September 30 2011
The five yearly visits of the Open Championship are not the only occasions when the hallowed Old Course at St Andrews plays host to top-class golf. There is also the annual Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which is building to a climax this weekend. The competition, which is one of the most lavishly endowed on the European Tour, is contested over three different courses, with initial rounds at St Andrews, Carnoustie and the stunning Kingsbarns links overlooking the North Sea. The other novel aspect to the Dunhill is that it’s a ProAm tournament involving a colourful and eclectic mix of amateur golfers who are each teamed with a leading professional for the week.
In past years the amateur line-up has ranged from whip-smart golfing enthusiasts, such as the Irish businessmen Dermot Desmond and JP McManus (who have both ended up on the winners board), to assorted former footballers, cricketers and rugby internationals and the Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Samuel L Jackson. In that company there are likely to have been no shortage of side bets and competitive anecdotes, but all of the participants, professional and amateur, are sure to feel a frisson of nervous excitement as they walk up the 18th fairway on the Old Course tomorrow. Ahead of them will lie the most famous view in golf and, should anyone feel like enjoying it on a more regular basis, there is currently a rare opportunity to purchase a unique slice of the town’s history.
One of the most conspicuous landmarks in St Andrews is Hamilton Hall, the tall, red, sandstone building overlooking the 18th green. It began life in 1895 as the Grand Hotel and was designed by the architect Thomas Hamilton, who was allegedly piqued to have been refused membership to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club on account of his Jewish ancestry. He responded by building Scotland’s first luxury hotel. During its high-society heyday in the 1920s guests included the Prince of Wales and the silent-movie star Douglas Fairbanks.
The Grand ceased to be a hotel during the second world war and from 1949 to 2005 it was used as a hall of residence by the University of St Andrews. Now there is a palpable air of excitement again following its purchase in 2010 by the American Herb Kohler, who also owns the Whistling Straits golf course in Wisconsin along with the Old Course Hotel, which overlooks the St Andrews 17th hole. Kohler will transform it into the Hamilton Grand (www.hamiltongrand.co.uk), encompassing 26 apartments and a penthouse with 360-degree views of the Old Course and the West Sands. There will be a grill restaurant and bar open to the public, and residents will also have a butler service and a golf concierge, along with membership of the Duke’s Course and use of the spa at the Old Course Hotel. The apartments come with a 99-year lease and prices start at £1.35m.
Victory in the Dunhill Links, which has a first prize of €580,000, would obviously be handy for potential buyers. Alternatively, a long-range each-way bet on Martin Kaymer – who won the 2010 Dunhill Links – to land the 2012 US Masters at 33-1 with Coral may not win the price of an apartment, but it could at least pay for a round at Kingsbarns, Carnoustie or St Andrews.