How Can I Play the St Andrews Old Course?

A look at the various options

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There are numerous different ways in which you might secure a round on the St Andrews Old Course. As a general rule though it comes down to cost versus certainty

The Old Course hotel overlooking 17

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Guaranteed Package

‘Guaranteed times’ are never sold in isolation. They will always come with ‘strings attached’. At the very least one involves a mandatory round on a second Links Trust course, but they usually get packaged up with a lot more to boot. Their guarantee of play is their big attraction however, because they’re otherwise 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. In answer to the question of “whether they’re worth it?” however, is honestly met with an inconclusive, “it depends”

'Authorised Providers'

‘Authorised Providers’ are issued the guaranteed times. They’re usually accommodation providers or golf tour operators. In addition to the mandatory second round, 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 (typically £100 each). 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

Authorised Providers can be identified by this logo

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

At the Open

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

18th green

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Advanced 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

Daily Ballot

‘The Ballot’ is the least expensive way of playing and unlike the other methods, doesn’t come with any strings at all. It’s a straight-up standard green fee only. You can enter by phone or on-line, or simply ask Faraway Fairways to do it on your behalf. The draw is made 48 hours before play with the application window closing at 14.00. For example ….

If we were applying for a Friday, the window for applications closes on Wednesday at 14.00. The results are published at about 16.30 on the Wednesday. If we wish to re-apply for the next draw (Saturday) then our new window to do so would be Wednesday evening up until 14.00 on the Thursday. So it goes on, albeit there’s no play on Sunday’s.

We build up your chances by making multiple applications until such time as tip the scales in your favour. It’s a numbers game, but most people win eventually

The Swilcan Bridge

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The 17th looking towards the 18th

The Starters Hut

Image by David Dixon CC by SA 2.0

Walk-Up Rule

The ‘walk-up’ rule is really designed for single golfers prevented from making ballot applications. Any golfer who is prepared to queue and can use it though. Sure, it’s not exactly convenient, but it does enjoy some surprisingly high strike-rates. You simply pick a time to begin queuing, wait, and then present to the starter in the morning when he arrives. You get allocated a number based on your queue position, and then return later that day, pay, and play. Very often the bottom-line is that provided you’re ‘determined’ to play the Old Course, you will. It’s worth checking with the Links Trust or Starter the previous day as to what time they recommend queuing from the following morning. They tend to have a pretty good idea how things are going day-to-day. There are typically between 15-25 gaps in a tee-sheet each day.

Dark Time Reserve

Annual St Andrews ticket holders reserve the ‘dark times’ (those last 6 or 7 times of the day). They’re often considered the most relaxing to play. The thing is though, annual ticket holders can perhaps play with more of a sense of when it suits them than visitors. Occasionally they’ll cancel. The Links Trust keeps a reserve list to be fill cancelled times. If no one has claimed the time by 09.30 on the day of play, they turn to the dark time reserve. Faraway Fairways once got an eight-ball through using this method. It’s rare, but it can work

Image by St Andrews Links/ Wikimedia 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

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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.

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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

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Other St Andrews Tracks

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

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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

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The Old Course Itself

St Andrews is a small town, but a combination of golfers and a thirsty student population means it punches well above its weight!

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The Road Hole

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

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