A Golfer's Guide to St Andrews

The Different Courses, Ways to Play, Ballot Strike-Rates, Best Time of Year, & 'The Road Hole' etc


For many, St Andrews is the focus of their trip. Sure, there is a danger of developing 'Old Course fever', but it only features in about 90% of enquiries we receive! We thought we'd run through the most popular considerations for you in this golfer's guide to St Andrews

The Swilcan Bridge

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Winning a Ballot: How?

The St Andrews Old Course ballot is quixotic. It is however completely random. You stand as good a chance as anyone

“How good are my chances?”, is familiar question we get asked. We explore the strategies and take you into the daily strike-rates that we believe operate by month of the year, and day of the week

Faraway Fairways believe that there is a bit of pseudo science involved, which although it can never guarantee a result, it can begin to load the dice in your favour


Time of year to play

The time of year is always an important consideration and its worth assessing the prospects.

The Old Course closes from mid September until early October, and there is another block out in early May normally.

July and August are the busiest months, whereas April is somewhat surprisingly the driest by rainfall inches

St Andrews castle course

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The New Course

The St Andrews 'New Course' dates to 1895. It benefited for a better understanding of design and technologies, whilst still enjoying a pick of the land. It tends to be the 'towns people's' favourite and is often regarded as the most complete test of links golfer

The Jubilee Course

The St Andrews Jubilee Course (1897) was the third links to be built. Originally conceived as the 'ladies' course it was the subject of significant enhancements in the 1970's to the point where many good judges now regard it as the toughest the town has

The Castle Course

The St Andrews Castle Course is the newest and most photogenic in the clan with elevated panoramas of the sea and long vistas back into the town . It's a played along a dramatic cliff-top and has been sculptured for an unmistakable 'linksy' character.

St Andrews 5th & 14th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

11th green on the Eden estuary

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Guaranteed Tee Times

This is an annual question. Are guaranteed tee-times worth it? There’s no right or wrong answer to this. “It depends” is probably the best anyone can honestly give

They certainly cost more (a lot more at about £1,750 a round each), and they nearly always come with ‘strings attached’. Having said that, they are locked-in once you’ve paid.

Faraway Fairways explores the pro’s and con’s, for whereas they might be a good solution under certain circumstances, our sense perhaps is that more people buy them than perhaps they really need to

The 'Singles Ballot'

In March 2024 the former ‘walk up rule’ was abolished. In truth it had degenerated into ever more extreme endurance queuathon, which clearly favoured young, able bodied males. It’s been replaced by a singles ballot drawn 24 hrs before play in which the responsibility is with the golfer(s) to enter individually between 09.00 and 17.00 the day before. This will now become to point of entry for single players and those who’ve lost the ballot and are into ‘hail Mary’ territory. You’ll be allowed to make more attempts, but it isn’t going to have the strike-rates that the walk-up rule enjoyed. It might also start to fracture groups of two or more as winners and losers emerge and need accommodating by way of in-situ adjustment

St Andrews Old Course, 1st.

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Castle course, panorama

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The Road Hole

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The 'Road Hole'

No hole on the Open Championship rotation generates as many bogeys and higher average score to par than the St Andrews ‘Road Hole’, the seventeenth, (Troon’s eleventh generates more triples or worse incidentally)

From a blind drive over the corner of the hotel to an invisible fairway beyond, the approach involves playing to a narrow fairway guarded by a heinous pot bunker at the front that devours anything rolling to close to its tapered contours, and a road and dry stonewall to the rear. The scene of much drama of the decades we explore the anatomy of this most brutal of assignments

Without Golf

It needs to be remembered perhaps that with its ruined old castle and cathedral St Andrews is a legitimate visitor destination regardless of its golf. The town itself has charisma and personality bought about by its university. Consequently it also has more than its fair share of 19th holes too, punching well above its weight. If the sun shines, the town also has an extensive beach made famous by Hollywood

St Andrews Castle by Matthew Leonard CC by SA 4.0

What are the Chances

A breakdown of your chances of winning an Old Course ballot by month of the year, day of the week, and the best strategies to use


How to Play the Old Course

There are different ways of doing it. We 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.


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


The Old Course itself

Take a closer look at the famous holes, the principal features, and the history


The Road Hole

One golf's greatest and most brutal assignments. There are no easy ways of playing this


Cheap St Andrews Golf

How cheap can we do a St Andrews golf vacation for without really damaging quality? and what compromises do we need to make ?


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 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