“ St Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa sits proudly amidst the rugged, coastal landscape of the North Sea whilst commanding spectacular views of the Bay's golden beaches and medieval St Andrews. „
St Andrews is a haven for golfers – and while the student golfers seem happy to stay in their halls of residence and practise putting in the hallway, the rich American ones need somewhere rather more comfortable to stay. Enter St Andrew's Bay Golf Resort and Spa, the new kid on the block in a town steeped in history and knee-deep in golf shops. Previously, the Old Course Hotel was where rich American golfers tended to spend their dollars, and where students of the town were honoured just to make the beds and clean the toilets. But for nearly two years now, there has been a rival five-star hotel, just three miles from St Andrews, with fantastic views of the coast. The St Andrews Bay Hotel sits on 520 acres which were once potato fields, and I for one would be happy to eat less chips if I could stay here more often. A large proportion of visitors to St Andrews come for the golf, and the hotel has been built with this in mind. There are two golf courses as part of the resort. The Torrance Course was designed by Sam Torrance (duh), and is a traditional links course with some really dramatic holes, once of which has the green on the edge of a cliff. The Devlin course, designed by Bruce Devlin (double duh), is equally dramatic, so I'm told. The hotel itself is set on top of a cliff and has amazing views of the St Andrews skyline and the North sea. The fact that the hotel isn't based directly in the town shouldn't deter visitors - there is a complimentary shuttle bus which runs hourly until 10pm and collects hourly from St Andrews, and the journey into town would only take five minutes by taxi. You could even walk the three miles along the coastal path! Although modern, the sandstone-built hotel blends well with the surrounding scenery in that the approach is faintly reminiscent of a castle. Although not exactly medieval architecture, it's certainly no blot on the landscape. The first time I stayed there I was on my hen night, and was blindfolded, so I couldn't have told you anything about the approach at all! The Bay, as I like to call it now – "Of course, we stayed at The Bay, Dahhhling" – likes to go that extra mile, which is what a five-star hotel is all about. They call it the "Subtle Difference of Excellence". Whatever. It's a good thing. On arrival at the hotel entrance, which is sheltered in case of inclement weather, we were greeted by the concierge, who helped us unload our cases from the boot (bunch of girlies), took the car away and parked it (I was beginning to feel like Julia Roberts at this point), waited while we checked in, and then showed us to our room. Check-in was handled efficiently and politely, and while waiting for a friend to appear we just stood and took in the lobby, which had a huge, open fireplace, leather sofas, and marble everywhere. I can't describe how luxurious the whole place seemed right from the outset. There are 209 rooms in The Bay, and although it's a modern building it doesn't feel remotely like a Holiday Inn, as you might expect. There are wide, sweeping, carpeted corridors, and despite the scale of the place it manages to avoid being bland and uniform: there are no endless rows of corridors that all look the same. The Bay has the finishing touches – the furniture, flowers, and tasteful décor that help you navigate your way to your room. I managed to get lost in St Andrews itself as a student, and St Andrews has three main parallel streets. Yet I had no trouble finding my way around this hotel on my own. I've stayed in a twin room, which had two king-sized beds and ample space for the additional camp bed we requested and on a separate occasion, in a suite which was substantially larger and had, in addition to the beds, a large dining table and six chairs, sofas, armchairs, and enormous windows overlooking the golf course. The rooms are spotless, brigh t, tasteful, and have a host of hotel "goodies", some of which you would perhaps expect: mini-bar; tea- and coffee-making facilities; satellite TV; and some of which are more luxurious: DVD player with a choice of films on demand; CD player with CDs on demand; dual phone lines; interactive TV with free high-speed internet connection (keyboard provided); under-floor heating in the bathroom; warm fluffy bathrobes; you get the picture. Sometimes it's the little things that give you the most pleasure. The hotel incorporates a Château Élan Spa on the lowest floor of the hotel, in which I practically lived for two days. There is an 18m swimming pool with jacuzzi, a steam room, sauna, and a vast array of available treatments for general pampering. Remember how it was the little things? The showers have Molten Brown shampoo and shower gel dispensers. I was having about four showers a day, just for those alone! I walked through but managed to avoid staying in the gym. It happens to be the one Prince William frequents, and has cardiovascular fitness facilities, circuit strength training and free weight equipment. You can even request the services of the on-site fitness trainer, if you should be so inclined. Personally, I'd rather splash about in the pool. There are 6 sound-proof treatment rooms where you can choose from treatments ranging from standard waxing, facials, and massages, to something more exotic like a strawberry herbal back cleanse or treatment involving hot stones and aromatherapy. Oh to be a golf widow! Walking to the treatment room felt amazing. I've never felt carpet pile so thick in my bare feet, or felt so relaxed wandering about in my fluffy bathrobe along corridors and in lifts. I nearly forgot what I was wearing and joined my friend in the bar (the leather sofas just looked so good) until she pointed out I should probably dress appropriately for my after-spa drink. There is a sweeping double staircase whi ch takes you down from the lobby to the lower floor on which the spa and Atrium are situated. The Atrium is a very large and comfortable area with deep leather sofas, where you can order afternoon tea, read the paper or simply watch people go by. Alongside sit the conference facilities which include a room that seats 600, a "technologically advanced" auditorium; and 10 other meeting and seminar rooms, each with French doors (presumably so that if you get bored you can wander outside to take in the view). The whole ground floor is open plan, and the staircase separates the Atrium from the main restaurant, "The Squire". Dining there is an experience you shouldn't miss. We only had our dinner there one night during our stay, with a "hang the cost" motto firmly in mind. Main meals ranged from £12-20, and there was an extensive wine list. The food didn't disappoint – my vegetarian friend was well catered for, I had local salmon (and it was wild – phew!), and my second friend enjoyed some rare steak! Breakfast is also served in this restaurant, and led to my only disappointment – the slow service on Sunday morning, which involved a long queue for a table. The staff were congenial and plentiful, but not efficient, and if they'd been in a sister resort in America, I think they probably would have lasted two minutes. Funnily enough, the hotel is advertising for more staff in this week's paper. Ah well. Breakfast is a self-service buffet affair, with two round tables, one continental and one traditional, although you could also order special dishes from the menu. Because of the open plan layout, you could even see into the kitchen, and watch Chef flipping your omelette. Wicked. A second restaurant serving snacks and light meals is situated in a summerhouse style building, the Clubhouse, which is a short walk down the golf course and has spectacular views along the coast. If you don't fancy the walk, you can order room service from the Clubhouse for an additional £3, although the choice was limited to four or five dishes. This is a much more affordable option and prices ranged from £7 to 9 for a main meal. We had club sandwiches and champagne, which was the other small disappointment. Being the generally nice fella my husband is, he'd phoned the hotel and arranged for us to have a bottle of champagne in the room for when we arrived. Awww. But it wasn't there. After a spate of texts involving messages from me to him like "no, no surprise in room, except for amount of bathroom products three women need for 48 hours" he realised it hadn't been sent and had them bring up another. He did regret the whole thing later when he got his credit card bill, but that didn't spoil us girls enjoying our champagne! Want to take children? I saw plenty at The Bay and they were all having a great time. Above all things, the hotel has loads and loads of space, so is ideal for children. There is also a kids club, in conjunction with the local nursery school so you can be sure you are leaving your children in safe hands, if you decide you want some peace. You won't find special price deals through the normal hotel websites, but it is possible to take advantage of special deals on the website, which you can find easily through google. And of course, you can negotiate. We booked a twin room and had a camp bed added at no additional cost, so had a twin room between the three of us, which worked out at about £80 each for two nights. It was a bargain and a half! Current website offer: Dinner, Bed & Breakfast and either a spa treatment or a round of golf per person for £195.00 per couple, until the 31st March 2004.