Customer Review from South Carolina.

The following was written by a group leader from South Carolina. The only edits Faraway Fairways have performed is to protect identities of individuals or specific named companies. Enjoy

You are about to tee it up in a Major. Perhaps the major golfing event in your life. You have prepared to invest a precious fortune. It is not just the money. It is the emotion, the hopes, the expectations, the time and energy to plan, prepare, and act to get to achieve your goals. Complicating the process is the inevitable unexpected and often unavoidable need to adjust to uncontrollable circumstances, such as the weather. Will you handle it like a champion?

The 1964 Open at St Andrews is perhaps a perfect example of the average players first journey to links golf. Jack Nicklaus final round of 66 put him 5 strokes from his nearest competitor, Tony Lema. Lema was one of the most graceful golfers of all time. Yet, poor Tony arrived in St. Andrews late and had time for a 9 hole practice round. He had never seen a seaside links of any kind, much less the Old Course. On the opening day winds approached 50 mph. Yet, Lema persevered. His greatest asset was not skill, competitive psychology, or good luck. His key to success was wisdom. Tony Lema played the shots, while his legendary local caddie, Tip Anderson, guided him through the nuanced challenges of the Old Course. In the end Tony and Tip finished within 5 strokes of Jack Nicklaus. More correctly 5 strokes ahead as Tony Lema was crowned “1964 Champion Golfer of the Year“. For your “Major” golf experience. You want above all the wisdom of a great caddie. A person who can:

  • Understand and clarify your personal goals and expectations
  • Avoid hazards. Identify the “hidden pot bunkers” in your itinerary
  • Seek positive alternatives if your goals or circumstances change.
  • Make wise choices in planning and during your trip.
  • Have alternatives to the bad bounce, be right beside you in an emergency.

Alun Davies is a master travel caddie. His attention to detail, and ability to give wise counsel is exceptional. Every step of my trip was expertly planned. The circumstances of my trip required at least a dozen major changes prior to departure. My goals and expectations were in flux even in transit. Alun not only stuck with me, he negotiated every request and concern professionally and enthusiastically. His expertise was evident from my initial contact with Faraway Fairways. During the 8 months between initial contact and the trip completion, Alun kept in constant contact insuring everything planned came to fruition. His travel briefings and itinerary guide were vastly superior to travel guides prepared by best selling writers and TV travel advisers. In fact this trip was better organized and implemented than any other travel experience I have had and that includes major Cruise lines and other golf travel programs.

I was initially attracted to Faraway Fairways because they offered the best value. However, I did contact several agency’s and hotels, all officially “Authoirzed providers”, in addition to Faraway Fairways. My evaluation process was greatly simplified. Several providers took the time to conduct rather nice interviews to get to know my goals. Yet, the approach of most was to press for a decision to accept their pre arranged program. Some providers took two and three days to return a call or email. They were efficient and offered nice programs. I needed a bit of flexibility and just did not fit the cookie cutter approach.

Alun quickly distinguished himself as more than a travel arranger. Like the great caddie, he intuitively understood my goals and provided me the path to success. Every caddie can tell you yardage and estimate wind effect, but the best know how the shot will land, how it will bounce, and how it roll out. You are about to tee it up in your Major. Seek wisdom, integrity and professionalism. Alun Davies and Faraway Fairways will not disappoint you. They cannot assure a calm sunny day with temperatures in the 70’s on the Old Course. But they can get you ”on the tee” and let you experience a trip of a lifetime.

One caveat. I hit my first drive on the Old Course straight down the middle about 70 yards from the pin. A few hours late I received a call from Alun. He, of course knew my starting time. I was not surprised that he made a follow up call regarding the days experience. I was surprised when he asked if I chunked my pitch shot into the Swilcan burn. He watched on the webcam.

Alun should be your guide. He will become a friend. Faraway Fairways note: we seem to have put the albatross on a few people playing the first on the Old Course in recent visits. Not the first one to get wet!

Customer Review From California.

The following was written by a solo player from California. The only edits Faraway Fairways have performed is to protect identities of individuals or specific named companies. Enjoy

Above and Beyond I was fortunate to work with Alun here at faraway fairways on a very last minute trip organization.

It began on my European vacation. My trip was planned to visit (named company) factory to tour and get fitted for new boots so I could go skiing in Cortina D’Ampezo. I took the chance to visit the factory in person as when I called the fellow answering the phone only spoke Italian and I did not, but I did get that they would be open again on Monday as I was calling on Friday evening. I took a 30 minute bus ride and walk, 2.5 miles to get to the factory and it turns out they don’t have tours or sell products at the plant. I took the chance that it would work out and being that it did not work out I immediately switched modes to go golfing.

I sent out a few email questions to different tour companies and Alun at Faraway Fairways responded quite soon after my inquiry. I was looking to get on courses within 2 days and this did not leave time necessary for Alun to actually put together one of their packages. So in lieu of a package deal Alun just started giving me a day to day itinerary with all possible options and all needed information to get onto the most famous and iconic golf courses in Scotland. *

* Faraway Fairways comment – we don’t get many emails late on a Sunday evening from abandoned ski trips in Italy, asking about the possibility of playing St Andrews from Wednesday onwards, and our first reaction was perhaps akin to “what!!” but after about 30 secs consideration, we thought actually, we should still be able to do this

Through his guidance and suggestions, I was able to play the St Andrews Old course twice, Carnoustie, Longniddry, and Dunbar. His guidance and detailed information meant all I had to do was follow his advice and show up to the course each day.

I was driving myself around, no small feat with the cars driving on a different side of the road and steering wheel on the other side of what I am used to. Alun was constantly in contact through emails to ensure I was on the right path and able to have a most unforgettable trip that will have me telling the stories of my experience for the rest of my life. Like the day I played Carnoustie, I showed up at 9:45 for a 12:15 tee time with caddie. The wind was blowing a steady 40 mph and I was not too sure about playing.

I walked toward the clubhouse and noticed that there really was no one around and I could see no one on the course. I walked into the clubhouse and was greeted by (named person) and (named person) and again no one, short of course employees being around, seemed to be there. I spent a few minutes talking with them who convinced me I had come a long way to not play. We checked the weather forecast, which was no better for the rest of the day, and I went to the restaurant upstairs to have some water as I debated what to do. There were only three people in there as I stood at the all glass wall and saw the beginning and last holes on the course. I walked over to the three gents sitting having their breakfast and asked if they would play in conditions like this. Their answer was they had a tee time for ten. After just a few minutes of introductions and such, they invited me to join them for the round. It would save me hiring a caddie as they would happily lead me around THEIR course. Now I am in a small panic as I need to rent clubs, get dressed and make out there to join them.

In the clubhouse they had a brief conversation, who got to allow me to be their guest for the round. This changed my green fee from 220 pounds, British currency, to 20. I did not realize this as I left my card with the pro shop as I ran back to my car to get my clothes to play. It was a good thing I nearly went skiing as I played in the same clothes I would have to go skiing. Windproof jacket and pants, three layers of shirts just to protect from the wind. It was not until the 6th hole I realized we were playing a match. (named person) who supported me as his guest against (named person) and (named person) . It is amazing how great company I was in. These fellows let me feel like I was part of their regular game.

I was invited to their clubhouse for after round shandies, my first. They also introduced me to just about everyone in their clubhouse and spent a great deal of time talking and letting us get to know each other. I now have good friends that I will look up the next time I go and there most certainly will be a next time.

This little episode of my trip is merely a small portion of the fantastic experiences I had for the freewheeling week of golf set up with Alun Davies help and support. You cannot go wrong with the support Faraway Fairways offered. I did this trip solo and all last minute but I have already begun to plan the next trip which will include my best golfing buddies. Thanks Alun

Customer Review From California.

The following was written by a group leader from California. The only edits Faraway Fairways have performed is to protect identities of individuals or specific named companies. Enjoy

When I first started planning a trip for my father, my best buddy, and myself to go to Scotland, I was sure I could do it myself. I could find the top courses, I could book tee times online, I could find my maps — it would be no problem. I am so glad that I didn’t go that route.

After a few short correspondences with Alun from Faraway Fairways, I knew that I that my trip would be better if I used his expertise. The service that Faraway Fairways provided ended up to be invaluable. They knew things about that area that I just wouldn’t have been able to know from the internet. (Who knew that it would be difficult to find a good dinner if we came off a golf course at 8 PM.) Not only did they plan the best six days of golf that a golfer could ask for, but they went above and beyond to create an itinerary for the non-golfer that tagged along, my mother. They even secured a castle to stay in for my parents to celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary!

The best part was that the service was surprisingly affordable. They were thousands of dollars below other quotes that I received, in fact the prices were very similar to what I would have paid if I would have booked everything on my own. Using Faraway Fairways ended up being the best decision I made regarding the trip.

Customer Review from Arizona.

Faraway Fairways and Alun Davies did a fantastic job of setting up our golf and lodging on our recent trip to Scotland. The accommodations were excellent and were centrally located for the golf courses we chose. Alun was able to get us booked at every course we requested and he scheduled our tee times and caddies for times that allowed us the freedom to do some sightseeing on the side.

In addition, he stayed in touch with the tide tables and was successful in altering a time to ensure the best views for us while we played! Alun sent us intriguing information about the courses we played in the weeks leading up to our trip and followed up with us during our trip to make sure all was going well. I will definitely utilize Faraway Fairways for my next Scotland golf trip!

Customer Review from UK

What can I say, we had a fantastic time, from start to finish. The Old Course was very special, but Kingsbarns was on a totally different level, the customer service was amazing and the course was the best I’ve ever seen and played and the views were something else. The weather was on our side too. The hotel we stayed in was excellent too

Alun, a big thankyou to you too for the first class organisation and keeping us fully informed over the last couple of years. We are all more than happy with everything. Faraway Fairways will get our vote

Kind regards Phil, Pat, Mark, Bill

Customer Review from California

Hi Alun, I’m home, I’m happy I had a Great time. You we’re Fantastic the course I played were Great the Caddies were an added attraction. I would rate it a A plus. And I have a lot of outstanding memories. Thanks Joe

St Andrews, Nineteenth Holes

Image by William Starkey. CC by SA 2.0 [CLICK]

Many visiting golfers head for St Andrews. The challenges posed by fabled links of the ‘auld grey toon’ are well documented. What is often overlooked however are the challenges posed by the St Andrews, 19th holes. At Faraway fairways we thought we’d take you through a few of the more tricky assignments you might find yourself having to negotiate, in the name of completing the full experience of course!

St Andrews is a small town (population approx 15,000) but it is also home to a renowned university, meaning that it punches above its weight. The town’s pubs have developed over centuries, and like the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, have something of a ‘town and gown’ divide, that’s to say pubs which develop patterns of patronage which lean towards the student population or the town’s folk.

St Andrews is slightly different, as golf throws a third component into the mix. As visitors you aren’t necessarily involved in this though and will use pubs that crossover both. We’ve tried to load our brief resume towards those with a golf theme or heritage, but not to the point where we exclude something otherwise of merit. This has tended to result in us erring towards what we might call the more traditional pub rather than the trendy cocktail bar

The Jigger Inn, The Old Course Hotel ‘The Jigger’ is Scotland’s foremost 19th hole and famous the world over. Just about every top pro and personality from the game will have visited. The white stone pub sits on the 17th fairway, the notorious ‘Road Hole’ and is encompassed within the grounds of the Old Course hotel. A photograph underneath the sign, or in the beer garden, is almost as obligatory as one on the Swilcan Bridge. This historic building dates back to the 1850s, when it was the stationmaster’s lodge, and the heritage live on. Today, The Jigger Inn is home to golfing memorabilia, crackling open-hearth fires, home-cooked food and a superb selection of Scottish beers.
Golfer’s Corner Bar, Dunvegan Hotel, 7 Pilmour Place, St Andrews Little more than a lob wedge from the 18th green, the Dunvegan is another hang out that drips in history and tends to be popular with caddies. The lower walls of the bar are decorated with over 150 prints chronicling the Open Championships played on the Old Course since 1873. The winners are all recorded by the camera and locked into their own time capsule. The upper walls are laced with famous golfers that have visited, including over 20 major winners. The bar offers a fine selection of beers, ales, and spirits as well as over 50 malt whiskies. In addition the bar offers 5 flat screen TVs where sports (especially golf) are regularly shown and no seat is far away from the “telly”.
The Drouthy Neebors 209 South Street, St Andrews The decor is welcoming and modern yet still with an element of old world charm. There are usually seats with enough room for large groups of people. It can get quite crowded, as it is quite a popular choice, but that usually lends to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. A very nice pub that blends well with locals as well as the student crowd
The Whey Pat Tavern, 1 Bridge Street, St Andrews ‘The Whey Pat’ is the archetypal Scottish pub of St Andrews. This quaint pub is pleasantly placed at the end of one of the three main streets in St Andrews. It tends to attract more locals than tourists which makes for a more intimate environment. Staff are friendly and happy to advise you on which of the numerous new ales to try. Groups gather here for drinking, playing darts, or just a lively discussion in one of the pubs’ many corners. It is one of those pubs that seems to be genuinely friendly.
Ma Bells, 40 The Scores, St Andrews This charismatic basement bar has formed a key part of St Andrews scene for many years. The bar offers a huge selection of beers, lagers and local ales, as well as a wide selection of spirits and of course, cocktails. Throughout the day there is traditional pub menu with classic dishes such as the Ma Bells Burger.
The Keys Bar, 87 Market Street, St Andrews Regarded by some as the best pub in St Andrews, although this perhaps needs qualifying a bit? The pub has developed a reputation as being a firm favourite amongst the local townsfolk and something of a myth seems to have evolved that it’s their territorial preserve. We’ve only encountered positive experiences and stories from people who have used it however. It’s comparatively authentic and a genuine pub. Perhaps its this that has made people a bit twitchy? The staff are exceedingly friendly and the food meets with unanimous approval
The One Under, Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, Pilmour Links, St Andrews The One Under Pub is directly beneath the Rusacks Hotel. The location is in a basement, but there is a big window that looks over the 18th fairway of The Old Course. There is a large table by the window that can be used by parties of four or more people. The atmosphere is nice and casual, very easy place to relax. Not surprisingly it has a very golfer vibe to the place.
Central Bar, 77 Market Street, St Andrews Very nice bar with a really good atmosphere. Good beers on tap. Great location in the centre of Market Street. Seating out on the sidewalk in the warmer months. Great place to go for a drink with friends, day or night. That being said, it really is an old-school pub atmosphere. Great selection in real ales and they’ve always got some good guest ales and guest ciders on tap, in addition to the usual suspects. Friendly place either at night or during the day
The Rule, 116 South St, St Andrews ‘The Rule’ has always been one of the liveliest pubs in town and particularly when there’s a tournament on. There’s a good chance you might spot a celebrity in here. It’s pretty spacious and has a garden out back. This hostelry can get quite busy later on. Difficult to look past the craft beers here, but they also do a good cocktail

A LITTLE TIP – If deciding to drink in what we’ll call a ‘local’ pub you will usually encounter a more authentic experience. It’s worth being aware however that regular users of the pub will know what they want to drink. Order – Pay – Consume, (repeat ten-times etc).

Visitors who are less familiar with what’s on offer will often be more inclined to ask questions before deciding. Try to be aware of how many people are waiting to be served behind you. If the pub is relatively quiet it’s not a problem. A 30 second enquiry isn’t considered too onerous either. Landlords, staff, and regular drinkers are normally quite happy to answer questions about their beer or whisky, and offer recommendations and opinions about them! but people can become a bit frustrated if prolonged discussions start to delay other folk getting served. If you encounter this, simply invite the person serving you to serve someone else first whilst you make your mind up. Everyone appreciates it, and you’ll usually be thanked.

Remember there’s no tipping culture in UK pubs (although you can always choose to if you want). A consequence of this is that staff normally prefer to keep things flowing rather than trying to butter up a customer. Our experience has been that a majority of visitors who report they’ve encountered rude service have fallen foul of this without realising it. What usually happens is that they’ve engaged the bartender in a protracted conversation oblivious to the delays they’re causing. The bartender is conscious of the queues building up and starts to grow more and more agitated

The UK Driving Experience. What to Expect

Scottish Golf Transport

UK Driving Experience – What to expect

With 65M people, the UK is a densely populated little island, but Scotland is very ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Some of her roads are ‘open’ in the liberating sense of the word, and a real joy to drive. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow however are notoriously busy and not terribly well signed.

Approaching Glencoe from Rannoch Moor
North Bridge, central Edinburgh

© Public Domain through PXHere/ licensed under CC BY-SA 0.0 Terms of licence [CLICK]. © Copyright image David Martin (Edinburgh – right) licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Terms of licence [CLICK]. Although heavy traffic is what tends to intimidate overseas drivers most, strangely enough congested conditions are often easier. The traffic is frequently gridlocked and allows you much greater opportunity to observe, plan, and even follow others if need be. The most challenging conditions are what we might describe as busy traffic that is still flowing Although you will need to adjust to driving on the left-hand side of the road quite quickly, for such time as you’re in urban areas this is fairly easy to do as other motorists will ‘keep you honest’. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right-hand side of the road tend to be more vulnerable to lapses of concentration in remote rural locations. There are signs dotted around the Highlands saying ‘keep left’ but that needn’t be enough. Some modern driving management systems do of course have a warning ‘bleeper’ if they detect the vehicle has crossed a ‘white-line’ and moved onto the wrong side of the road. Faraway Fairways will nearly always be able to secure you an automatic transmission, which means you have one less thing to worry about since changing gear only to find yourself winding down a window is a little bit alarming at first until you’ve adjusted. In addition to this aide, we will normally look to put an audio GPS Sat-Nav into a hire as well, so as to allow you to concentrate on steering and general road craft rather than navigation Outside of the cities, particularly the Highland region, driving in Scotland is often considered a legitimate leisure pursuit in its own-right. The roads are uncongested and typically scenic. There are normally ample opportunities to pull over and admire a view. There are some things however that you’ll need to ‘take-on’. We might as well run through these, but by the same token you shouldn’t be too alarmed. Hundreds of thousands of visitors face the same thing every year and just about every single one of them manages

  • You will have a right-hand drive vehicle
  • You will need to drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • You will encounter strange road-signs and highway laws that you’ll need to adapt to quickly
  • You will encounter unfamiliar things like ‘traffic roundabouts’ and ‘giving way to the right’
  • Even with sat-nav, you’ll run an enhanced risk of navigational error. This is more annoying than anything more serious though
  • We would normally expect to be able to source an automatic transmission, but could end up with a manual gear-shift if you leave a booking very late

Self-drive or Driver guide?

In common with a lot of operators, self-drive is our default offer. When we first began Faraway Fairways (2014) we were open-minded on this, but have since come to the conclusion that unless you really have a deep aversion to self-driving, it normally represents the best option Other than cost, the principal gain of self-drive is 100% independence. Self-drive puts you in control and allows you to set your own programme in-situ. Even with a driver guide with whom you establish a good relationship, or someone who keeps out of your way to the point where you barely notice them, it is still never quite the same as being completely independent in your own friendship group.

Small Size Group travel (two players) – Self Drive

Seating capacities are rarely an issue on a golf trip. Luggage however is. In addition to a standard luggage item such as a suitcase, golfers also generate a golf bag. As you realise, golf bags are an awkward shape. Golfers invariably require a bigger vehicle than their bare number suggests they should. A two ball party should therefore be looking to use a ‘large estate car’

Small Group travel (four players) – Self Drive

Although we don’t see it that frequently, three is the critical number whereby we have to begin using a nine-person MPV (no estate car can take six luggage items – don’t allow anyone to kid you into thinking otherwise). The MPV such as the Mercedes V-Class is very much the workhorse of the Scottish golf industry. This would be the largest vehicle that most of you will be able to drive legally but adapting to an MPV isn’t that demanding, they’re quite powerful and responsive.

The Hyundai 40i estate, typical of the vehicle in this class
Mercedes Vito typical of the MPV in this class

© image copyright Charles01 (Hyundai – left) licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 Terms of licence [CLICK]. © image Copyright Tx-re (Mercedes – right) licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Terms of licence [CLICK].

Medium Group travel (eight golfers +) – Self Drive

To a large extent everything in golf transport is geared towards multiples of four. An MPV has luggage capacity for nine items (four players using a golf bag and suitcase each). Tee times are of course sold in fourballs. It works out well. Consequently groups of eight are advised to use two MPV’s. Indeed, groups of twelve are advised to use three, we do eventually begin to encounter a problem however on larger groups as you might imagine, but there is a critical consideration we need to weigh that still means that we seek to use a fleet wherever we can rather than looking for a single large capacity coach Two or more vehicles is the most flexible option, potentially allowing a group to split their areas of interest should you wish to do so (especially helpful for areas of non-golf activity). Having two vehicles can be particularly useful if you encounter split tee times (most likely to occur in groups of more than four golfers). Perhaps the most critical factor however is that many of you will be playing the St Andrews Old Course through the ballot, which means we get notification of tee-times just 48 hours before play. Under this scenario it’s entirely probable that you’ll encounter a situation whereby you’ll have two fourballs going in different directions, to play different courses, at different times, on the same day. Two or more vehicles would allow you to do this. We really don’t want to be scrambling about on the morning trying to put transport arrangements in place if we’ve only got the one vehicle or a hired-driver on a rigid ‘pick-up’ schedule of their own

Large Groups – (sixteen plus)

By the time your group begins to exceed sixteen or more, your options for self-drive are beginning to resemble an elaborate convoy solution! Yes, you might be scoff a little bit at this for looking clumsy and complicated, but it is still feasible incidentally, and shouldn’t be dismissed. Because everything is based on multiples of four you’d still enjoy all the same flexible advantages if adopting this, but we’d also need to accept that the more rigid midi-bus/ coach is starting to make some appeal too. Faraway Fairways normally provide transport in line with comfort to distance. Many of the journey’s we undertake aren’t that far removed from a daily commute by way of time burden (45 mins). Consequently de-luxe options with their extra wide seats, individual arm and footrests, seat back tables, air-conditioning, TV/DVDs, mood lighting, double glazed windows and full draw curtains and cool boxes or fridges might be considered an unnecessary extravagance. It’s a decision you’ll need to make, what we can tell you though is that Scots don’t travel like this. If you choose to do so, you will be advertising that you’re an overseas visitor. Having perhaps said that with an air of disapproval Faraway Fairways are equally aware that this might be something of a false equivalent. For many a golf trip to Scotland is something of a life-time ‘experience’. There is the old saying of, if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing properly. Whereas a local journeys between say St Andrews and Kingsbarns under these conditions might be overkill, if you’re doing a longer-distance, say St Andrews to Turnberry, then you can certainly justify the additional luxury in your travel

Mileage Calculator

To help you make a little bit more sense of the geography, mileage, and journey times, we’ve linked the RAC’s journey planner. Simply add the ‘to’ and ‘from’ destinations (A & B) and then click ‘Get Route’. You can add a ‘via’ point by clicking ‘add destination’ underneath the two options you’ve entered. CLICK LINK HERE TO RAC JOURNEY PLANNER

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Are Guaranteed St Andrews Old Course Tee-times Worth it?


Image by Kevin Murray.


To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]


Guaranteed Commercial Tee-times


Most golfers who have cause to consider a trip to Scotland will usually find themselves seduced by the siren call of a guaranteed Old Course tee-time at some point in their deliberations. Why wouldn’t you? It does after all remove one of the biggest sources of potential anxiety. It isn’t long however before you discover that not only are they significantly more expensive, but they also come with ‘strings attached’. Naturally the question of, are guaranteed St Andrews Old Course tee times worth it, is one you’ll quickly be trying to answer.


Like so much associated with St Andrews, the honest answer probably begins with the dreaded phrase of “it depends”. Anything that begins like this is usually setting you up for a reply that raises as many questions as it does answers. In brief summary though, the ‘authorised providers’ who are permitted to sell commercial guaranteed tee-times will tell you that they are worth it, and not surprisingly perhaps those who aren’t will be more inclined to persuade you otherwise.


Faraway Fairways are not an authorised provider, so you would expect us to fall into the second camp. You should bear that in mind when seeking to evaluate our answer. We can however resell guaranteed tee-times but have always been a little bit reluctant to do so. Basically we would buy them at the same price as you, and simply mark them up. Any initial gratitude you might feel towards us for sourcing one will likely give way to a mild sense of grievance quite quickly, once you discover what we’ve done (and you would do). As a general rule we don’t like doing this unless there are quite specific circumstances involved which we might describe as borderline specialist. Under such circumstances it then becomes easier to justify, but this is quite rare


We should however in the pursuit of balance make some quick concessions to the guaranteed St Andrews Old Course tee-time.


Are guaranteed St Andrews Old Course tee times worth it, well provided money is no object to you – then maybe you could view purchasing one as being worth it. There are probably a couple of other circumstances where you could take a favourable view as well. If you’re very short of time and not in position to adopt the sort of siege tactics associated with a ballot strategy, then again you might take a positive view of the proposition too. Otherwise (like most people) you’re probably left trying to weigh the pros and cons against the various alternatives in seeking to decide if guaranteed old course tee times are worth it


Perhaps we need to address the mechanisms at this juncture?


Allocations of St Andrews Old guaranteed tee-times are made in early June to various authorised providers. We believe that 250 tee-times (1000 golfers) are issued amongst designated ‘authorised providers’ (identified by the logo).


An authorised provider is normally an accommodation provider, or a golf tour operator. These two groups tend to control a vast majority of the guaranteed tee-times. Some of the larger hotels will retain their allocation for their own internal use. Others will look to package and resell them commercially, whilst a surprisingly high number of hotels will distribute them to golf tour operators in broad recognition of the amount of business they have received throughout the year. It tends to be the case that B&B operators will be the last to sell out their allocation, but even these smaller accommodations have waiting lists and loyal returning customers who they may choose to prioritise.


We don’t know what percentage of the original allocation ever find their way onto the open market, but it is possible to negotiate advance arrangements in which case some are in effect pre-sold provisionally subject to confirmation of dates in late June so never appear


Another problem that might apply concerns group size. St Andrews Old Course guaranteed packages are sold in fourballs. It’s important to realise that this is a sellers-market. The person selling a guaranteed tee-time will have no difficulty doing so and consequently the buyer has very little leverage. Most authorised providers will usually prefer to keep the transaction simple, and that means selling to a group of four. Splitting up the integrity of a fourball just makes selling the remaining odd part that bit harder. They have little incentive to do this. Don’t be surprised if an authorised provider who agrees to sell to a three ball for instance, asks to be compensated to the full amount for the absent fourth player (including the add ons)


Having raised this red flag, we did say ‘most’. There are some authorised providers who are more receptive to selling to two-balls, but they tend to be in a minority.


The biggest draw back to the St Andrews Old Course guaranteed tee-time is the price. Guaranteed tee times are always sold as parts of package deals. Isolating the specific green fee therefore is never that straight-forward as they aren’t itemised. Instead Faraway Fairways have had to reverse engineer retail prices against known trade prices and attempt to estimate what the Old Course has been charged at. For 2020 on a very crude transaction, we believe a round that costs £195 peak season is typically charged between £1,500 and £1,750.


When seeking to answer the question of are guaranteed St Andrews Old Course tee times worth it, we need to run through some of the strings that come attached to them too. The first concerns a mandatory round on a second St Andrews Links Trust course. This ‘two course policy’ is non-negotiable and is applied at the point at which it leaves the Links Trust. It’ll be included in any price, and it’s usually the Jubilee Course


We should perhaps stress that every year Faraway Fairways receive enquiries from golfers asking about purchasing a guaranteed tee time in isolation. The answer to this is simple. Forget it. No one can sell a guaranteed tee-time in isolation. In the first case the two course policy applies so at the very least you’ll be saddled with an extra Links Trust course. This isn’t actually that much a of burden though, and most golfers will accept it if this were the only ballast that were added.


If you succeed in restricting your package to just the Old Course and second course though, you’ll have done remarkably well. Far more likely however is that you’ll have other courses bundled into a package. Whereas Carnoustie and/ or Kingsbarns needn’t be out of line with what you planned on playing anyway, you might also discover the likes of Crail, Leven, or the Dukes Course being added as conditional rounds dependent on where you buy it from


Both accommodation providers and golf tour operators will nearly always look to pin you to a minimum number of nights stay in a nominated hotel too. The usual minimum is four nights, although you might be able to source a three-night deal if you’re lucky. Some hotels will also extend this and impose their more expensive suites on a guaranteed package so as to cut off the golfer who thinks they can buy a round of golf and then get the money back staying in the cheapest room


Most hotels will also impose a minimum expenditure per golfer for the duration of your stay too. On a four night package, this usually amounts to £100 per person on food and beverages


Finally some will also force you into using their transport provision, which again becomes an additional cost


Now in fairness, not all of these ‘strings’ would be out of kilter with your own aspirations. Plenty of golfer’s plan to play Carnoustie and Kingsbarns for instance anyway. Similarly, you’re likely to want somewhere to stay too, albeit you’d probably welcome some choice in that decision rather than having the terms dictated to you


When trying to pull all this together it probably comes down to a question of time and money set out against the month of the season, which of course influences the amount of less expensive alternatives available. Guaranteed tee times are of course most popular with overseas visitors who needn’t be in a position to ‘come back next week’ and try again. They can (and do) eat away at someone who obsesses on the Old Course. Golfers who develop a case of ‘Old Course fever’ can become quite irrational as they seek to close down every last percentage point of potential risk. ‘Old Course fever’ is probably the single biggest mistake we see visiting golfer’s making. It’s worth remembering that there reaches a point where weather is a bigger risk than failure on the ballot – and that knocks out any tee-time!


Advanced Ballot – Guaranteed Tee-time


The Advanced Guaranteed ballot system is a variant on the guaranteed tee-time and represents excellent value. The St Andrews Links Trust normally opens a two-week window for applications from late August to early September. Applications can be made via an online form [CLICK] . Once all applications have been received a ballot (lottery) will be drawn. Results are notified to you in late October. The process is split into four packages. The most popular is usually the peak season fourball packages (minimum two, maximum eight).


There are however other important things to be aware of though. Advanced ‘guaranteed tee-times’ are restricted to midweek slots only. Applications can only be made therefore for Monday to Friday. You are allowed to make three applications in two week blocs each year. A bit of calendar strategy is probably wise here. Predicting how demand will unfold is very hit and miss, but as a general rule of thumb follow the seasons. The summer months and early autumn are the most popular and you can expect demand to be highest around these known bottlenecks. You can’t apply into September. You might like to scatter your approach into less popular windows, or you may prefer to go ‘all in’?.


The Links Trust operates a two-course policy on its ‘advanced guaranteed allocations’. The St Andrews Links Trust will allocate the Jubilee course as the ‘second course’ if you don’t nominate, or they’re unable to meet your choice.


Applications are headed by an assigned ‘lead golfer’ from your party, with your nominated others named on an application. If you get caught making multiple applications (different lead name but with same names appearing as named golfers on the booking) you’ll be disqualified. This is very easy to spot and it would be foolish to try and do it.


The advanced guaranteed application represents something of a nothing to lose, spin of the wheel. Perhaps most importantly, it isn’t a completely futile exercise with the deck loaded so heavily against you, that it’s a waste of time. There is however a cardinal rule!


The biggest mistake someone can make with the advanced guaranteed ballot is to wait on the outcome before booking anything else. If you wait until early November then you will have lost the opportunity to play Muirfield, quite probably lost Royal Troon as well, and will have Carnoustie or Royal Dornoch under pressure and find yourself increasingly forced onto a sub-optimal tee-time.


You’re very often better advised not to rely on it as anything other than an unexpected bonus. Faraway Fairways tend to believe that in most cases we’re better off building an itinerary up to the application period as planned, and taking aim at high demand courses which will otherwise sell out if you delay. For instance, in 2020 we have a party that did this and were able to include Muirfield, Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Portmarnock, Carnoustie and Royal Dornoch ahead of their decision to enter the advanced ballot. What they did in effect is get these secured in exchange for reducing the number of applications they could make into the advanced ballot. Remember your chances of winning the advanced ballot are odds against. They’re actually lower than a normal daily ballot strategy. Deferring any other bookings until November so as to open up two or three potential extra days to apply into is quite a bad trade when it comes at the risk of losing courses altogether


Another related downside risk to the advanced application concerns commercial St Andrews guaranteed times. Whilst we’re waiting on the result of an advanced guaranteed ballot, other guaranteed tee-times will have begun selling out since June. As too incidentally will accommodation (this is a serious consideration that you need to weigh heavily in your calculation). We tend to advise that we’re best to assemble a programme regardless, and just make a couple of applications where appropriate on a ‘nothing to lose basis’


So What’s our answer? Are guaranteed St Andrews Old Course tee times worth it


On balance, Faraway Fairways tend to the view that there’s more merit in a targeted ballot strategy, and there’s plenty of high quality compensation available on very flexible re-booking terms in the area if you don’t succeed first time. Mind you, perhaps you’d expect us to say that for the reasons we laid on the table at the outset.


If you are cash rich and time poor however, and playing a busy period or on a particularly tight deadline dependent schedule then we’d maybe more inclined to think that the guaranteed tee-time is the answer, but even then, you perhaps need to remember you’re likely to be locked into a four night minimum stay in St Andrews. If you’re hoping to pick other courses up in other parts of Scotland (say Troon and Turnberry) then you might find you’re generating additional costs to do so whilst you play out time on the east coast to meet your minimum obligations


Perhaps the best advice we can give is this




If you’re determined to play the St Andrews Old Course, much more often than not you will. Now this might not always be convenient and it could involve needing to endure some anxiety (the daily ballot) or some discomfort (queuing under the walk up rule) but if you’re determined, you can nearly always be certain you’ll succeed (especially if you’ve got a few days to manage it under)


The only clients Faraway Fairways have had who failed were those weren’t prepared to queue under the walk up rule. All of those who were prepared to do hard yards if they needed to, succeeded.


Put it like this – If we estimate that your peak season chances on a 4-5 day ballot strategy are in the region of somewhere between 55% to 66%, and then reinforce this with a figure of about 97% on the walk up rule, then you shouldn’t perhaps be thinking in terms of failure to play. At Faraway Fairways we’re fond of saying “you can only get the correct answer if you’re asking the right question”. The question needn’t be one of are guaranteed St Andrews Old Course tee times worth it, but rather one of am I prepared to endure a bit of discomfort in return for paying £1,750 less to play the Old Course?


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Other Courses in St Andrews

Naturally the St Andrews Old Course is the track that attracts the most attention, and needs little introduction. Anyone playing St Andrews however, has other options they may wish to consider. The St Andrews Links Trust manages a total of seven different courses, six of which are located on the spit of land that juts out into the Eden estuary and the sea to the north of the town. This is a brief guide to the other links of St Andrews and charts the introduction of the first addition to the family (the New Course) to it’s most recent (the Castle course) Although it needn’t be considered the most ambitious programme, it is perfectly possible to base yourself exclusively in St Andrews and construct an itinerary based on this guide to the other links of St Andrews. Seven or three day ‘rover tickets’ allied to a much reduced transport burden that can be satisfied through a combination of walking to play or local taxis also reduces your costs significantly

THE OLD COURSE The Old Course is the most famous and has remained reasonably faithful to its origins.

THE NEW COURSE The first addition came in 1895, when the ‘New Course’ was added. The St Andrews New Course, must be the oldest ‘new course’ in the world, and benefited to a large extent from the earth moving age and evolution in course design, as head green keeper ‘Old’ Tom Morris oversaw its layout and completion. The New Course is often said to be the towns folks favourite.

THE JUBILEE COURSE By the 1890’s however the game of golf was enjoying a terrific expansion in popularity as the railway opened the links of Scotland up to playing populations that were otherwise prevented from reaching them. In 1897 St Andrews added its third links, the Jubilee course, which was squeezed in between the other two and named in honour of Queen Victoria. In 1988 Donald Steel revised the layout to Championship standards. Many now regard the Jubilee as the toughest course on these fabled links

EDEN COURSE The fourth addition to the family came in 1914, when Harry S Colt built the Eden Course, located on the seaward side of the links and making greater use of the river estuary as it flows out into the North Sea.

STRATHTYRUM COURSE The Strathtyrum Course was built in 1993, and was perhaps something of a departure. Trees are more of a feature than they are on a traditional links, and the total number of bunker (15) is something of an anathema for St Andrews. The Strathtyrum is probably the most relaxing of the options available to you if winding down a bit is your objective

CASTLE COURSE With links land beginning to run out, the Trust were forced to look slightly further afield when they introduced their most recent 18 hole course. Perched on top of the cliffs overlooking the town below, the David MacKlay Kidd designed Castle Course, was opened in 2008, and is a couple of miles outside of St Andrews.

BALGOVE COURSE Finally the seventh course in the Links Trust portfolio is the nine hole Balgove Course. Essentially this is a golfer’s practise facility for all intents and purposes, or an introductory track for those stepping into the game for the first time. It’s inexpensive, and to be honest, you could do a lot worse than spend a couple of hours getting your eye and adjusting to links golf before moving onto the bigger beasts

In addition to the courses managed by the St Andrews Links Trust, there are other challenges of note. All the of the golf courses in St Andrews are of a high standard, and when you think about it logically, they have to be. Architects won’t risk their reputations building something sub-standard in the full glare of the ever judgemental golf world. Similarly, golfer’s won’t associate with a course deemed to be inferior, and especially since they’re hardly short of alternatives to choose from. There are no hiding places in the ‘auld grey toon’, anyone building a new course has to get it right

THE DUKE’S COURSE The Dukes, is owned and managed by the Old Course Hotel and plays about 3 miles inland. It is a high-class track typically earning a Scottish top-25 ranking and held in similar regard to the New Course. It’s an eclectic mix of tree-lined, heathland, similar to the great courses of the English ‘home counties’ like Sunningdale, whilst also possessing a distinctly ‘linksy’ about it

THE KITTOCKS COURSE The Kittocks is usually considered the more challenging of the two Fairmont courses. It’s a cliff top layout with stunning views looking back into St Andrews, the Eden Estuary, and the ever moody North Sea. On a windy day, it can require some nerve to play. The feature hole is the 17th, a dog-leg par 4 where the approach shot is a forced carry over a cleft in the cliff line to the sanctuary of the green beyond

THE TORRANCE COURSE is the second of the Fairmont family sharing the same coastline. It reopened in 2009 after Sam Torrance oversaw a renovation since it was felt that it had fallen behind the Kittocks. Since then it’s begun to enjoy a higher ranking than its neighbour. Like the Kittocks, the course enjoys spectacular views out to sea and ‘down’ into St Andrews. The 17th is also the signature hole albeit this time a par 3 and is sandwiched in amongst a trio of dramatic ‘sea holes’ to finish off your round

Images by Kevin Murray and also with thanks to the St Andrews Links Trust media pack The Torrance Course image is by Jano Spingal licensed under CC by SA 2.0 License terms [CLICK]

Single Golfers Scotland

The plight of the single person in the world of travel has never been a great one. There’s little point in trying to sugar coat that. The principal reason as you might have suspected is profit. Put simply, unless you’re a specialist operator with a niche market, you won’t make as much money on a single booking as you will on a group booking of a dozen or more. The golf travel industry isn’t necessarily an exception to this either, and indeed has a couple attributes which we won’t go so far as to describe as discriminatory, but rather as limiting instead.

At Faraway Fairways however we thought we’d explore the scope that single golfers have in trying to put together a substantive tour, as we always try for you but do so against an unfavourable backdrop.

There are three major components in a golf tour  

  • Green Fees
  • Accommodation
  • Transport

Each of these creates unique challenges for the single golfer. The problem we face with green fees is that many courses are reluctant to permit a single golfer to play solo. The only way you can normally secure this is through a very late booking of an unfilled tee-time that would otherwise be lost. This is far too speculative to plan anything around long-term however, and naturally the most sought-after courses don’t have such windows with many booking up months in advance. By definition therefore, single golfers are a bit restricted and need to join existing two or three balls. This places them at the mercy of the club policy.

Now in fairness this isn’t as bad as it sounds. Some of the commercial courses will make this a condition, and some of the private members clubs will also advise two and three ball groups that they should expect to be allocated a fourth player should one request a tee slot. We’re also lucky in golf in that there is a tradition of accepting strangers into a four ball and meeting new people etc

The greater disruption we face is trusting that we can find an under sized group on any given day. We’re also more limited in our options for that day too given that we’re rarely in a position to pick and choose our tee time with the same freedom that a fourball might enjoy. A single golfer’s itinerary needs to be more flexible as a consequence as we seek to dot them around in windows of opportunity as they present themselves. It wouldn’t be unheard of to require a ‘Plan C’ as well as Plan’s A and B. Basically an itinerary is more complicated to arrange, and we’ll usually need to consider more fall-back positions than usual.

It’s perhaps worth noting that due to the requirement to accept fourball bookings only, single golfers won’t be able to play Muirfield

No examination of the single golfer’s plight would be complete however without talking about the St Andrews Old Course ‘walk up rule’. This is specifically designed to accommodate single golfers. The premise is simple.

A single golfer presents themselves to the starter and asks to be allocated to the next under sized group to make up a fourball. This operates on a first come, first served basis. Once the group presents themselves to the starter he will inform them that they have a solo player requesting that they join them. The group can refuse but in reality most will accept. It’s considered poor protocol not to do so. You then pay the starter the standard green fee, shake hands with your new companions, and off you go. You might be surprised by just how often single golfers are able to make this arrangement work. It actually enjoys a very high strike-rate in excess of 90% in our own experience.

There is one draw-back however, and especially in the peak season. The first come first served model requires you lay something of a siege to the starters hut, and this can involve an uncomfortably early start, and an unproductive and frustrating wait

The St Andrews Old Course does give a single golfer decent chance

Let us now move onto the second consideration, that of accommodation, and it isn’t long before we encounter the dreaded ‘single person supplement’.

If staying in top hotels the cost can quickly run away from you. Even in the best-case scenarios, single reservations rarely work out in the solo traveller’s favour. Even when you aren’t being charged double, they tend to work out at one and three quarters. One advantage the single traveller does have potentially though is flexibility and the ability to hunt around smaller accommodation providers particularly bed & breakfast or guesthouse properties. For reasons of legislation and tax, these properties are categorised according to the number of rooms they have. Larger parties can often find themselves restricted by having more bodies than beds (so to speak!). This means that single travellers can often pick up the spare capacity. B&B’s also tend to be more equitable in their pricing of single rooms than hotels are as well. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that some budget chain hotels offer sufficiently competitive pricing and a comfortable double bed, that a single traveller can certainly entertain the idea of making a conventional double room booking without taking a noticeable hit in their budget. Although we’re reluctant to invoke ourselves as a recommendation, but its what we tend to do if accompanying a group.

A double bedroom at a Premier (St Andrews in this case) is a good option for a single. They’re comfortable, spacious, and don’t break your budget

As a general rule however, single golfers will probably have to reconcile themselves to compromising a bit on accommodation.

The final major component then is transport, and here planning pays. The first thing to perhaps recognise is that if you’re undertaking a conventional ‘point-to-point’ tour which involves luggage movement, and consequently ‘standing-time’ whilst you play, then unless money really is no object, a chauffeur driven option is likely to prove prohibitively expensive. You might even find yourself being required to pay for driver overnight accommodation and sustenance too on a conventional touring route.

The only way that most of us could entertain a chauffeur driven option would be to adopt a ‘base-and-back’ approach. These means luggage is kept in your accommodation which removes the need to pay for vehicle standing time. It’s still tends to be a sub-optimal solution however and usually limits you to a comparatively small golf playing radius. The only bases that have a sufficient quantity of top-quality golf courses around them which could be serviced by local taxis are the links of St Andrews (plus Kingsbarns), and Troon (Prestwick, Dundonald, and the Gailes Courses).

For the most part, self-drive is the most cost-effective solution. The single golfer enjoys a bit less price discrimination here so long as you’re using a small vehicle, but even then, the emphasis is on limiting the damage rather than being able to achieve a cost advantage. If you wanted a larger more luxurious vehicle, then you will be penalised with just one person undertaking the cost burden rather than being able to share it. Which ever way you dive on this one, you will also be responsible for the fuel costs too which can’t be shared either.

One possibility a single golfer might consider is finding a hotel near to railway station. A return rail fare on a local train can work out to be rather cheap and you wouldn’t be out of options

Kilmarnock Barassie130 yardsGlasgow
Prestwick220 yardsGlasgow
North Berwick360 yardsEdinburgh
Carnoustie370 yardsStirling (change for Edinburgh)
Troon1500 yards (probably too far)Glasgow

It’s a real shame no one ever built a station halt at the Gailes courses as the line runs along the perimeter of the course as it does at Dundonald too. It would potentially tee-up a Glasgow Golf Tour by train

Faraway Fairways don’t dismiss enquiries from single golfers, we’ll do our best for you, but as we’ve hopefully outlined, there are some challenges we’ll need to overcome

How to Play the St Andrews Old Course

How can I play the St Andrews Old Course? is just about the most frequently asked question Faraway Fairways encounters. The most honest answer we can give in general terms is, “it depends”, and that’s when we begin launching into the various avenues open to you, which can cause an information over-load. The most important thing to grasp at the outset however is relatively straight-forward. There is a relationship between the cost and the certainty of getting a round. In broad terms, the greater the level of certainty you require, the more expensive it becomes.

So, let’s briefly explore the options beginning at the top-end of the market and the “guaranteed packages”. Before we do this though, we need to explain that the St Andrews Links Trust operates a “two course policy” which applies to all their ‘guaranteed’ packages. This means you’ll need to nominate a second course, or have one allocated to you. The consequence of this condition it’ll always cost a bit more for this, and that you’ll normally be required to stay additional nights above that which perhaps you wanted to.

Guaranteed Tee Time

The St Andrews Links Trust used to have two ways of distributing ‘guaranteed’ tee times into the third-party commercial market. The first involved dividing 1000 tee-times amongst the St Andrews Hotel and Guesthouse Association, who would then look to resell them as part of levered accommodation packages. These packages nearly always involve a three-night minimum stay, and a minority could try and extract a minimum expenditure on top of that (usually food related). Other accommodation providers might elect to simply sell their tee-times to tour operators however, which can cause yet another layer of price inflation.

This might sound like an obstacle, but three-night stays aren’t normally that far outside of golfer’s plans anyway as many seek to play Carnoustie and Kingsbarns on the same visit. With the two-course policy in place however, it’s likely that you’re going to be pinned to at least a four-night stay if attempting this combination

The other method they used concerned a company called ‘the Old Course Experience’ (OCE) who enjoyed a monopoly on this side of the supply. The OCE would focus their packages on the 5-star hotels, and consequently the top-end of the price spectrum. Quality was high, but the price reflected this.

Starting in 2018, the ‘Old Course Experience’ lost their commercial operator’s monopoly for selling ‘guaranteed’ tee times. The St Andrews Links Trust took the administration ‘back in house’. More tee-times were made available to designated ‘Authorised Providers’, identifiable by the logo (left). An Approved Provider tends to be either a St Andrews accommodation provider or a larger golf tour operator. It’s difficult to speak generically about the latter, but they usually capitalise on their position.

Faraway Fairways have previously reverse engineered prices based on what we know it costs and detected that a round can be embedded at a price up to seven times higher (£1750) than what it actually costs. It would be wrong to say that all guaranteed tee-times sold through ‘authorised providers’ seek to obtain this level of mark-up though. They don’t. A factor of seven is just the highest example we believe we’ve detected

In terms of sourcing an ‘authorised provider’, perhaps the most important distinction to make is that advertising the existence of a ‘guaranteed tee time’ as an ‘authorised provider’ is generic. What providers really mean is that they only have guaranteed times for certain days. If these don’t coincide with your plans, you’ll expend a lot of time going up blind alleys trying to find the provider who dovetails with your preference.

It’s always possible too, that someone who latches onto your enquiry will claim they can meet the date irrespective of whether they hold the appropriate tee-time themselves. They might then seek to source it from someone who does hold the tee-time for that date concerned and apply another layer of margin. We couldn’t tell you how widespread this practise is however, but it wouldn’t be without historic precedent.

Advance Ballot (Guaranteed)

The St Andrews Links Trust make some advanced guaranteed tee times available for the following year by ballot. Applications can be made via an online form. Once all applications have been received a ballot (lottery) will be drawn. This can be a very cost-effective option. The window for applications usually opens at the end of August (10.00 am BST) and closes two weeks later at midnight on the first Wednesday of September. Results are notified to you in early October. The process is split into four packages dependent on the size of your group. It is definitely worth noting that single players make applications through the advanced system and will be allocated other solo players as playing partners

The big attraction of the advanced guaranteed ballot is that you pay the advertised green fee, there are downsides however.

You can only make applications for Monday to Friday on the advanced guaranteed ballot, and you can only make a maximum of three applications spread across two-week blocks in a single season. Your chance of success are felt to be below 50%, but that needn’t be considered low in the context

One downside risk to the advanced application is whether or not Old Course guaranteed packages sell-out whilst you’re waiting for the notification of the result and thus deny you a fall-back option. There is also a chance that your preferred accommodation, or even rounds on certain days at Carnoustie or Kingsbarns could also sell-out whilst you’re awaiting the confirmation of the result.

All your planning hinges on the advanced ballot and this can make assembling a group problematic (especially if you’ve identified three different blocks in the year and require everyone to be available for them). If your plans also involve playing the likes of Royal Troon, Royal Dornoch, and most definitely Muirfield, then waiting on your advanced ballot dates is likely to place this trio under pressure if you intend trying to book them after you have the result (you’d be most unlikely to secure Muirfield this way, as they open their diary even earlier).

The ‘Burns’ Ballot

“The ballot” is the least expensive way of playing St Andrews. The ballot isn’t subject to the two-course policy that is conditional to any of the guaranteed packages. If you’re seeking to roll up other courses as part of a high intensity, but comparatively short tour with limited time, you aren’t having to dedicate a day to observing the requirement to play a second St Andrews course. Critically though, it does carry a risk of failure.

The Links Trust notify us of their ‘busy days’ with ‘block out times’ for tournaments or club fixtures. Tour operators consult this schedule, and it definitely influences how overseas visitors in particular are managed. We can’t easily advise that people target a busy period in good faith (Faraway Fairways don’t). Not only is it ethically questionable to do so, it potentially leaves us wide open to allegations of negligence. It’s worth being aware however that known busy periods (days with a lot of block-out) can become subject to lower demand, and therefore less busy, as a consequence of being busy!. If that sounds like nonsense, then try and think of it in terms of ratios. If a certain day only has 10 tee-times available, but just 20 applications chasing them, then that would represent a better prospect than a day which has 30 tee-times and 90 applications chasing them

St Andrews Old Course - How?

At Faraway fairways we like to describe the process in terms of ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ variables. A static variable are set things which we can legislate for, such as the time of year, the day of the week, and any notified demands on the course. A dynamic variable is something which alters and is much harder to factor. This would include things like local weather conditions, or demands being made on neighbouring courses. It’s really a question of trying to load the dice as favourably as we can< You can apply for the ballot on-line yourself using this link [CLICK HERE] or alternatively you can ask Faraway Fairways to take responsibility for it and manage on your behalf. Which ever you decide upon, it’s most important that only one of does it. Duplicate applications are easy to spot and lead to disqualification

So what’s the bottom-line?

The question you really want to know the answer to however is ‘how good are my chances?”.

The St Andrews Links Trust are notoriously reluctant to offer an opinion on likely ballot success. In truth, we don’t blame them. Quite apart from the fact that they have little incentive to do so because they’ll nearly always fill their tee-sheets, they will also get things wrong now and then (the law of averages applies). There have been instances when good faith but ultimately inaccurate advice, has then become the subject of occasional litigation. Whereas such an action always fails, it’s a distraction they could do without.

Faraway Fairways have spent a few years playing cat and mouse with the Links Trust and do occasionally succeed in extracting an informed opinion. In addition to this, we’re also able to draw on own evidence, and that which we’re able to extract from credible co-operative partners, but before we expand on this it’s perhaps worth sounding a note of caution at this juncture. We really don’t know how different ballots will behave. The whole process can be incredibly quixotic. Any guidance we’re prepared to commit to the record, is just that; guidance. Outlier values in any data-set can (and will) periodically defy expectation (which is another way of saying we can never be certain and can’t be held responsible for advice that ultimately proves inaccurate). If you play through the ballot, there is a known element of risk failure, and applicants have to accept that.

On any given day in the low season, the odds of winning a ballot are normally heavily on your side. In the shoulder season they probably edge to being a little bit better than 50/50. The peak season is different however. The odds of successfully winning a ballot on any given peak season day are against you. We build your chances up by making repeat applications over a period of days until such time as we eventually tip the scales in your favour.

To try and illustrate this, we’d crudely suggest that between May, to mid-June they’re probably weaker than a coin toss, but better than drawing a named suit from a deck of cards. It would the view of Faraway Fairways that in order to tip the balance in your favour (about 50-60%) for late June to early September, we’d need to make four applications. Anyone who claims three is enough, might be stretching things a bit, albeit they’d probably be within the realms of sincerity around the fringes of the date range – (we could claim the same with a clear conscience).

In the ‘super-peak’ window of mid-July to mid-late August, you’d probably need to make seven or eight applications in order to tip the balance to the point where you could reasonably expect to win (90%+). Note this is a higher bar than just being in your favour. This doesn’t mean however that you’d been pinned to St Andrews for the duration of such a stay. There is plenty of good golf to be had within a two-hour isochrone of St Andrews. The only thing we’d need to construct is a programme that allows you to respond with a day-trip to St Andrews at 48-hours- notice.

A typical ballot strategy

The day of the week you choose can help stack the deck. Thursday afternoons, and all-day Saturday are particularly favourable given that the Links Trust allocates more ballot times to them than any other windows. Ballot times exist on other days of course, it’s just that there isn’t as many of them. There is no play on the Old Course Sundays.

A lot of golfer’s seek to play near-by Carnoustie and Kingsbarns with St Andrews. We naturally have a three-day hot spot, and a corresponding number of courses.

The risk of failure on the ballot ensures we sometimes need to adopt a contingent ‘plan B’. This means booking a neighbouring course as a mitigation against a failure.

If we succeed with a ballot though, and should the tee time we draw clash with one of our contingent bookings, then we have a small problem. We would need to cancel the course concerned. Green fees for the cancelled course are invariably forfeited under this arrangement albeit a course will look to reschedule if possible. In managing this we need to balance the potential financial loss of a green fee against the quality of play. If we look to concentrate on less expensive courses to reduce our exposure we begin to risk stacking your programme with second or third tier courses (remember we’d normally expect to lose more single day ballots than we’d win).

To some extent the Saturday begins to come to our aid. The St Andrews New Course can’t be pre-booked at weekends. It’s a ‘present-and-play’ course, with the advice being “go to golf”. This might sound ad-hoc, but it works surprisingly well. Saturday would normally be considered our best ballot day, so we naturally have a good back-stop position that doesn’t involve laying down a pre-payment at risk

Our next best day is the Thursday. Kingsbarns is an easier course to rearrange than Carnoustie. There would be a reasonable chance that some groups who’ve booked Kingsbarns on the Saturday will also have made ballot applications for the Old Course. Some of them will win and cancel Kingsbarns, creating a late gap that we would be able to fill if winning Thursday’s ballot and needing to cancel our round at Kingsbarns. Kingsbarns also operates a ‘late booking’ gateway where we might reasonably be able to expect to pick up some availability on the Sunday too, albeit we might be playing in two-balls or solo by then to recover things.

The bigger risk comes from drawing a clash with Carnoustie on the Friday. This is harder to rearrange. We wouldn’t describe it as impossible, but we’d probably advise that you might have to consider it a price worth paying for getting an Old Course tee time. Even with a forfeited green fee, the overall price is still going to be significantly less expensive than a guaranteed package. We might still get a shot at a rearrangement on the Saturday for similar reasons outlined to Kingsbarns.

All this assumes a three-day strategy of course. Introducing a fourth day alters things quite significantly. Not only would doing this tip the advantage of peak-season success in your favour, it would also allow us to play Carnoustie first (a Wednesday maximises the number of days available to us to try and rearrange something) or last (a Sunday when we can’t possibly clash with the Old Course due to there being no permitted play). We would now switch Kingsbarns onto the Friday in order to reduce our exposure to the more likely clash point (Thursday afternoon). This then releases the Thursday to play a less expensive course at lower risk of financial loss. There would be numerous options available to you. Any of the St Andrews courses would be fine, so would the supporting links of Fife such as Crail, Leven, Elie, Lundin or Scotscraig. If you wanted to retain an element of name-recognition, the inland course of Gleneagles would probably be the next nearest, although this would put an expensive green fee at risk

The ‘Walk Up Rule’ and Solo Players

If all else fails, we need to consider invoking some Plan C’s. These are the sorts of things you do if we’ve lost every ballot and are getting a bit desperate. The most popular is called the “walk up rule”, which is basically what it says on tin (albeit it tends to omit the detail of hideously early starts and long waits until the play begins the following morning).

Any qualified golfer can present to the Old Course starter and ask to be slotted into the next available gap. You might hear stories of strange myths and legends concerning hardy golfers mounting all-night vigils in the area of the bandstand, in order to be the first in the line the next morning? Well in the peak season on a warm evening, this certainly happens I’m afraid.

There are typically in the region of about twenty slots on a tee-sheet each day which haven’t been made up to a fourball. The determined golfer who is prepared to lay an early siege to the starters hut will usually succeed. The system works on a first come, first served basis. When the starter arrives in the morning, they’ll make a list of names and you’ll be given a time by which to return in expectation of being called forward against the days tee-sheets. You aren’t required to hang around all day once you’ve got onto the list

Naturally you will be asking to join an existing two or three-ball. You won’t necessarily be able to play in an established friendship group. The group whom you’re asking to join aren’t compelled to accept you either, but a vast majority will do (golf is an honourable game). Indeed, should you find ever yourself being petitioned to accept a player into your own group, Faraway Fairways advise that it’s considered correct protocol to agree.

The walk-up rule is predominantly designed for single golfers as they aren’t permitted to enter the ballot (though can enter the advanced ballot as already noted). It can be a bit hit-and-miss however. As you might expect, the weather is a strong factor in determining how many people are prepared to try it. Faraway Fairways have seen examples of it completely failing due to high-demand, we’ve also encountered people walking up around mid-day in months like May, and playing two hours later

In truth, ‘walk-up’ is increasingly quite widely known about, and during the peak season there is no shortage of people seeking to utilise it.

The Dark Time Reserve List

There is a lesser known trick that involves something called the ‘dark time reserve’.

This is a screen-shot of a ballot sheet from late October

The times circled are ‘dark times’ and about half a dozen of them appear on the end of the tee-sheet each day. They’re actually called ‘dark’ not because they’re concealed, but rather because there is a chance that on a particularly murky day you could end up finishing in the dark. It’s sometimes suggested that these dark times are some sort of secret society in operation, reserved for the leading figures of the R&A and their friends etc. Not true. They’re actually reserved for local residents of St Andrews. If you present yourself to the pavilion after the ballot has been drawn, you can ask to go on the reserve list for the following day. If the time hasn’t been claimed/ confirmed by a local by 09.00 the following morning, they’re offered to the reserve list in the order that the waiting list was formed. The reserve list still requires you pay the full green fee regardless of whether or not you complete

Faraway Fairways have enjoyed a degree of success using this method (although we wouldn’t like to rely it). In early September we’ve managed to get eight players onto the Old Course in a single application. The thing to remember here is that locals can play the Old Course with a degree of discrimination. If the weather is poor for instance, they can wait until the following week, or the week after etc. Dark times can go unclaimed

Conclusion and Further Information

So what is the best way? At Faraway Fairways we believe in integrity, and trust that will take us places, so allow us to be honest.

If money isn’t a consideration to you, either the total cost or the principle of paying more than you need to, then a dedicated guaranteed package has its merits. If however, you find this difficult to accept, then it’s more likely you’re going to have to wrestle with the ballot, and have a strategy developed that suits your needs

Authorised providers will often tell you that the ballot is far too hazardous and that you’re unlikely to win it. If you were restricted to just one or two days in the peak season, that would be a fair comment. Operators who don’t hold guaranteed slots by contrast (like Faraway Fairways) will encourage you to believe that the ballot is easier to win than others would have you believe. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but we believe it skews towards our interpretation.

It isn’t that difficult to reduce peak season applications to a probability close to that of a coin toss, (or slightly better than). Is that acceptable? There is perhaps no definitive answer to that, but it’s worth remembering that even if you fail, you’re still likely bagging Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, and the St Andrews New Course. It’s top-quality compensation.

The key really hinges on how many days you can make available to be within striking distance of St Andrews, and what time of the year you wish to play. Even playing just outside of the super-peak window can go very close to giving you a mathematical probability greater than one if you’re able to think in terms of four days

It would also be Faraway Fairways’ opinion that you could slightly enhance your prospects of success by using a golf tour operator rather than an accommodation provider too (we would say that admittedly – but allow us to explain).

A lot of hotel rooms are sold remotely on-line. The inter-action between seller and buyer can be weaker. A specialist tour operator tends to develop a bit of dialogue and is perhaps more likely therefore to guide an enquiry into a better window of opportunity. In addition to this, accommodation providers primary line of revenue is room sales. They will sell their rooms in the hot spot windows regardless. They might possess a little bit more incentive to accept bookings in weaker windows as their reputations aren’t forged by their Old Course strike-rates, but rather the quality and value of their hotel. We don’t believe this is a significant difference however, but think we’ve detected that a golf tour operator holds a slight edge on some data we’ve seen. Should you choose to book through a St Andrews accommodation provider we’d still be very confident that they’ll do their best by you

Myth Buster

You will occasionally hear dark rumours about the ballot being rigged and people claiming to know someone, who knows someone etc. Even if such practises might have existed once upon time (we really can’t comment as to whether they did) Faraway Fairways has no reason to believe they do today. The industry is to much of a business now. The risks of operating something outside of proper protocols has consequences. So far as we’re concerned, the ballot is a very egalitarian process.

You also hear stories of people who claim to know affiliated club members etc (often tenuously). This has a little bit more legitimacy to it however, as you can play as a member’s guest and enhance your prospects of ballot success. This isn’t a dodgy practise. It’s quite legitimate. We are under the impression however that the Executive Committee of the R&A must be receiving dozens of unsolicited communications each day for the frequency with which hear this. It probably isn’t wise to rely on being able to ask a favour unless the individual is quite well known to you.