The Investment of St. Andrews

U.S. developers want to bring glitz to the home of golf. A good walk really spoiled?

Ross Kinnaird / Getty

Darren Clarke of Northen Ireland golfs at The Old Course in St Andrews, England.

Religious pilgrims were the first to come here, in the 10th century. In more recent times, golfing pilgrims have flocked to St. Andrews to pay homage to a stretch of weather-beaten land on the edge of the North Sea where the game was invented 600 years ago. When they set off down the first fairway of the Old Course into the prevailing wind, they walk with heads bowed.

Everything about this small Scottish town stresses humility and unpretentiousness: its rugged, unadorned links courses, crumbling medieval architecture, quaint B&Bs and creaky-floored hotels. The hallowed Old Course lies on public ground--golf is forbidden on...

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