The St Andrews Links Trust publish their ‘busy days’ with unavailable ‘block out times’. Tour operators consult this schedule. It definitely influences how overseas visitors in particular are managed. It needn’t be as simple as looking for the clearest week though. Everyone else is doing that too. It’s probably best to use the busy days diary as an elimination tool instead. Use it to avoid the elephant traps rather than pick a date.
It’s worth being alert to the fact that busy periods (those with block-out in the diary) can become subject to lower demand, and therefore less busy, as a consequence of being busy!
The best way to understand this dynamic is to think of it in terms of ratios rather than being a simple supply-side task of looking at the diary for the biggest gaps. If a certain day only has 5 tee-times available, but just 20 applications chasing them, that would represent a better prospect than a day which has 30 tee-times and 150 applications chasing them. It begins to make us think about human nature and how golfers will react to different information propositions
Massive double greens
"The shortest par 5 in Scotland!"
Don't go there. You'll be all day
There’s no real hidden insights in the month of the year performance. It broadly conforms with what we’d expect, albeit you might suggest June is a favourable balance of climate and availability. The ‘super peak’ period is mid July to mid August
It’s worth being aware that the Old course closes from about mid September until the second week of October. There is normally another annual blocked-out week in early May which is best avoided. The last week of June sees is St Andrews university graduation week (‘grad week’). Returning students and proud parents compete with golfers for accommodation. Typically the university wins this annual encounter meaning there are fewer golfers in town. Less golfers means less competition in the ballot. Daily strike-rates are reckoned to improve by about 5%, over a week this is worth 30%.
The day of the week is an important consideration. Every other tee-time on a Thursday afternoon and all-day Saturday, are normally reserved for balloted tee-times. These usually represent our best prospects and we try and keep them on-side. There is no play on Sunday as the course reverts to open public access. We try and schedule Carnoustie against this shadow.
The question you really want to know the answer to however is ‘how good are my chances?”. 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
Faraway Fairways increasingly believe that your prospects can be enhanced by playing something we’ve come to call a ‘Goldilocks window’. A heavily blocked-out week is too cold, whereas a clear week can become too hot as it draws in everyone else. A Goldilocks window is tantamount to being ‘just right’. Human nature becomes part of the calculation therefore.
Let’s game it out: We have 100 golfers. Week ‘A’ and Week ‘B’ are both clear. With no reason to prefer one over the other, we expect a 50/50 split. Now let’s assume week ‘A’ has one day blocked out. Do we still expect to see 50/50? What ratio do we now expect? 90/20? We don’t know. We’re confident it isn’t 50/50 any more. What we ideally want is a week with enough block-out to deter without damaging our own prospects, surrounded by a week that is clear to draw competing interest
Two ball applicants are drawn in the ballot the same way as fourball applicants are. Both applications have an equal chance of ‘coming out the hat’. The Links Trust are happy to have two-ball pairings in their tee-sheet as it creates spaces for single players who are otherwise forced into using the walk up rule. Every other two ball that is successfully drawn however is then subject to another two ball draw alongside it to make up a fourball. It’s sometimes felt that you can marginally improve your prospects by playing as a two-ball, although Faraway Fairways believe the evidence is very marginal at best
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