ay what you will about a round at Pinehurst or Pebble Beach, but when it comes to a transformative golf experience, nothing surpasses a visit to St Andrews, Scotland. “There is only one ‘Sinandrooz,’ as the Scots pronounce the sacred town,” celebrated sportswriter Herbert Warren Wind once said. “If you love golf, you really do find its truest flavor and spirit in St Andrews.”
Bobby Jones was no less effusive in his praise of the town, declaring in 1958 that, “I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St Andrews, and I would still have a rich and full life.”
Whether you’ve made the pilgrimage to golf’s birthplace in the past or still aspire to get there, the final days of summer this year serve as an ideal time to make the journey, as the 2nd annual Old Course Hotel Pro Am is scheduled to take place September 20th through the 22nd. In the estimation of Angus Watson, the Old Course Hotel’s director of sales, the three-day event is akin to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship—at least in terms of format. “There’s no other event like it in St Andrews for amateurs to play in,” he says, “other than the Dunhill, which is reserved solely for celebrities.”
The competition for the Old Course Hotel Pro Am features four-player teams, comprising three amateurs and a professional (all amateurs must have a valid handicap). The professionals play their own ball and compete in a traditional stroke-play tournament for a minimum purse of £25,000. The team competition, meanwhile, utilizes stableford scoring, where a team’s best two net scores on each hole are used. The three-player amateur teams can bring their own professional if they so choose, or they can be paired with a participating pro from the PGA in Scotland.
Unlike many pro-am events in the United States, which attract teams of amateurs playing alongside their club professionals, the field of PGA pros competing in the Old Course Hotel event is primarily made up of true playing professionals, meaning they make a living by competing in similar events throughout the year. In other words, participating professionals who aspire to win will likely need to go low at least one of the three rounds of the tournament. (Last year, the winning score after 54 holes was 13-under par.)
Over three days of competition, participants will experience three courses in and around St Andrews, including The Duke’s Golf Course, a heathland-style layout that, like the Old Course Hotel, is part of the Destination Kohler family. The site of the 2014 European Amateur Championship, The Dukes offers panoramic views of the North Sea.
The other two competitive rounds will be contested at Dumbarnie Links and Kingsbarns Golf Links. The former has already been deemed a modern classic, a layout with a look and feel that belies its only three years of age; while the latter has consistently appeared on many top-100 course lists since its opening in 2000.
On par with the quality of the courses will be the level of hospitality bestowed upon the event’s participants. Destination Kohler’s namesake resort is in Kohler, Wis., and is home to courses including Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run and hotels including The American Club. The same level of experience and luxury has gone into the company’s 175-room Old Course Hotel, which recently completed a renovation that saw the upgrading of all guest rooms and the addition of the Swilcan Loft, a restaurant and bar with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer unobstructed views of the adjacent golf course. Whisky enthusiasts will want to visit the hotel’s Road Hole Bar, where more than 300 bottles of single-malt Scotch are at the ready. Tournament participants should also swing by the Jigger Inn, a casual pub at the hotel that fills the space of a former railway stationmaster’s lodge and has hosted several all-night celebrations of past Open Championship winners.
Depending on selected accommodations at the Old Course Hotel, entry costs in the pro-am for teams of three amateurs range from £5,720 to £6,860 (about $6,890 to $8,260); four-player teams will pay between £5,840 and £7,880 (about $7,030 to $9,490).
Those who wish to extend their trip in Scotland, adding nights in the hotel and rounds of golf at local courses, can do so by working with the hotel’s golf concierge team. This includes entering the ballot for potential tee times on the Old Course, which on the day after the pro-am will reopen for public play after a two-week closure. For those who love the game, there is no ground more sacred. In the words of 1946 Open Champion Sam Snead: “The only place in Britain that’s holier is Westminster Abbey.”