To the immediate right, the 18th hole of the Old Course, among the most famous spots in golf.
To the left, the Swilcan Bridge. And in the distance, the St Andrews beach where those “Chariots of Fire” footraces were filmed.
Watching Saturday from a lofty perch above it all, NFL royalty.
The Manning brothers — Peyton, Eli and Cooper — had just returned from their own round of golf and had gathered with guests on a spacious balcony overlooking the legendary finishing hole of the British Open. They are among the group of investors who recently bought and renovated the historic Rusacks Hotel, which this week is the equivalent of the world’s biggest luxury box on the 50-yard line of golf’s Super Bowl.
“As an investor, I just wanted to come over here and see if it existed,” joked Peyton, needling his older brother, Cooper, who was responsible for pulling together the capital for the project.
It’s an ambitious endeavor, the next phase of an enterprise that started with boutique hotels in U.S. college towns. The group now has three other deals for golf course hotels in the works, at North Berwick and Troon in Scotland, and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.
“When I told people about this project, that we had a chance to buy this place, and that we were never going to sell it, they were blown away,” said Cooper, senior managing director of AJ Capital Partners.
Cooper Manning, the brother of former NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning, stands on a balcony of the hotel the brothers purchased adjacent to the Old Course at St Andrews Golf Club in Scotland.
Said Ben Weprin, the investment group’s chief executive: “This place is the Mona Lisa.”
Matter of fact, Peyton had just returned from the actual Mona Lisa, making a trip to watch major championship golf after he and his wife, Ashley, had a vacation in London and Paris.
Peyton has become a big Rory McIlroy fan in recent years, having gotten to know him while playing at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. McIlroy is heading into the final round of the Open tied for the lead with Viktor Hovland.
“I had a great visit with Rory after a [Memorial] round, in the weight room of all places,” Peyton said. “They still let me go in there. I’m waiting for an evening cocktail reception that I’m doing with some of the customers, and I’m trying to kill time. And these guys are in there stretching and getting ready for the next day’s round. I’ve seen Rory in several weight rooms over the years and always had good visits with him. I’m pulling for him.”
Eli, meanwhile, played in the Memorial tournament last year with No. 1-ranked Scottie Scheffler, currently tied for fifth.
“Eli takes full credit,” Peyton said. “He said he gave Scheffler a little pep talk and kind of spring-boarded him. Unfortunately, with the timing, you actually kind of believe him. It’s like, ‘Wait a minute, he really wasn’t winning, and now … .’”
Peyton and Eli can move around Scotland a bit more anonymously than they can back home, but occasionally Saturday, passers-by would spot one of them on the second-floor balcony, stop dead and do a triple-take.
“Even my caddie told me that he really wouldn’t have recognized me until he read my name on my bag,” Peyton said. “He said, ‘I know who you are. My brother’s an Eagles fan.’ I imagine it would be the same way if rugby players came over to the States or something.”
There’s no question the Mannings are more recognizable than that, but they like to try to blend in. Same way with the Rusacks (pronounced ROO-sax). Their group has gone to great lengths to maintain the character of the place, taking pains to make sure the new wing of 50 rooms blends in with the rest of the place, which was built in 1887.
Either way, from the One Under Bar, the basement hamburger joint that’s open to the public, to the reservations-only rooftop restaurant “18” — named for golf holes, not Peyton’s jersey number — the Rusacks is the place to be this week.
“Eighteenth hole of the British Open, to come here with my brothers and friends and watch this,” Eli said, “you can’t beat it.”