By May S. Ruiz
Mention St. Andrews, Scotland, and most people would automatically think of golf. It is, after all, popularly known as the birthplace of this sport where it was fist played in the 15th century. To this day the British Open is held on The Old Course every five years.
Professional golf is a lucrative business that gets support from major sponsors and draws an elite following. St. Andrews Links run five annual tournaments throughout the year, including the St. Andrews Links Trophy, and host the St. Rule Trophy, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and The Open Championship.
During the summer months, non-professional players from all over the world flock into town. Golf is a big part of the daily lives of St. Andrews residents; each one of them is touched by the sport in one way or another.
Limo chauffeurs, as well as cab and shuttle drivers, have numerous memorable stories about how many golfers and golf clubs they have transported from the Edinburgh airport to St. Andrews. Every pub and tavern owner has served tankards of ale or glasses of Scotch whiskey to the most famous golf luminaries, whether in celebration of a championship win or in commiseration for an upsetting loss. All hoteliers and B&B proprietors have warmly hosted these perennial visitors to their charming enclave.
But golf isn’t everything that St. Andrews has to offer. It is also home to the University of St. Andrews, the first and most ancient university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world after Oxford and Cambridge. Founded in 1413, the University of St. Andrews has consistently ranked third in academic excellence, behind Cambridge and Oxford, and first in student happiness in the United Kingdom.
During term time students make up approximately one third of the total population and because the university doesn’t really have a school campus, its buildings are scattered across town. The school and its students are such an integral part of the community. One out of every five residents has some connection to the school, whether as faculty or staff or as a worker in restaurants, grocery stores, retailers, and clothes shops catering to students and university personnel.
If you’re a tourist while school is in session, you will most definitely bump into students as they hurry off to their lectures or tutorials when you make your way to the ruins of St. Andrews Castle or Cathedral. They are most probably sitting only a few feet away from you as you take in the majesty and splendor of sunset on the West Sands.
In equal measure, golfers and students support the economy of this town as well as contribute to the local color. St. Andrews is certainly abuzz and alive with their presence. And anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit this stunningly beautiful spot in Scotland fully appreciates how they have enriched the St. Andrews experience.