Enjoying a Highland fling at St. Andrews

I suppose there's something sacrosanct about not swinging a club when you visit St. Andrews, the pride of Scotland. At least that's what most golfers say when they learn I had recently been to the birthplace of their favorite pastime. In my defense, I don't even qualify as a duffer, so to me it would have been tremendously irreverent to try and chase a little white ball around those hallowed grounds.

What I did qualify for was to soak up the splendor of these environs by checking into the Old Course Hotel, Golf Course & Spa, a member of the prestigious Connoisseurs Scotland ( There, I was assigned a delightful room with a bird's-eye view of the 17th hole. So, in a way, I automatically became a golf participant without embarrassing myself (or anyone else, for that matter). No dirty divots from me.

Instead, I stood on my balcony, catching sight of the Fife coastline and, closer in, the landmark Swilkin Bridge, an ancient stone span previously traversed by golf greats, from Harry Vardon and Bobby Jones to Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. That day and as is tradition, some less-identifiable players were stopped there, snapping photos of each other to prove they had completed a round at St. Andrews.

What bucks tradition at St. Andrews in The Old Course property is the dramatic suite over which most hotel enthusiasts who relish contemporary luxury would most definitely swoon. While much of the five-star resort suggests a castle-like experience both inside and out, the newly resuscitated accommodations do not. Instead, Wisconsin-based Kohler Company (of top-flight kitchen and bath fixtures fame), the current owners of this legendary place, have brought their guest digs into the 21st century with mega-modern infusions such as chromatherapy tubs and handsome, one-of-a-kind, above-board ceramic basins.

The reinvented bedrooms are none too shabby either. Red-and-white stripes spiff up wallpaper, privacy curtains and chair upholstery while magnificent sleigh beds promise a good night's sleep.

So does a trip to the Kohler Spa, a sanctuary of treatments and regimes based on the theory of thassalotherapy, or, in lay(wo)man's terms, the therapeutic benefits of water. Nowhere is this more evident than in the overflowing infinity bath, the open-air pole showers and the mesmerizing waterfall known as RiverBath.

Treatments run the gamut, up to and including the Kohler's signature Highland Fling. During this extensive spa experience, takers are covered in finely ground, mint-scented coffee and then drenched by spine-tingling Vichy showers that traverse the entire body to exfoliate and rejuvenate.

As I enjoyed the spa and so much more about The Old Course (particularly The Conservatory for high tea and the convivial Jigger Inn pub for a Scotch and some laughs), I fought the urge to partake of the sport du jour at St. Andrews. Indeed, the entire time I was there I couldn't stop thinking about golf, so to cure this insanity, I gave in and made an appointment with the PGA pro.

With that admission I must add that instead of hitting the links, we hit the Duke's Course Clubhouse restaurant for a change of pace and some lighthearted chatter (not all of it in golf speak) while I devoured perhaps the best fish and chips I have ever eaten. In the end, I experienced the ideal lesson this hacker girl could ever fathom, so rewarding that I would jump at the chance for a similar scenario the next time I steal myself away to Scotland.

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