Many people must have questioned the wisdom of Don Panoz, the multi-billionaire proprietor of luxury hotels, resorts and golf courses, when he ploughed a reputed ₤58 million into the creation of the five star St Andrews Bay Golf Resort to the south of “the auld grey toon” in the late 1990s.
Were there not enough golf courses within and adjacent to St Andrews to satisfy the ever increasing number of visiting golfers who flock here every year to play at “the home of golf”?
Panoz, who made his money in the pharmaceutical industry, finances high revenue pet projects like racing cars and tracks so he’s not in the business of throwing his money away on golf ventures that are going to fail – and so it has proved as St Andrews Bay has become a welcome addition to the golfing facilities in this part of the Kingdom of Fife.
Designed by Denis Griffiths with the late golfing legend Gene Sarazen and evergreen Scottish senior Sam Torrance as the headline grabbers, the Torrance course is a 7,230-yard layout built on the clifftop overlooking the North Sea. It was constructed with many principles of links golf in mind, offering risk/reward opportunities at many of the holes.
The opening eight holes are routed up the hillside around the substantial site of the hotel and spa complex. This introduction offers the golfer a chance to acclimatise to the very fast running greens and take account of the many challenging bunkers that protect the putting surfaces. This is as near to links golf that you will get without the terrain being actually classified as such.
Standing on the 8th tee, a downhill par three hole measuring 191 yards, the full glory of the remaining holes can be seen as the course opens out, displaying verdant green fairways flanked by wispy rough. The background is just as pleasing, with the Tay Estuary in the background and the county of Angus in the distance.
There are some fine holes on the back nine, none more so than the 220-yard, par three 17th where the green is protected by a dry stone wall and deep, punishing bunkers.
The course was reconfigured in 2008 when the old 17th and 18th holes on the Torrance were included in the layout of the new Kittocks course, replaced by holes 3 and 4 from the former Devlin course. Considerable effort was also made to isolate holes on the back nine by introducing large, shaggy mounds between fairways and these earthworks have resulted in an inward half that enjoys a wild, natural feel.
The sister course at Fairmont St Andrews is the Kittocks, designed by Denis Griffiths with Bruce Devlin as the headlining architect. Day tickets were created for places like this where you will be hard pressed to find a more challenging 36 holes at one location.
A big golf course, built for the pros or very good amateurs. Greens were superb (kept their speed from the recent tour event). The land is similar to that used by the Castle course - where the Castle (a course I love), uses sandy waste areas and funky bunkering, the Torrance steadfastly retains its more austere approach ( its reward is that it has a tour event, the Castle won't). I added the Torrance to my itinerary at short notice but was able to play anytime between 1.15 pm and 5 pm on the day I played there were no other bookings that afternoon). I don't know if this was mainly down to Covid restrictions or whether word has spread that there are many better golf courses in the area, especially for golfers that are more recreational. I'm glad I played, not least as I hired a buggy and scooted round in 2 hours. It is also always interesting to play Tour courses. Standout holes were the par 5 3rd, with water on the right and a stream short of the green, the short risk and reward par 4, 7th, the downhill par 4,16th where the approach is towards the sea and the par3, 17th with sea on the left and an interesting green complex.
The Torrance offers an opportunity to play if all your other options have fallen by the wayside. It is a very nice course. It offers golf for their high end clientele at the hotel. For a visiting golfer to St Andrews their are so many better options. For traveling couples, yes. For traveling guy groups looking for links golf, no. Conditions are very good. The facility is opulent. It's a good option for plan B.
The Torrance front-nine wends its way around the massive hotel on the front nine before exploring holes bordered by long, wispy grass through shallow dunes on the inward half.
The opening holes have a burn and pond which comes into play and we see some large greens with some tasty run-offs. As you might expect after recently holding the tour event the putting surfaces were absolutely immaculate.
It’s easy to see why the European Tour chose this course of the two for their event. It is set up perfectly for elite professional golf, it is very fair and has a consistent feel to it although the plunging 16th does give us a delightful and different vista to the remainder of the course.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Having watched the recent european tour event at the Torrance course it brought back memories of playing it about 4 years ago.
We went on a golf weekend as 16 of us and I thought the weekend was outstanding and I really really enjoyed the Torrance course.
Strangely enough I think the fact this course is available at relatively low cost through the likes of golf breaks etc makes people unappreciative of what is a really good course.
I remember a mix of great par 3's 4's and 5's and the facilities, clubhouse and hotel are top notch.
One thing i will say is that the grass on the greens was left very long and they were dramatically slow, I really think this may have spoiled it for our group.
However if the greens are at a reasonable speed I would be surprised if this course doesn't get more 5 star reviews.
Fantastic course in great condition, the setting and views towards St Andrews are fantastic and I can't help but think that this course would be rated even higher if it weren't for all the competition in the area. The back 9 was slightly harder than the front, certainly the first time out with a 15 mph wind which made many of the par 4's play like par 5's. The course has it's fair share of challenges without being overly so, wide enough fairways with 'avoid at all costs' pot bunkers, tricky burns to navigate and quite a few very well protected greens which make for a challenging approach.
Known as a accomplished golfer, commentator and course architect. Sam Torrance is a highly respected figure in the golfing industry. Having no knowledge of the course and low expectations I was in for a pleasant surprise. I would classify it as the championship course of the 2 at Fairmont (hosted open qualifiers) and certainly designed as a Modern links. Most greens are slightly elevated, but in doing so provides great background vistas of the sea, the hotel, and the town of St Andrews. I found this very enjoyable to play, but also interesting as I felt no 2 holes were the same. There was enough rolling Swails in the course as well as use of burns, stone walls and reverted pot bunkers to add interest. A really nice course and is my pick of the 2 at the Fairmont.
Rory Wood is Manager of the Travelling Golfer click the link to read the full review.
Both Fairmont St Andrews courses are good, but very similar. Because of this i find it hard to remember which is which. They both share the quality of having some good holes by the cliffs, but the inland holes leave a lot to be desired.
If you're visiting St Andrew's I would play Elie or Lundin, both far more memorable courses than the 2 at Fairmont
Torrance feels slight in the shade of Kittocks - slightly less memorable, although perfectly enjoyable clifftop links golf in good condition with some nice views.
St Andrew's Bay is a very good facility, an easy taxi ride from St Andrews, and well setup for visiting Societies - weekend golf can be difficult to organise at courses with club competitions. Good deals to be had for both courses whilst staying at the comfortable hotel. Green to tees can be a little lengthy, for a change we took golf boards last time which was great fun.
Upon arriving at the fairmont we were greeted with a great enterance and a wow factor view of the hotel & spa driving down to the car park with the course to the left of us. The fairmont hotel has a seprate car park to the golf club so there's plenty of space to park your car and get a relaxing feeling before play. The club house has a nice shop and the staff are welcoming and very helpful. There's a nice pro feeling to the locker room with wooden lockers and nice showers and toilet facilities which is a bit more special than the average. Before play we were greeted by a nice guy who told us a bit about the courses and guided us to the first tee box. The practice area is great and has a nice double bunker chipping area and a great putting green that gave us a good indication of the greens speeds against the wind and down wind which was massively different so a must before play. To me the course was a Links course with all the undulations and rough as you would normaly get on a links course. The fairways are open, long, nice and wide and the condition of the grass was good. All the greens were true roll and a joy to putt on with stunning views of the sea and the rest of the course. The 18th green is away from spectators so there's no pressure here. There is some hard holes with some nice deep bunkers but for me the more challenging the hole the better. I'm not a flat course player and enjoy adapting to the conditions that can change in an instant. Don't be to hard on yourself if your scores are not as you expect them to be and just enjoy the experiance of this great course.
Pleasantly surprised how good both these two hotel courses are.
Don't make the mistake of missing them of your wish list because they are not part of the Links trust.