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The Open at St Andrews: Inside £2.8m apartments overlooking 18th green

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Looming above the 18th green of the Old Course, the Hamilton Grand is one of St Andrews’ landmark buildings.

Its rich red sandstone walls, generous bay windows and decorative bell shaped domes give it an iconic appearance.

Inside are some of the most beautifully appointed (and expensive) apartments in Scotland.

The building is just over 125 years old and was originally Scotland’s most luxurious hotel.

With golf growing in popularity during the 1800s, businessman Thomas Hamilton had an ambition to create the finest hotel in the country. One that would overlook the most famous hole of the world’s most famous golf course.

According to legend, Hamilton had been refused entry to the Royal and Ancient Golf Clubhouse and his hotel was built partly out of spite to overshadow the clubhouse.

Grandeur in St Andrews

The Grand Hotel opened its doors in 1895 and contained 100 bedrooms. It was the first hotel in Scotland to boast hot and cold running water in every bedroom, and the first with an elevator.

Royalty, politicians, presidents and movie stars all stayed at the Grand. Rudyard Kipling, Bing Crosby, Douglas Fairbanks and King Edward VIII were among its famous guests.

The property’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the years. The Grand Hotel was requisitioned by the armed forces during the Second World War and used as a base for pilots. Following the war, the building was acquired by St Andrews University, which used it as student accommodation for the next 50 years.

By the early 2000s  the Golf Place building had fallen into disrepair and lay empty for several years. In 2009 it was acquired by the Kohler company. Known for making bathroom supplies, the Wisconsin based firm also owns the nearby Old Course Hotel.

Executive chairman Herb Kohler, now 82, took a personal interest in the development of the building into luxury apartments.

High end prices

Since then the Hamilton Grand has set new Scottish records for the price of a flat. Bank of Scotland research listed Golf Place as Scotland’s most expensive street, with property costing almost £2,500 per square foot.

Apartments 12 and 22 sold for £2 million each in April this year and December last year. Residence 20, meanwhile, went for just over £3 million a few years ago. The penthouse apartment has recently gone under offer. Its sale price has not been disclosed, however it was previously advertised at £7.3 million.

Hamilton Grand contains 27 apartments, all but two of which are now sold. I was given an exclusive tour of the building.

Access is by a communal entrance at Golf Place. This brings you into a beautiful reception room, manned by a butler. There is a fire, comfortable leather seats, a cast iron rack for dropping your golf umbrella into, a grand staircase and access to the lifts.

In the members’ lounge there is another fire, more comfortable chairs, handsome carved pillars, a television and books.

What was a pair of four-bedroom apartments has just undergone conversion into three two-bedroom apartments. “Most of our clients here are third, fourth or fifth home owners,” sales manager Phyllis Wilkie explained. “They don’t need four bedrooms in a home they’re only going to use now and then.”

Stunning apartments

The apartments are – as you might expect – utterly beautiful. Owners can, of course, choose their own specification. The show apartment has a high end kitchen, while tartan carpets give a discrete Scottish tone. As you might expect the bathrooms are stunning and all fixtures and fittings are by Kohler.

I also visit a unique upper level apartment that has made clever use of the building’s features. An internal set of stairs ascends into the dome at the top corner of the Hamilton Grand. From here a series of circular porthole windows offer fantastic snapshots across the Old Course, along West Sands, and out to sea.

It could be used as anything from a show-stopping dining room to a library/reading room.

As well as an ordinary window, the master bedroom has three tiny porthole windows looking across the North Sea. These low level windows are at just the right height to lie in bed and watch the waves rolling in towards the shore.

My visit takes place on a rare day when the temperature is reasonable and there is not a gust of wind. This makes it an ideal time to explore the rooftop terrace. A lift whisks me to the uppermost floor and a door opens onto the terrace.

Sweeping views

I’ve visited St Andrews all my life and am more than familiar with its sights. Even so the outlook from this elevation takes my breath away. For golf enthusiasts there’s a bird’s eye panorama over the 18th hole and the broad sweep across the Old Course.

For those who just like views there’s a tremendous vista of cliffs, rocks, Castle Sands and the famous stretch of West Sands, with Tentsmuir Forest beyond.

I could very happily stand at the railings and enjoy the sights for a very long time. There are plenty of tables and chairs and apparently parties of up to 60 people have been held here.

The fact that the building has virtually no permanent residents means that the vast majority of the time you’re likely to have the roof terrace all to yourself. Expect it to be jam packed during major events such as the Open, however.

As well as the rooftop terrace there is a residents’ courtyard garden at ground level. A public bar and grill, Hams Hame, is on the ground floor and has a private dining room.

All the extras

Owners also enjoy a range of benefits. Among these are access to the Kohler Waters Spa at the Old Course Hotel, a 24 hour butler service, golf concierge and transportation to and from the Old Course Hotel.

Owners also enjoy valet parking at the Old Course Hotel – simply phone from your apartment and your car will be brought to the front door.

Just two units are left in the 27-apartment building. Both have two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, and come with a £2.829 million price tag.

It is a shame that these beautiful apartments are owned by some of the world’s wealthiest people and will be only be lived in for a fraction of the year.

But a little over a decade ago the building was virtually derelict. Now it has been restored to the type of grandeur its creator Thomas Hamilton would surely have been proud of.

The two remaining apartments at the Hamilton Grand are on sale with Savills or directly through the Hamilton Grand sales office. Both are priced at £2,829,000.