Nothing quite prepares you for the first time you lay eyes on St Andrews links.
If, like me, you find yourself getting a taxi from Leuchars Station to the Old Course Hotel, the moment creeps up on you all of a sudden; entering the gates of golf heaven, and no one’s even checked your ID.
One moment you’re speeding along an A-road, nothing but pristine Scottish countryside for company, the next you’re stepping into the hotel reception, making the short walk to the Jigger Inn next door, and there it is: the two most famous holes in golf, the 17th and 18th holes at the Old Course.
Like a child pressing their nose against the window of a sweet shop, you stare open-mouthed at the sight you’ve seen so many times before – but this isn’t a Tiger Woods PGA Tour game or The Open on TV, it’s there right in front of you.
Funny thing is you’re not the only one going through these emotions: golfers finishing off their rounds are all smiles, pub drinkers are boisterous, even the locals feed off the energy of a town that lives for this sport. They don’t call it the Home of Golf for nothing.
The picture in most players’ minds when they recall their experience will be of the 18th, named after architect Old Tom Morris himself. It’s a parting shot that lives long in the memory after the final putt has been drained and hands shaken.
Walking in the footsteps of the greats, the tee shot carries over the Swilcan Bridge to a humongous fairway that stretches out 129 yards in width.
Hamilton Grand is a sumptuous ode to the red sandstone building’s original purpose as a bastion of luxury Scottish hospitality
Behind the Valley of Sin – those devilish rollercoaster contours that guard the putting surface – and the green beyond are two buildings, both as iconic as the other; on the left, the neo-classical R&A clubhouse, the right the old Grand Hotel. It’s the latter that brings me to St Andrews one crystal-clear morning.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the hotel was a bastion of luxury Scottish hospitality. It was the first place in the country to have a pneumatic elevator, and hot and cold water taps running to every bathroom in the property, but more than that this was the hotel that welcomed famous visitors like Rudyard Kipling, Bing Crosby and King Edward VIII.
Over the last decade, Thomas Hamilton’s 1895 masterpiece has been transformed into a series of spectacular two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments that surely boast the greatest golf course views on the planet. Hamilton Grand, as the building is now known, is a sumptuous ode to the red sandstone building’s original purpose.
Times have changed since then, but Kohler Co’s reimagining of the property retains the grandeur of the past: there’s high ceilings, arched windows and columns in every apartment, while a roof terrace offers residents the best views in the city. When The Open returns to the Old Course in 2021, they’ll have the best seat in town.
Hamilton Grand’s two domes are colloquially known as ‘Salt and Pepper’ for their semblance to the mills you might see on your kitchen table.
You’ll find perhaps the best quirk in the property inside one of the top-floor penthouses where the ‘Salt’ dome has been transformed into a panoramic dining room or office (your choice) overlooking the golf course, and sea beyond – a truly one-of-kind space.
There’s something surreal about walking the halls of Hamilton Grand and visualising what it would be like to live here. Each of the residences are managed by the Old Course Hotel, with a 24-hour concierge on hand to take care of your every whim and need.
Inhabitants have been known to call down to get home delivery from the excellent Hams Hame Grill located at the foot of the building, while residents also benefit from a round-the-clock butler service, the use of private chefs for parties, and full housekeeping services.
Of course, the greatest perk is one money can’t buy: complete access to the golfing mecca right outside your door.
For a minimal annual fee, Hamilton Grand owners who are permanent residents for more than six months per annum are eligible to apply for a Links Ticket, providing access to the seven courses that comprise the St Andrews Links Trust – and, yes, that includes the Old Course.
The waiting list is a couple of years long, but if you’re patient, your annual membership will cost in the region of a simply ridiculous £400. (Top tip: if you simply cannot wait to get access to the links, there are several golf clubs associated with St Andrews that host monthly private tournaments on the Old Course.)
Golf membership of The Duke’s Course – one of ten spectacular courses within a 30-minute drive of town – is also available. Atop the luscious rolling hills overlooking St Andrews, this spectacular heathland course is a genuine surprise in a region associated with links golf. Much like Hamilton Grand itself, it is a hidden gem ready and waiting for you to discover.
Apartments at Hamilton Grand start from £1,050,000. For more info, see hamiltongrand.co.uk