  Tom Morris, the founder of golf, is buried in the neighboring cemetery.

Ghost Tour – Mercat Tours

After driving from St. Andrews to Edinburgh, we first took a quick nap (up since 5am).  Then we randomly discovered that Edinburgh has a whole city UNDERNEATH the actual city!  We were intrigued and had to see this, so we booked Mercat Tour’s “Most Hidden & Haunted Tour” of Edinburgh.  Two words – SERIOUSLY CREEPY!

Our tour guide was amazing.  She took us through the closes and wynds of the Royal Mile before we descended down to the Blair Street Underground Vaults.  During the tour, our guide shared tales of evil, torture, mystery, and the dark history of the city.  We loved the small, intimate group tour.  Brooke’s favorite part was when the guide allowed us to explore the underground vaults on our own.  Our group split up and wandered in the darkness for about 15 minutes – seriously creepy!


Hotel Spotlight

Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor – 2 nights

  • 1st night – 30,000 Hilton Points
  • 2nd night – 5,588 Citi ThankYou Points + $17.25 cash

The Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor was a very old, historic building.  We stayed on the main side with the restaurant, which we read is definitely the preferable side.  The room had modern furnishings, but just felt a bit “worn.”  Think – creaky floorboards in the room/hallways and very old carpet.  New carpet would do the place a world of good.

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The desk agent at check-in was very friendly, and he offered us some tasty sample cocktails.  He also gave us a couple free drink tickets to use at the lobby bar, because our room key didn’t work on the first attempt.  We opted to eat dinner at the restaurant’s Townhouse Restaurant one night, and we were impressed with the Walnut & Gorgonzola filled Gnocchi.  The breakfast buffet was also very nice each morning, with fresh eggs, fruit, meats, and an omelet station.

The one major drawback with this hotel was the lack of available parking.  Street parking along the nearby streets is the only option close by.  Fortunately, we arrived on a holiday, so street parking was free on the first night.  The next day, we had to move the car to a parking lot halfway across the city.  We got a discounted parking rate through the hotel, but it was a 30-minute walk back from the parking lot.


Conclusion

What a great day!  Golf at the Old Course was amazing, and we really loved exploring the town of St. Andrews.  We highly recommend checking out the Mercat Ghost Tours on your visit to Edinburgh.  Stay tuned for more in Edinburgh on Day 9.  Cheers!

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3 thoughts on “Eurotrip Day 8: Playing St. Andrews – The Home of Golf

    • Depends on where you look. Some sources say Musselburgh is the oldest. Scottishgolfhistory.org lists St. Andrews as the oldest. Fairway mats were not strictly enforced, since we were so close to the end of winter season. They really didn’t hinder play much at all.

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