The American tycoon Herb Kohler, owner of the Old Course Hotel and the Dukes Golf Course at St Andrews, is committed to a period of public consultation over the future of Hamilton Hall, his most recent purchase in the ‘Home of Golf’.
“We look forward to gathering input from the townspeople and the Fife Council as to what the name of the building should be along with its future use,” says Mr. Kohler.
Although many locals seem to think that anything would be better than the decaying building that is now a prominent blot on their world-famous landscape, immediately behind the 18th green of The Old Course, a new website – www.savestandrews.com – rejects the idea that the former university hall of residence should be converted into luxury apartments and calls for the iconic building to be turned, at least in part, to a ‘Public Centre for the Home of Golf’.
The website states, “Creating a welcoming clubhouse for the sixty million golfers around the world would be a favorable use of the building which now faces the threat of privatisation.
“When golfers make their ‘pilgrimage’ to St Andrews, there is nowhere for them to shelter from the rain apart from nearby pubs. An alternative to the privatisation of this historic landmark and a solution to visiting golfers’ dilemma of where to seek retreat, Hamilton Hall could house all visitors and further engage them with attractions such as a cinema projecting films about the great champions of the past, a library with golf books from every country, a congenial lounge to meet fellow-golfers and arrange games at one of the 36 courses in Fife.
“The concept would be to create a building which would be 100% accessible as opposed to Kohler’s totally private luxury enclave which is offensive to 99.99% of golfers. Hamilton Hall would be an ideal venue to be a kind of Institute of Contemporary Arts such as the venue in the centre of London, but focused strongly on the game of golf.
“Hamilton Hall would also be an exceptional nerve centre for the Golf Industry. The facade of the building could become the portal for a one-stop shop where all golf-related questions could be answered by a team of independent experts.
“Wastage of natural resources and manpower could be prevented by the existence of a knowledge pool based in St Andrews which could generate the authority required to reduce the squandering of valued resources. For example, the 32,000 golf courses in the world consume on average the water needs for 50,000 families per year. The saving of 20% by the dissemination of knowledge on the latest strains of grass varieties could generate a considerable contribution to prevent golf being seen as anti-ecological.”
Leading this fight for ‘the soul of St Andrews’ is Englishman Richard Wax, a golf industry consultant who, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, worked on many of designer Robert Trent Jones II’s European projects and more recently played a role in getting the acclaimed Kingsbarns course built near St. Andrews.
One of the nine ‘credible bids’ for Hamilton Hall came from a group of Glasgow investors with ties to Richard Wax. That bid is believed to have been for just over £10m, not far short of what Mr. Kohler’s company is now said to have paid. Mr. Wax and his colleagues have indicated that they would have been prepared to increase their offer had they been given this opportunity.
The ‘Save St Andrews’ website has only been live for a few days and so it is too early to assess its impact. There is, however, a facility for visitors to share their opinions and even to vote on-line so it should not take too long for a meaningful sample to make its views known.
Hamilton Hall, St Andrews campaign www.savestandrews.com