What are the Chances of Winning the St Andrews Old Course Ballot?

Days of the week & Months of the Year. The 'Big' Question Answered (well sort of!)


What are the Chances of Winning the St Andrews Old Course Ballot? is the question everyone wants to know the answer to. No one can 'lock you in', but we can potentially load the dice in your favour by being smart. It's about understanding supply and demand, as well as a bit about human nature.

The 18th, 'Tom Morris'

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

'Busy Days'

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!

Supply & Demand

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

1st & 18th from above

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The 5th & 14th

Massive double greens

The par 3, 11th.

"The shortest par 5 in Scotland!"

Hell Bunker.

Don't go there. You'll be all day

17th green, 'the Road Hole'

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Month of the Year

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%.

Day of the Week

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

The Swilcan Bridge

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The Road hole bunker and wall. Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

1st tee.

Image Pixabay License

A 'Goldilocks' Window

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 Play

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

The 1st Fairway

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Sample Itinerary - Fife with Carnoustie

A popular regional itinerary featuring Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, Dumbarnie & Gleneagles


Sample Itinerary - St Andrews

A more local area programme focused on the the supporting courses of St Andrews including New, Castle & Jubilee


Sample Itinerary - Open venues

St Andrews hosts the Open along with Muirfield, Carnoustie, Troon, & Turnberry + a few other top courses that kindly 'get in the way'


Sample Itinerary - with the West Coast

St Andrews & Carnoustie on the east coast, combined with Turnberry & Troon on the west coast, is another popular choice with Gleneagles in the middle between them


Sample Itineraries - With Ireland

If you want to add quality on top of Scotland's best then scope exists to try and sweep up Royal Portrush, and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland


Sample Itinerary - Weekend Break

Saturday is the most productive day of the week for winning a ballot. Combined with a Friday or Monday, the long-weekend is a possibility in St Andrews


How to Play the Old Course

There are different ways of doing it. We go through and explain the options, plus their pro's and con's


They cost a lot more, so are Guaranteed Tee-times worth it?

There's no definitive answer, but we lean towards 'probably not in most cases'. We look at the costs and alternatives.


The Road Hole

No hole on the Open Championship rotation is more feared than the 17th at the St Andrews old Course. Take a look at its challenges


What is the Best Time of Year

The driest month of the year is April. The warmest is July. There's a small window in June where your ballot prospects improve etc learn about quirks of the calendar


Other St Andrews Tracks

There are other championship courses in St Andrews aside from those managed by the Links Trusts.


Outside of St Andrews

Some of the oldest links in the world can be found on the Fife coast. Many of these have hosted final Open qualifying for St Andrews in the past


Planning St Andrews

How many days do you need to set aside for staying in St Andrews to win a ballot