ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – You can play the Old Course for $320 in the summer, $160 in the winter. You can walk alongside it pretty much any time of year without anybody blinking. On Sundays year-round, the course is closed to golfers but open to the public, so you can walk 18 without any clubs, the way Mark Twain recommended.
But if you want an apartment with a view of the course, it will cost you more than $5.4 million, including sales tax.
And you don’t even get to cut the line for a tee time.
Welcome to St. Andrews, an ancient public property where modern capitalism resides across the street. I visited Apartment No. 24 at the Hamilton Grand on Wednesday to see exactly why somebody would spend 4.1 million pounds plus sales tax for 1,765 square feet of living space across from the home of golf.
I mean, three short blocks away, a house called Greyfriars Garden is for sale. It sits on 0.29 acres of land and looks lovely from the sidewalk. It is 50 percent larger than Apartment No. 24 and costs 60 percent less.
Is Apartment No. 24 worth it? This is not for me to say. You spend your $5.4 million as you see fit. But what I can tell you is that it is amazing. You can see the 18th green from your dining room inside a turret (because who doesn’t love a dining room inside a turret?) and even that doesn’t do justice to the view. You can see the whole course. It feels like you can see the whole of Scotland. You can see the beach, the North Sea, and if you are a golf fan, every imaginable reason to be alive.
You also get access to the rooftop terrace, which includes a kitchen and even more panoramic views. You get the benefit of the building’s 24-hour butler; use of the two lovely sitting rooms on the ground floor, one of which has a baby grand piano; two free spa and gym memberships at the nearby Old Course Hotel; and a chance to join the Duke’s Course golf club less than four miles away. Sure, it needs new floors. But whatever – put that on the tab.
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“It is the most expensive real estate in Scotland on a per-square foot basis, by quite a distance,” says real-estate broker Jamie Macnab of Savills, who is listing the property.
What makes the Hamilton Grand so cool, paradoxically, is that it doesn’t feel like it costs a fortune. Sure, the kitchen has high-end Miele appliances, but there is no new-money vibe to the place. It retains all of the charm of its 19th-century roots. There is stained glass in the stairwell. Instead of TVs hanging on the walls of those sitting rooms, there are old wood-shafted golf clubs. If a home is about the feeling it gives you, then the Hamilton Grand nails it … though, full disclosure: if you buy it, you’re not allowed to list it as your principal residence, because it’s designated as a “holiday home.” (You can still stay there up to 50 weeks a year.)
The building oozes history, even though it’s an infant compared to the Old Course. It opened in 1895 as a hotel. During World War II, the military used it. After World War II, it became Hamilton Hall, a dormitory for the University of St. Andrews. Imagine being 19 and moving your hot pot and music posters into this place.
In 2004, a developer called the Wasserman Group bought it from the university with plans to turn it into what it is today. Then the economy tanked and Wasserman’s progress stalled. Donald Trump tried to buy it, but according to a 2018 report in the Scotsman, his financing was dubious, and in a frankly heroic move, I am going to get in and out of this Donald Trump side note in one sentence. In 2009, Herb Kohler, bigwig of Kohler plumbing products and also Whistling Straits golf course, bought it for roughly $17 million. It was so run-down that the renovation cost almost three times as much as the purchase. (I am told Kohler chose the plumbing fixtures himself. How great is that? Like Ray Kroc grilling your burger.)
Kohler had to go through a public approval process for his plans. You can’t just build anything across from the 18th green at St. Andrews. But Kohler is an old-school golf guy who understood that. His plans were approved, and here we are.
Yes, the 27 apartments are extremely pricey. But rich people pay a premium for uniqueness, and it is hard to imagine anywhere in the world quite like this. American golf is built on exclusivity. You can’t really see any part of Augusta National from the street. The club likes it that way. The members would probably prefer it if you couldn’t see the course from the air. Cypress Point and Pine Valley might as well be run by the CIA. Bandon Dunes is incredible but remote and still relatively young. Pebble Beach is a public course, but the whole place is soaked in wealth, from the greens fees to the room rates to the real estate prices nearby. The Hamilton Grand feels like a place you enter through time travel. You can walk into your new apartment, and imagine your ancestors living there – then thank them for the inheritance.
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