This week marks the 150th anniversary of the British Open golf tournament and our last Open as residents of St Andrews. This is not my normal technology sales and marketing related blog, but a fond memoir to a great 7 years living in a unique and interesting place and you may find it of interest.
The Old Course, all set for the 2010 Open
We moved to St Andrews from Silicon Valley in 2003 and have made it our base for our consulting business, serving clients in the technology business in the USA, UK, Europe, Scandinavia and Israel.
St Andrews is home to the oldest University in Scotland and the third oldest University in the English-speaking World, founded in 1443. The combination of the University, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) and the constant stream of international golfing visitors make St Andrews a lively and interesting place full of characters and home to 15,000 people.
St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews has long been of significant religious importance, being a place of worship since the 8th century AD when the relics of St Andrews were bought here to the site now occupied by the cathedral, commenced in 1160 and home of the medieval Scottish Church (now a ruin).
"You don't come to St Andrews for the weather" it is said, although overall the weather is mild and in winter the courses are generally playable and in superb condition all year round; this year the links were closed for a month because of snow in what was the most severe winter in recent memory.
On the subject of golf, there is no finer collection of courses anywhere on the planet as inexpensive, accessible and interesting as St Andrews. As a resident of the town, for a mere UK 150 pounds, you can buy a Links Ticket which entitles you to play all seven of the public links courses all year round, as often as you would like.
The 18th at Kingsbarns, a death or glory finish
In addition, through an arrangement with the R&A, resident Links Ticket holders gain access to the superb Kingsbarns golf links just 5 miles away for a mere UK 25 pounds per round.
Other great and under-rated courses in the town are The Dukes Course, owned and operated by The Old Course Hotel, originally designed by Peter Thomson and recently modified by Pete Dye's team; an annual membership of this championship 7500 yard heathland layout, with magnificent views overlooking the town, costs UK 684 pounds. The Dukes is in my opinion the second most difficult course in Scotland, behind Carnoustie and a must-play when you come here.
Two other courses worth playing are the recently modified and significantly improved Torrance Course (home of the Scottish Senior Open) and the Kittoch's course at The Fairmont Hotel, both excellent and recommended, my favorite being the Torrance.
Loch Voil, The Trossachs National Park
The thing my family and I will miss the most after we leave here, apart from absent friends – are the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Still a wilderness in many parts, uncrowded and accessible in an hour or two from St Andrews. The best way to see The Highlands is on a bicycle or in a kayak or on foot, where the scenery changes slowly and you get an opportunity to immerse yourself in the landscape and breathe the clean, fragrant, moist, pine-laden air.
As for who will win The Open Championship this week, I don't know and the field this year is wide open, with any of the top 20 players in the World capable of it. I walked around a few holes on The Old with Justin Rose last week before official practice began and he is in form and hitting it beautifully.
While you are here a visit to The Central Bar in Market St. is recommended; Scotland's best kept secret isn't the Single Malt Whisky, or the golf, it's Scottish real ales and at The Central, they usually have 8 different real ales on tap and they know how to look after their beers.
Finally, if you do make it to Scotland, you MUST play Castle Stuart near Inverness; designed and built by the same team that created Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart will leave you richer for the experience of having played it and looking forward to playing it again.
We are returning to Silicon Valley in August for family reasons and look forward to our return visits to Scotland and St Andrews.