The Old Course Hotel St. Andrews Ups Its Game

St. Andrews and its five-star Old Course Hotel, set alongside the most iconic golf course in the world — The Old Course — overlooking the 17th Road Hole and next to golf’s most famous bridge, Swilcan Bridge, is a mecca for golfers. Now, after completing a multi-faceted renovation, the property has seriously upped its game by adding a whole new floor — going from 144 to 175 guestrooms, including a massive new Penthouse Suite with a private elevator and balcony, and 31 new rooms with views of the Old Course, a new 80-seat restaurant and bar and new meetings and events space. 

Besides golf, the hotel has the only Kohler Spa outside the U.S. (fun fact: the hotel is owned by the Kohler family), and the town is also home to one of U.K.’s finest universities, interesting historical sites and stunning beaches, making the area worth visiting even if you never hit the links. London correspondent Emily Goldfischer had a visit to get the scoop on the renovation and scope out the area, Fife, considered the “Hamptons” for the fashionable Edinburgh set.

The Old Course Hotel

The Old Course Hotel, here and below, now offers 175 guestrooms, following the addition of 31 new rooms, a mix of deluxe guestrooms and suites, all facing the Old Course. 

Tee It Up

For starters, if you are driving from Edinburgh, Fife is about a 50-mile drive along the coastline with spectacular, dramatic vistas; look out for several stunning golf courses just beside the beaches. St. Andrews is perhaps the most glorious with its West Sands Beach, a two-mile stretch famous from the memorable running scenes in the 1981 movie, “Chariots of Fire.” Next to the beach sits the renowned Old Course, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, founded in 1754, which is considered the birthplace of golf. Every two years, the British Open (known as The Open Championship in the U.K.) is held at one of St. Andrews’ seven courses; the next tournament in 2022 will be at the Old Course. 

Bottom line, for golfers, St. Andrews is the holy land and the Old Course Hotel is its shrine. The vibe in the hotel is Scottish tartan meets London gentlemen’s club — sophisticated, warm with lots of dark green and burgundy furnishings in rich leather and wood, and, of course, golf memorabilia, images and gear dotted throughout. They are playing to the audience and it works — from the glass-enclosed breakfast room overlooking the course, to the cozy Jigger Inn pub and Road Hole rooftop whisky bar, the Old Course Hotel really charms. 

31 New Rooms

Though it was planned long before the pandemic, the recent downtime has allowed quick progress on what might have been a disruptive renovation, as they’ve added a floor to the existing Champion’s Wing of the hotel. Within this there are now 31 new rooms, a mixture of deluxe guestrooms and suites — all facing the Old Course. Many new rooms have two double beds (perfect for golfing buddies or girlfriend getaways that want to share), Kohler three-head showers and workstations that can double as in-room dining spaces. All Champion’s Wing rooms and suites have Juliet balconies to take in the breathtaking golf course and sea views. 

The Old Course Hotel

In addition, the hotel added new top digs: A Penthouse Suite (1,320 square feet) on the fourth floor with a spacious living area with wood paneling, central fireplace, parquet flooring, a dining area accommodating eight guests, and a freestanding bath in the bedroom — accessible by private elevator. For additional accommodations, the Penthouse can be connected to a one-bedroom Eden Suite on the third floor by an internal staircase. Eden Suites have big sleigh-style beds, mini-kitchen areas and balconies overlooking the course.  

Though not part of the latest renovation, another top room is the Royal & Ancient Suite (1,275 square feet), which sits directly above the famous 17th fairway of the Old Course (considered the most difficult golf hole in the world) and offers spectacular views from its floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony. Traditional in style with décor in muted beiges and browns, the spacious lounge area has a dining table for six, a small kitchen and generous sofas for relaxing and a guest bathroom. The living room and bedroom have floor-to-ceiling windows with balconies. Throughout the hotel, being owned by Kohler, much care has been put in the design and layout of the bathrooms, which are marble-clad showcasing eponymous taps, showers and big sinks. 

New Dining Options

As part of the renovation, the hotel has added a new 80-seat restaurant, Swilcan Loft, on the fourth floor of the East End of the hotel, overlooking the course. The all-day dining has a menu of international cuisine using locally sourced Scottish produce, and offers a brag-worthy wine and cocktail list. Thanks to its top-floor position, massive windows and an outdoor terrace with beach and town views, this will definitely be a hot spot when it opens in August. This complement’s the fine dining on offer at The Road Hole restaurant and the Road Hole Bar, which has a selection of over 260 types of whiskies. For something more casual, we loved the Jigger Inn, the hotel’s pub which sits right on the course, there’s also a restaurant in the spa, a pub right next to the 18th hole of the Old Course called Hams Hame and a clubhouse at the hotel’s own golf course, The Duke’s. 

Spa and Fitness

The Kohler Waters Spa has 13 treatment rooms, including two twin rooms for couples, a 65-foot pool, along with the Kohler Waters Thermal Suite, which includes a hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and plunge pool. We tested it all, and the water features live up to the hype. Massages are the most popular treatments according to our therapist Olga, who has been with the property for six years, and specializes in deep-tissue massage to ease post-golf soreness. 

With the pandemic, the hotel has seen a surge in girlfriend getaways from Scotland and the U.K. The ladies tend toward full days in the spa mixing the extensive range of natural mineral water-based treatments in either the Kohler SOK bath and Kohler RiverBath, combined with exfoliating scrubs, therapeutic massages, Phytomer facials to name a few. Hotel guests also have access to the fitness center and a range of classes — yoga, BodyPump, weights — it’s a proper gym with local members and there are personal trainers available. For spa bookings or special requests, e-mail Spa Director Brian Hunter ([email protected]; 011-440-133-446-8050).

The Old Course Hotel

Also worth noting: The hotel is a favorite spot for weddings and high-end social functions. As part of the renovation, the hotel has expanded its largest space, The Hall of Champions, to offer a new flexible meeting space with natural light through floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor terrace and a dedicated entrance.  

We had a quick chat with General Manager Helen McBride, who moved from her post running Necker Island a few years ago to oversee the hotel and renovation. She said, “After an incredibly challenging year for hospitality, we are excited to be coming back to market with fresh new facilities. The guestrooms and suites came out fantastically, the meeting space is already getting lots of queries and bookings and we are particularly excited about the new restaurant and bar, which has already added to St. Andrews’ culinary scene. These renovations have enabled Old Course Hotel to adapt to ever-changing customer demands and competitive landscapes, which has become increasingly important over the past year.”

Access to the Old Course

To play a round on the legendary Old Course is every serious golfer’s ambition, which used to only be available by ballot. Now, one of the benefits of staying at the hotel is to book the five-night “Suite Golf” package, which includes one guaranteed round on the Old Course, plus a sampling of the other renowned local courses — a round on the New, Jubilee, or Castle Course, a round on Kingsbarns, a round on Dumbarnie Links, plus a round on the hotel’s own Duke’s course with lunch, a spa treatment and access daily plus several dinners. The package starts at £4,150 ($5,723) per person, based on two people sharing a room, and a group of four going together. There are many other options for golf locally and in the region. The hotel also offers lessons at their Golf Academy and a digital Swing Studio, which even our non-golf playing teens seriously enjoyed. 

If the surroundings inspire you to want to golf but you don’t know how, try your hand at the Himalayas, the historic St. Andrews Ladies Putting Course, which began in 1867 and sits between the beach and the Old Course. Open to the public daily, £4 per adult and £2 per child under 16, it is definitely the most fun you can have for under a tenner! With grassy undulating putting greens, the 18 holes are challenging and change each week. Its setting between the sandy dunes and majestic Old Course is unparalleled. Nothing like mini-golf at home! This is a must no matter your skill level. 

St Andrews Cathedral

Built in the 12th century, the St. Andrews Cathedral was the seat of Scotland’s leading bishops and archbishops. // Photo: John Pow Photography

Beyond Golf

Through the hotel you can arrange lots of activities — everything from fishing and falconry to horseback riding and Land Yachting (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge gave this a go on their last visit. Another fun fact: they met while students at St. Andrews). West Sands Beach has fantastic walks and guests can also explore Fife’s beautiful coastline passing through historical and natural landscapes along the 81 mile-stretch of Coastal Path all the way to Dundee. The hotel is also a less than two hours’ drive from Scotland’s wild wilderness and its most famous national parks, including The Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

In terms of the town, the university is a big draw and actually 20 percent of the student body is American. Cute boutiques, restaurants and bars line the pretty cobbled streets in the center and some notable historical sites are sprinkled around, from the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Andrews to the Castle; there’s also a very good Museum of Golf, and Botanical Garden with 8,000 different plant species dating back to the late 1800s. 

Where to Eat in Town

As a weekend spot for many Scots from Edinburgh, and also being on the coast and surrounded by lush farmland, the choice of fresh, local food is very good. In town, try Forgan’s for fresh fish, local meat and, for vegetarians, one of the most amazing roasted cauliflower dishes we’ve ever had. Just slightly outside of town but walkable from the Old Course Hotel is Balgove Larder, an upmarket grocery, butcher and café with a large outdoor seating area.  Lovely for lunch or afternoon tea and sweets. 

For VIPs, travel advisors can get in touch with Director of Sales Phyllis Wilkie ([email protected]) for bookings, e-mail [email protected]; or call 011-440-133-447-4371. The Old Course Hotel is also part of Preferred Hotels and Resorts.

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