Off course at Fairmont St. Andrews

The Fairmont St. Andrews has two links courses, including the Kittock on the coastline.

Standing on the driving range at one of golf's traditional links courses at the Fairmont St. Andrews in Scotland, we took turns using our clubs to smash fruit. Yes, fruit. It seemed almost sacrilegious. But I have to admit that it was just about the most fun I've ever had on a golf course.

Even the most serious golfers among us couldn't get enough, repeatedly going after the lemons, oranges, apples and pears to see how far they could make the pieces fly while the juice sprayed our faces and clothes.

It's a technique Fairmont golf director Amy Yeates uses at times for beginners and children's clinics, making it a little easier to create contact and add some fun to what can be a highly frustrating sport.

For some of us, it was the only golf outing of the trip. But that was by choice. As an occasional golfer who has a hard enough time on the sunny courses of New Mexico, there were many other things I wanted to do during the three-day trip sponsored by the hotel.

Waking up to see a cold rain falling on the morning of my scheduled tee time tipped the scales in favor of going shopping.

I didn't regret the decision. While the Fairmont, an inviting property set on 520 acres, with a huge fireplace in the lobby and stunning views atop a cliff overlooking its two links courses and the North Sea, is a destination by itself, our walking tour of the nearby town, home to St. Andrews University and the ruins of a castle and cathedral dating to medieval times, left me wanting more. My decision was proof that you don't have to be a guy or a golfer to enjoy the Fairmont and St. Andrews.

There is something for everyone at this luxurious resort: fine and casual dining, a spa, ample space for meetings and special events and rooms ranging from standard to a suite that has housed the future king and queen of England.

The suites at the Fairmont St. Andrews, including this deluxe twin, are scheduled for renovation.
The suites at the Fairmont St. Andrews, including this deluxe twin, are scheduled for renovation.

Still, like everything in St. Andrews, much of the resort revolves around golf.

First, of course, are its stunning, traditional links golf courses, where guests can get a guaranteed tee time should they miss out on their request for one at the city's famed Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which uses a lottery system to award the widely coveted rounds of play on one of the world's oldest courses.

The hotel recently launched what it said is the only program of its kind in the county of Fife, offering to back up a guest's Royal and Ancient tee-time ballot entry with a corresponding tee time on either of its championship courses, the Kittocks or the Torrance, to ensure they don't miss out on a round at the home of golf. And should guests be successful in the lottery, the resort will remove the provisional tee times with no charge.

The hotel also offers clinics to help players perfect their game on the coastal links courses, which are characterized by uneven fairways, thick rough and small, deep bunkers.

A skosh of Scotch

But even serious golfers can play only so many hours in a day.

My trip also highlighted the Fairmont's partnership with the region's Scotch distillery, Kingsbarns, developed in 2014 by former golf caddie Douglas Clement on an old, abandoned farm in the area's breathtaking countryside.

The Fairmont offers a Divots and Drams package, which includes a room, full Scottish breakfast, 18 holes of golf, a three-course dinner and a dram (one-eighth of an ounce) of malt whisky and a tour of the Kingsbarns Distillery.

The hotel can also arrange special dinners, private tastings, bachelor parties and other events at the distillery, where you can learn about the history of both St. Andrews and the Scotch-making industry.

The Fairmont's restaurants and bars have recently been renovated. The St. Andrews Bar and Grill is about a five-minute walk (or optional shuttle ride) through the golf course to a cliffside perch offering panoramic views of the golf courses and the North Sea. It has recently been transformed to offer informal fare at lunch and fine dining at night. The Bar and Grill serves locally sourced foods, including fresh fish and lobster, steak and traditional Scottish dishes like haggis and blood pudding.

There is also a casual dining restaurant, the Squire, which serves a Scottish breakfast; a new Italian restaurant, La Cucina; and two taverns: a pub-style lobby bar and a sports bar.

Next up for renovation are its suites, including the Kingdom of Fife Suite, where Prince William and his wife, Kate, have stayed, and the standard guestrooms. Even without the renovations, the spacious standard rooms feel fresh and have all the touches and services one expects from a luxury hotel, from deep-soaking tubs to Nespresso machines and comfy beds and robes.


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