Upon arriving for the first time in St. Andrews under the cover of darkness in March 2000, I checked into the Dunvegan Hotel and ordered a Guinness from its first-floor pub. While sipping my beverage, I used a lobby pay phone (remember those?) to call my parents back in the States and share my euphoria at having arrived in the Home of Golf.
Texan Jack Willoughby and his Scottish wife, Sheena, had bought the Dunvegan in 1994 and under their ownership the place had begun to acquire a reputation as arguably golf’s most famous 19th hole. As the framed photos on the walls attested, the pub had hosted many notables in golf, entertainment and other walks of life.
In ensuing years, the Dunvegan’s renown as one of golf’s premier gathering spots – particularly when the Old Course hosted the Open Championship – only grew. And last week, after more than two decades at the helm, the Willoughbys sold the Dunvegan to Forth Bridge Capital LLP, a consortium of golf enthusiasts from the United States and Canada, according to local media reports.
“Having been owners for the past 23 years, it’s obviously a bittersweet time for us hence we were always hoping to find buyers of a like-minded nature to ourselves to take the Dunvegan into its next era,” the Willoughbys said in a statement. “There is no doubt we have accomplished this goal as the new owners are all golfers and are well known to us and to the Dunvegan.”
According to one local report, the Willoughbys will maintain an interest in the hotel, which is located about a sand wedge from the 18th green of the Old Course.
“We are very happy to be involved with Jack and Sheena, who have been a pleasure to deal with, and we are committed to ensuring the Dunvegan remains one of golf’s best experiences,” a Forth Bridge Capital LLP spokesman said.
In its report on the deal, The Scotsman observed that the Dunvegan “has helped shape some great memories for golf enthusiasts from around the world.” That is certainly true for me, and it is heartening to hear that the new owners intend to perpetuate the establishment’s essence.