After a very long day riding through the Highlands, my legs were pretty well rested for the upcoming day in St. Andrews. I had signed up to take a tour of the Old Course at St. Andrews Links, which started at 11 a.m. My train from Edinburgh left at 8:28 am and would take an hour, which would leave me some time to get breakfast and become a bit acquainted with my surroundings.
I jumped on the #35 bus to go to the Edinburgh Waverley train station. I had mapped out that this was the bus to take because it was to drop me off near the station, but au contraire it did not drop me off at the bus station. In fact, it veered off what was, I thought to be, the intended course.
SIDE NOTE: When I arrived, I downloaded the Edinburgh bus app so I could purchase bus tickets online and find out when buses were going to arrive. It was all in real time so I was able to track the bus’s course while I was on it.
So I had to jump off the bus and run about a half-mile to the train station. Now this was no typical half-mile. This half-mile was filled with twists and turns, steps and steep climbs, and a bit of guesswork to make sure I was running in the right direction.
I finally got to the train station. Ran inside. Searched for the ticket area. I had already purchased my ticket online, so I asked an attendant if I could get my ticket from one of the machines. She said yes and pointed me to the machines that provided pre-paid tickets.
I put my information in, grabbed the tickets, and ran to the gate. Luckily I had given myself plenty of time to get there because I was inexperienced with the buses and trains. I made my train with about two minutes to spare. Close call, but I made it. Needless to say, my energy level was already high due to the sprinting and near miss.
I grabbed a coffee while on the train and had a little snack that was in my bag—provided by Lady Brandie.
TRAIN ARRIVES AT ST. ANDREWS BUS STATION
I arrived at the St. Andrews stop (technically Leuchars) at about 9:30. I had to take the bus from there to St. Andrews, which was about four miles away. I walked to a ticket machine where there were a number of American college students trying their hands at the machine with mixed success.
I was unsuccessful at the machine so I went back inside where a much older group was assembled and a much older lady was working. I finally got to the window and asked her if I could purchase a bus ticket from her to St. Andrews. She kindly obliged thanks to my winning personality (and because it was her job).
I walked down the platform to a flight of high steps with a little bridge crossing over the train tracks. I saw the bus waiting for passengers. I jogged pretty briskly to it. Just as I was about to reach the doors, they closed and the bus took off. It felt on purpose. Like completely on purpose. I didn’t know how often it ran back and forth, but I was certain another would show again soon. Regardless, it was perturbing.
Another bus showed up about five minutes later. I hopped on, sat down, and took the drive into the classic town.
ARRIVING INTO ST. ANDREWS
After going past a variety of empty fields, we reached the beautiful St. Andrews. The bus stopped at the bus station just a few blocks away from the historic course. I walked down the street and followed the signs that pointed to the course. I walked past old buildings, all no taller than two or three stories, and various golf shops. I turned a corner and could see the Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club of St. Andrews that sits behind the first tee box and the 18th green and is for members only.
I cleared the buildings and before me opened up the St. Andrews Links. It was a tad surreal to see the place I had seen so often on TV. And there was the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole that I had seen so often in pictures and during the British Open. It was a wonderful sight on a site full of nostalgia.
I walked around for a while taking photos and then figured it would be a good idea to ask where the tour started. I was pointed toward the public clubhouse.
IN THE ST. ANDREWS CLUBHOUSE
The clubhouse housed a gift shop, which I was definitely planning to visit after the tour. I then walked down the hall into the little bar and restaurant and grabbed some breakfast: coffee and an egg sandwich. It was very cool eating breakfast and overlooking the links of St. Andrews. What a great way to start the day (save the sprinting to the train station). I washed my hands before the meal and stowed a St. Andrews paper towel into my bag (like a weirdo).
After breakfast, I walked over to the spot where the tour started. There were about 15 others awaiting the start of the tour, along with our tour guide, Roger. I checked in and a few minutes later the tour began.
THE ST. ANDREWS TOUR BEGINS
Behind Roger stood a map of all of the golf courses (Old Course, New Course, Castle Course, Jubilee Course, Eden Course, Strathtyrum Course, and the Balgove Course) and he discussed each one and when they were built.
From there we walked to the R&A where Roger discussed its history as well as the history of Tom Morris (Google him if you don’t know him). From there we walked to the 18th hole and the Swilcan Bridge. We all took photos on top of the bridge. I met a few people while there—one couple was from Georgia and one was from Canada. The guy from Canada was nice enough to take my photo.
I had a bit of a struggle just getting on the bridge because there was a separate group of about 10 Asians who stormed the bridge. I patiently waited as three of them took their turns cutting in front of me as if I was just part of the course itself (like a flagpole or something). I finally got to have my picture taken.
The tour was only one hour and so by the time we finished with the photos, it was over. We all went into a golf shop nearby and received our complimentary St. Andrews scorecard and golf ball.
After the tour, there was plenty left to see—of the golf course and most definitely the town of St. Andrews. I’ll tell you about that next.