Everyone who plays golf is familiar with the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which sits proudly overlooking the first tee and final green of the Old Course. But very few people know the building next to the R&A, that large, red edifice with the white turret. That is Hamilton Hall, which in its 115 years has been a hotel, a soldiers’ billet, and a dormitory for the University of St. Andrews. A few years ago, it was purchased by an American real estate developer who intended to turn it into luxury apartments; that plan fell through and took a few fortunes with it.
Late last year, another American—Herb Kohler, of the eponymous plumbing fixture company as well as builder of The American Club in Wisconsin and owner of the Old Course Hotel and other St. Andrews properties—had his bid selected to buy Hamilton Hall, again with the intent of developing private residences.
Supporters and opponents of Kohler’s plans are lining up in St. Andrews and throughout the golf world. Those against want the building turned into something that all visitors to the “Auld Grey Toon” can appreciate, a clubhouse that would be open to the public (the R&A Clubhouse is very definitely not) as well as a combination meeting place/lounge/library/nerve center for the golf industry.
There is much to be said for economic development, but there is also a strong case to be made for public access. Those in favor of the latter are asking golfers around the world to learn about the plans and have their say, which can be done at the website www.savestandrews.com.