"Don’t you miss the U.S.?’
It’s a question I get asked frequently, and the answer is always no. Although my wife and I moved to Scotland as a sort of experiment (and I came for the golf) what we’ve found is an overall quality of life, simplicity, serenity and civility we’d never known while living on the outskirts of New York City. As a result, the only two things we miss about the U.S. are our sons.
OK, I also miss cheeseburgers.
Recently, however, I’ve realized there’s a reason we don’t miss the States. St. Andrews is becoming very, very American. The owners of the place next to ours are from Ridgewood, New Jersey. The couple two doors down is from Greenwich, Connecticut. The famed Dunvegan is owned by a burly, soft-spoken fellow named Jack Willoughby who on summer evenings fires up the grill on his deck just the way he did in his native Texas.
Hamilton Hall (the second most recognizable building in town after the R&A clubhouse) has been purchased by David Wasserman, a developer from Rhode Island who is restoring the red sandstone icon to the opulence it knew a century ago as the Grand Hotel while simultaneously converting it into 115 luxury timeshares, ranging from $1.3 million to more than $3 million (for nine weeks a year). The expectation is that most of the takers will be Americans, extremely rich Americans in the manner of two early purchasers, Phil Mickelson and actor Will Smith.
Meanwhile, the leading hostelry in town, the Old Course Hotel, is now in the hands of Herb (Whistling Straits) Kohler, who installed his sybaritic showers in all 144 rooms, upgraded the hotel spa with a ‘thermal suite’ and put a hot tub on the roof. Within a year he plans to bring to St. Andrews a uniquely American brand of music when he opens the town’s first jazz club.
Attached to the hotel when Kohler bought it was a 10-year-old parkland course, Duke’s, designed by five-time Open champion Peter Thomson. Now it’s an 11-year-old faux heathland course, its bunkers reshaped with erose gorse-dotted edges to mimic the look of England’s Sunningdale. The architect of this Britishness: Indiana boy Tim Liddy, a longtime protege of Pete Dye.
The St. Andrews Bay resort, a 209-room hotel and conference center with two courses, has been sold to Fairmont Hotels and Apollo Real Estate Advisors, an investment company based in New York City. Down the road is Kingsbarns, designed by Californians Mark Parsinen and Kyle Phillips, and under American ownership since day one. And why not? Roughly 75 percent of the play comes from visiting Yanks.
It’s a similar situation at the Old Course, even in the dead of winter you hear American voices as you walk the ancient links. Several members of the greenkeeping staff are on loan from Pinehurst as part of an exchange program with the St. Andrews Links Trust.
In the town center Starbucks and Subway have arrived—can McDonald’s and Burger King be far behind? (Personally, I hope they hurry—the Brits have no clue how to make a decent hamburger.)
Even the venerable University of St. Andrews, a bastion of British education for over 500 years, has adopted an American accent. Inasmuch as Scottish undergrads pay no tuition and students from the rest of the U.K. pay a pittance, the university gets a major injection of cash by charging U.S. students about $35,000 for tuition, room and board. Close to 600 Americans study in St. Andrews, and this year two of the honorary doctorates went to Charlie Sifford and Michael Douglas. In 2004 they anointed Dr. Bob Dylan.
Yes, in St. Andrews, no matter where you look, it’s impossible to miss the U.S.