Are 'Guaranteed' St Andrews Old Course tee-times Worth it?

The Honest Answer? ..... "It Depends"

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A commercial 'guaranteed' Old Course tee-time costs a lot of money, but they also give you a degree of certainty. Faraway Fairways look at the pro's and con's of this decision

Authorised Providers can be identified by this logo

'Authorised Providers'

Towards the end of June or early July, ‘Authorised Providers’ are issued guaranteed tee-times every year by the St Andrews Links Trust. Some of these will be accounted for in advance, and they never make it to the open market. Most do however.

Authorised Providers are nearly always accommodation providers or golf tour operators.

Guaranteed tee-times are issued as fourballs. Some authorised providers will resist a booking from parties who aren’t a fourball. Remember it’s a ‘sellers market’. Most will usually split though

The Estimated Cost

There is no set price for a guaranteed tee-time. It’s market led and that means it’s the guarantee of play that frames things. Faraway Fairways are able to crudely reverse engineer the price of some we’ve encountered based on what we know the various components in a package cost. We believe that they’re typically sold at a price approximately eight times that of the standard green fee. If you’re cash rich, time poor, and don’t have any problem paying a lot more money for something than you might need to, then they have merit.

During the Open

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

18th in October

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Guaranteed Packages

‘Guaranteed times’ are never sold in isolation. They will always come with ‘strings attached’.

In addition to the mandatory second round on a Links Trust course, guaranteed packages will nearly always look to secure a minimum duration of stay in a nominated hotel (at least 3, and often 4 nights). A minimum spend on hotel food and beverages is also quite a normal condition of sale (typically £100 per golfer). Some can specify a stay in a certain room type (e.g. a fairway suite). Finally you might find yourself pushed into accepting additional courses and packaged transport conditions, although in a lot of cases the golf at least would normally fall within what you had planned anyway.

All this comes on top of the guaranteed tee-time price

Alternatives

There are three, and they all involve an element of risk in return for a lower price

‘The Ballot’ is the least expensive way of playing. We build up your chances by making multiple applications until such time as tip the scales in your favour. It’s a numbers game.

The ‘walk-up’ rule is would never be described as convenient, but it does enjoy some surprisingly high strike-rates.

The Advance ballot is worth considering as a first resort in the pursuit of a guarantee

Drawing from our own experience, plus information we can source from partner or friendly organisations, we’ve laid out some indicative data below. It’s an estimate though, a guideline only. It can certainly be defied with bad luck so isn’t any kind of guarantee or promise

AVERAGE DAILY STRIKE-RATES

The Swilcan Bridge

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The Road Hole, 17th green

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Advance Ballot

The advanced ballot is another ‘guaranteed tee-time’ and is sold at a much more humane price. The Links Trust open a two-week window at the end of August and first week of September each year for applications. You’re permitted to apply for up to three, two week blocks (excluding weekends). Results are notified to you at the end of October. It’s estimated that one in three succeed on the full allocation.

The slight problem is that whilst you’re awaiting the result, other courses and high-demand accommodations will be selling out. Muirfield will definitely ‘have gone’, whereas popular dates at Carnoustie and Troon will be under pressure. It’s not without an element of risk, but is otherwise worth considering

The Verdict

Let’s try and game it out:

We’ll begin by revising down the Trust’s S/R ‘estimate’ of “1 in 3” for a full allocation on the advanced ballot, to 1 in 4 (25%)

We’ll then apply a three ballot strategy featuring Thurs, Fri, & Sat for August (the toughest month to win). Combining the day of the week, with the month of the year, we’d expect to see something akin to;

18% + 15% + 22% = 65% + 25% from the advanced application = 90%

A determined use of the ‘walk-up’ usually works to at least 80%, which means we’re about 98%

On balance it looks more like a question of how you’ll play, rather than one of if you’ll play. Faraway Fairways tend to the view that a well managed ballot strategy is the better value, but however we try and cut it, we have to concede that there is always that element of risk. For that reason the question of whether a guaranteed tee-time is worth it? is answered with “it depends…”

What are the Chances

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The Old Course itself

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