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Opinion & Analysis

10 reasons you must make a golf trip to St. Andrews

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There are literally dozens — perhaps even hundreds — of reasons to travel to Scotland and experience St. Andrews. You could write a book about them. Some people already have. So when GolfWRX asked Golfbreaks.com to come up with a few, we took a deep breath and tried to condense the Auld Grey Toon, which could be considered a country within a small town, into just 10 memorable soundbites that encapsulate what the hype is all about.

Kate, Wills and The Tingle…

St. Andrews University.

St. Andrews University.

St Andrews town is a living, breathing monument. Its revered university (yes, the one where Prince William and Kate met) is the third oldest in the English-speaking world, while the striking castle and cathedral date back to medieval times. There is a tangible sense of period to St. Andrews, contrasting with the youthful and vibrant population during the academic year and summer, which provides the town with a unique feeling and atmosphere that visitors find extremely alluring.

The Old Course and Walking in the Footsteps of Legends

Old_Tom_Morris_Golf_Shop

When the words history and St. Andrews are mentioned in the same breath, most knowledgeable students of the game don’t immediately think of those old buildings with a violent past. They conjure up thoughts of the Old Course, Tom Morris, and all of those Open Championships.

Golf’s oldest major has been played at the legendary venue on a record 29 occasions, with the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Snead, and Bobby Jones all lifting the Claret Jug on that most hallowed of turf. When playing the Old Lady, you are literally walking in the footsteps of those legends and all of those that have come since. It really is quite special.

With the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse situated behind the first tee, and Old Tom Morris’ original golf store still open for business across from the 18th tee, you are surrounded by the origins of the game. This is where golf, as we know it to be now, was born. Why does your standard course comprise of 18 holes? That is what the Old Course has. Just imagine how long a round would take if the original 22-hole layout remained intact?

Champions, the game, memories… were, and still are, created here. Now, THAT is history worth celebrating.

That Moment… On The 1st Tee

No. 1 at St. Andrews (Old Course).

No. 1 at St. Andrews (Old Course).

Oh, yes, standing on the first tee waiting to begin your walk with destiny is more excruciating than preparing to enter your dream job interview, or in the minutes leading up to your wedding. The anticipation and nervous excitement is palpable, but that energy is released with a crushing drive down the gigantic fairway, beginning your stroll with the legends, the most memorable round of your life. Just to experience this moment justifies making the trip to St Andrews.

The Links Trust… and In Golf We Trust!

Eden Course, St. Andrews.

Eden Course, St. Andrews.

Don’t forget that there are six other fantastic courses (apart from the Old Course) in the town under the Links Trust umbrella, with the New, adjacent to the Old, being the best known of the lot. The course was designed by that bearded doyen of St. Andrews, Old Tom, in the late 19th century, and although the name does seem a little ironic these days, The New remains a fresh and thoroughly satisfying test. It is also frequently cited as a favorite of the locals.

The Jubilee, whose 18-hole layout was remodeled only a few decades ago, is to be found next to the New and runs alongside the dunes to the edge of the West Sands beach, where a famous scene from the 1981 British movie Chariots of Fire was filmed. It’s also, if you believe him, where nine-time major champion Gary Player slept during the 1957 Open Championship.

The Eden, arguably the most testing of the Trust’s courses along with the Jubilee, can be found on the other side of the Old. Although shorter than its sibling, it’s a thrillingly enjoyable challenge and its imaginative Harry Colt-designed greens require you to have a sharp short game.

Just outside of the town, you’ll discover the modern Castle Course, an undulating and craftily envisaged layout that boasts stunning views and some crazily fun holes. It can be just a little infuriating to play with a card in your hand, though!

10 Courses in One Small Town

No. 17 at the Torrence Course.

No. 17 at the Torrence Course.

In total, there are 10 18-hole courses within a mile of the town, none of which can be sniffed at. Outside of the seven at the Links Trust, the Kohler-owned Dukes, a heathland layout, provides the only alternative to the seaside fare on offer elsewhere. And remember not to overlook the two top-class links courses, the Torrance and Kittocks, on the town’s boundaries at the Fairmont Hotel.

In fact, staying in St Andrews is like being in a multiplex cinema that is only showing classic movies. The town breathes golf and the game has largely defined its worldwide identity. It’s a intoxicating atmosphere for any lover of the game.

Test Yourself Against the Very Best

No. 11 at St. Andrews (Old Course).

No. 11 at St. Andrews (Old Course).

For serious golfers, the chance to experience links golf at its purest should be an absolute thrill. Demanding the ability to create shots for each situation on the course, having to judge the bounce and roll on those firm fairways, and to play for the wind, there is never a dull moment.

The key to success on a seaside layout is to ultimately accept those conditions as your friend, rather than as something to fear. There are enough individual elements to St. Andrews that are intimidating, not the least the fearsome Road Hole, which is likely the best known in the game, and certainly among the most enduringly challenging.

On the Old Course, the par-three 11th and par-five 14th, which features the ominous Hell Bunker, are also among the highlights. Additionally, both the ninth and 10th holes of the New Course are equally as formidable. Playing these holes well, and escaping the innumerable traps, could be considered as an achievement in itself.

Lifetime Bragging Rights

No. 9 at St. Andrews (New Course).

No. 9 at St. Andrews (New Course).

We all like to impress (and annoy) our golfing friends with tales of success or grandeur. We regale them with tales of the great five-iron you played to the last hole, or the 40-foot eagle putt on a par-five that is unreachable for most. Spending time in St. Andrews and playing the Old Course is just about the ultimate thing to brag about for a golfer.

Enthral (and bore) your buddies with a shot-by-shot recount of your round, that adrenaline boosted drive down the first fairway, or the extraordinary par you made on the Road Hole, before striding up the last to hole a sweeping putt for birdie… sending the on-looking, fish-and-chip munching crowd into rapturous applause. Tell them how great the beer was at the Jigger Inn, how it surprisingly didn’t rain once, and how beautiful the sunset was every evening. Although we can’t guarantee that last bit, sadly.

And finally, show them the obligatory Swilcan Bridge picture.

Get that Priceless Picture on the Swilcan Bridge

The Swilcan Bridge. 

The Swilcan Bridge.

Everyone has done it. The key is trying to make that most famous image in golf as unique for you as possible. Will you go for the Nicklaus pose? Or the Arnold Palmer wave? Or perhaps something of your own. The possibilities are endless. Just keep your clothes on. Trust me.

With the most photographed skyline in the game right behind you, the centuries old bridge has been crossed by all the greats, so stopping time for that brief moment is the perfect way to close out a round on the most iconic of courses. Capturing that treasured picture is worth the trip alone.

Experience the Pubs (…and pub golf)

Courtesy_Old_Course_Hotel

Once you’ve taken that iconic photo, holed the final putt, and shook hands, it’s probably time for a pint or whiskey to help loosen the tongue for a post-round discussion. The obvious haunts are the famous Jigger Inn, situated alongside the Road Hole, or the popular and welcoming Dunvegan Hotel, which is one of the most revered 19-holes to be found anywhere in the world.

If pub golf is your agenda, then other watering holes include the Keys, or even Rascals, situated next to the cinema, which younger visitors in particular will enjoy. The good news is that there are more than enough pubs to satisfy the most seasoned of drinkers…. and a full 18, if you have the stamina!

The Gateway to Great Golf and More…

No. 18 at Kingsbarns.

No. 18 at Kingsbarns.

Situated only 50 miles from Scotland’s historic capital of Edinburgh, St. Andrews is easy to reach and an ideal base for embarking on a golfing and cultural expedition of your own. The great city is among the most picturesque in Europe, with enough attractions to satisfy a trip of its own.

From a golf perspective, Kingsbarns, the breath-taking modern classic now considered to be one of the world’s finest courses, is only a short drive from the town, while the likes of Crail and Scotscraig are also within the surrounding area.

However, it is slightly farther afield where you will discover the ultimate gems. Carnoustie, the famed Open Championship venue, is just a 40-minute drive away, while East Lothian (Scotland’s Golf Coast) is less than two hours to the south, where Muirfield, Gullane, North Berwick and Kilspindie can all be ticked off the proverbial bucket list.

If you travel a similar distance north you’ll come to the city of Aberdeen, which boasts some of the country’s best on its doorstep, including the Balgownie Links of Royal Aberdeen, Murcar, and the enchanting Cruden Bay; now a cult favourite with visitors worldwide.

St. Andrews is not only the ultimate destination, but also the perfect gateway to Scotland’s other world class golf destinations.

By now we should have convinced you that St. Andrews is a golfing mecca to which every golfer must come at least once in their lifetime. Just one trip won’t however be enough, but every golfer deserves to have at least a taste. So, if it is not already on your bucket list… then stop, pull out a pen and ink it in!

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Fortunately Golfbreaks.com is at hand to make that trip a reality, and, we’ll do all the work for you as well as save you time and money! Simply send us an inquiry by contacting our Golf Vacation Specialists at usa.golfbreaks.com or by calling (+1) 855.699.5853 Toll Free. Golfbreaks.com’s UK and Irish 4-night, 4-round golf tours start from just $640 pp.

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Guy Proddow is a Director and Co-Founder of Golfbreaks.com, a recognized market leader in golf travel. The company was set up in 1998 with the specific goal of making golf travel both easy to organize and affordable to all golfers. With over 150 employees worldwide and offices in Charleston South Carolina, Windsor, UK and Copenhagen, Denmark, you'll benefit from 18 years of experience and an expert team passionate about golf travel. In 2015 more than 220,000 golfers booked their vacations with us. Golfbreaks.com genuinely cares, and always aims to give you the very best price for your vacations, as well as save you time. In fact, 98 percent of our customers have told us that they would book with us again

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Peaky

    Jul 10, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Hey Smiz you is funny innit

  2. Peaky

    Jul 10, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Hey Smiz you is funny boy innit!

    • Pat

      Jul 10, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      I’m convinced he has to have the most miserable life of anyone who frequents this site. I get he’s just a troll, and hats what trolls do…but to be the ONE person who consistently tries to breed negativity and controversy on this website, he has to be horribly miserable, bored, and/or lonely. I’m amazed the people who run golfwrx haven’t put an end to him.

      • Charlie

        Jul 11, 2016 at 8:34 am

        Agreed. I am anxiously awaiting the negative response to my post.

      • Pat

        Jul 11, 2016 at 10:02 am

        Nope. You are just a sad, sad, sad, sad representation of a human being, and feel the need to show us all how deep that goes. Daily. No one is actually annoyed or bothered by your nonsense, it’s just hard to watch, and it’s amazing that Golfwrx (who has all our email addresses if we are posting and can block people the same as Reddit) allows one person to be the turd in the punch bowl. Over and over and over again.

        • Pat

          Jul 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm

          Super typical of people of your nature. Total lack of self awareness. Refusal to accept responsibility. Always playing the victim. Again, just a sad representation of a person. I hope, for your sake, you find some sort of happiness. You’re just showing all of us how pathetic your life is.

  3. gwillis7

    Jul 10, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Definitely is on my bucket list…playing that course and seeing all the history there is going to be amazing.

  4. Milo

    Jul 10, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Sweet advertisement

  5. NoBrainer

    Jul 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    This is a no brainer. St. Andrews is awesome. Old Course may be the big draw but all of the courses are excellent. Personal favorite was the New Course (which isn’t that “new” anymore)!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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