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St. Andrews: The first golf vacation destination is still the best in Scotland

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Old Course at St. Andrews Golf Courses
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The Old Course anchors the coveted St. Andrews golf courses. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - You can find a golf destination on just about any part of the planet these days. From Myrtle Beach to Vietnam, each offers their own unique offering to golf vacationers.

Thousands come yearly to St. Andrews for the famous Old Course alone. Approximately 42,000 rounds are played on it annually. More than 220,000 rounds are played on the six (soon to be seven) Links Trust golf courses total, and that's not counting the courses not owned by the Trust.

One thing many don't link St. Andrews with is the variety of courses. There's parkland as well as links courses. Modern courses snuggle up to the town's classics.

Must plays

The Old Course, St. Andrews - Literally the Mother of all Golf Courses, the Old Course is worth all the hype.

It's also the town's most difficult to play, so either write the course a year in advance, jump on a tour with guaranteed times or enter the daily ballot. Once you're on, it's four hours worth of euphoria for anyone whose heard the legends and watched the numerous Open championships staged here.

Ballot odds are seldom worse than one-in-four, and the remainder of the courses at the Links Trust courses are great plays and easy to get on. So don't think you won't be golfing somewhere if you don't make the ballot, even during the summer months.

"The biggest boast of the St. Andrews Links Trust is that it's an open course here," said John Stewart of the St. Andrews Links Trust. "We welcome everyone, it doesn't matter who they are or where they come from."

Kingsbarns Golf Links - Seven miles outside of town, Kingsbarns is the modern jewel of St. Andrews. Opened in 2000, it has an entirely different look to that of the Links Trust courses up the road.

The sea is visible from about every hole, unlike the town's courses that are protected by dunes. The back nine features a handful of holes that play along tall trees and the par-3 15th is gaining a reputation as one of Scotland's finest holes.

The New Course - Only in St. Andrews can a "new" course come from the 19th century. Playing right beside the Old, this Old Tom Morris design opened in 1897 and was originally intended to be a private club but remains public like the rest of the courses operated by the Links Trust. Greens here are much smaller than the Old but there are still plenty of deep sod bunkers.

The New course also runs almost entirely on a "first-come, first-serve" tee times basis, making it a worthy consolation for those who don't make the Old Course ballot.

The Duke's Course - Business mogul Herbert Kohler, owner of the famous Old Course Hotel bought this modern heathland-style course in 2005 and had it immediately renovated, despite being built just a decade earlier.

The finishing four holes were completely redone, and there are 116 new or renovated bunkers featuring a fresh, rugged look. It's safe to say anyone who played the underachieving course pre-2006 won't recognize a whole lot.

Solid seconds

Fairmont St. Andrews - Just down the road, the Fairmont St. Andrews (originally named St. Andrews Bay) features two modern links courses - Torrance and Devlin - overlooking the town.

Jubilee course - Originally built for women, the Jubilee course is now arguably the most difficult of the Trust courses and tees off next to the New. History of the Jubilee dates back to the 19th century but was redesigned numerous times, most recently in 1988.

Coming soon

The Links Trust is currently building the highly anticipated No. 7 course just a mile outside of town on prime links land. A name competition is currently open to the public and the course is slated for a 2008 open.

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Kingsbarns Golf Links

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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