St. Andrews, Scotland, has a way of seducing golfers. Just utter the name, and American golfers, in particular, yearn to visit this place of medieval history and golf tradition.
The purpose of my recent visit there was to stay — and play — at the $80 million, 209-room St. Andrews Bay Resort, a luxurious, sprawling property perched on a hilltop five miles from the village center. Until now, staging a business meeting or incentive in this area has been a frustrating exercise. With the exception of the modernized 114-room Old Course Resort Hotel & Spa, most of St. Andrews' rooms are at smallish hotels and B&Bs with no meeting or common space.
Not any more.
Wired, but Relaxed
Spacious and airy, with high ceilings and large bathrooms, the guest rooms feature satellite TV, direct dial telephones, an extra phone line for modem access, and in-room entertainment with CD-ROM and movies. The meeting facilities include a 15,000-square-foot conference center with high-speed telecom systems, videoconferencing, and Internet and satellite links. The conference center, which can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees, has two boardrooms, nine meeting rooms, and a 106-seat auditorium.
After business and golf, guests are pampered at the hotel's spa and health club, which has six treatment rooms and a heated indoor swimming pool with Jacuzzi. There are three options for dining on-site: the Squire Restaurant, a 5,000-square-foot bistro-style eatery; Aria, a fine dining room with Mediterranean cuisine; and Kittocks Den, a pub with a wide selection of Scottish malt whiskeys.
Then There's the Golf
Scottish malt whiskey aside, let's not forget the main reason one visits St. Andrews. The late golfing legend Gene Sarazen served as consultant on the initial designs and routings for the resort's two 18-hole courses. The Torrance layout, which debuted late last year, the first design effort of European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, is a 7,020-yard, par-72 course with cliff-edge holes and majestic panoramas. Slated to open in July is the St. Andrews Bay Devlin, designed by Gene Sarazen and Bruce Devlin, a 7,026-yard, par-71 layout with a picturesque coastline as an integral feature. I predict that this course will emerge as on of the best in the region.
The resort also has an informal play agreement with nearby Kingsbarns, the celebrated 2-year-old oceanside course that is considered a must-play by serious golfers visiting the area. While St. Andrews Bay has no formal agreement with the Old Course, its guest services staff counsels golfers on the various ways to secure a tee time there.
St. Andrews Bay is being developed by Donald Panoz, a billionaire pharmaceutical magnate, whose company's other resort properties include the Château Élan Winery and Resort near Atlanta; Diablo Grande Golf Resort & Spa near Modesto, Calif.; and Sebring International Raceway Hotel in Sebring, Fla. With St. Andrews Bay, Panoz has created a wonderful blend of luxury and resort lifestyle with championship Scottish golf — a winning combination.
Golf writer Ed Schmidt Jr. gives the nod for the new St. Andrews Bay Resort. The Devlin Course, designed by Gene Sarazen and Bruce Devlin and opening in July, will surely emerge as one of the best in the region.