One of the most influential considerations in answering the question of how many days you need in St Andrews is the degree to which you’re prepared (or able) to aggressively use the ‘walk-up rule’. As a general rule, if you’re determined to play, and are prepared to endure some discomfort to do so (queuing from the early hours) – then you will. The walk-up rule actually enjoys a very high success rate when used by the steadfast. You should ‘make it work’ at the first time of asking (1 day) although its always useful to have a second one available (so 2 days). It’s perhaps best used by singles and two balls although, a determined party of 4 to 8 can probably make it work even if the tee-times will be spread out across the day
There is a danger that obsessing on the Old Course can close you off to other possibilities and undermine your overall experience.
That’s not to say that staying an entire week in St Andrews with the view to winning a ballot won’t work (it almost certainly will) nor that the supporting golf courses of St Andrews are weak either (there are plenty of top-courses to occupy you during the siege). It’s just that seven nights or more needn’t be the optimal strategy
Massive double greens
"The shortest par 5 in Scotland!"
Don't go there. You'll be all day
If willingness to use the walk-up rule is part of the answer to the question of how many days in St Andrews, the other big influence is when you intend to play. Not all months of the year perform the same in the ballot. As more golfers target the more popular summer months strike-rates fall. This means you might find you need to plan for spending 1 or 2 extra days in St Andrews
Days of the week don’t perform equally either. A three day block that features Thursday to Saturday is estimated to out-perform a three day block which runs from Monday to Wednesday by about 11%.
It’s potentially a bit misleading to think in terms of how many days you need in St Andrews. It might be more accurate to ask the question of how many days do you need to be within a comfortable striking reach of St Andrews? If you’re prepared to accept something like a 90 minute commute at 48 hours notice for instance, than this brings Gleneagles or Edinburgh into range (Muirfield and North Berwick). If you push this to 2 hours then Aberdeen is within the travel to golf area, and 15-20 mins more would add Troon
St Andrews certainly has an atmosphere and character about it. Visiting golfers will usually be missing out on something if they don’t spend some time here, but … St Andrews is also an expensive destination.
Faraway Fairways like to aim for a prospective strike-rate of between 66% – 75% when designing an itinerary, and back-stop this with the 95%+ we normally witness on the walk-up rule. The only shoulder or peak season months where we’d be confident of winning a 2 day strategy is April. Provided we targeted Thurs to Sat, we would regard 3 days as the absolute minimum necessary for May, June and October. We prefer to have a fourth on-side in truth . Worth noting that October sees a fall in the number of visitor ballot tee-times and isn’t necessarily as productive as you perhaps feel it should be
By the time we enter July, August and September things have tightened up and in order to achieve our 66-75% landing strip, which we reinforce with the walk-up rule we’re beginning to think in terms of at least 4 days and more like a minimum of 5 for the super-peak holiday period. With Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and Dumbarnie appearing in most itineraries this needn’t be ‘lost waiting’ time. Once we start allocating 6 days or more however, we begin to potentially suffer opportunity losses elsewhere. Faraway Fairways would prefer to transfer and open up other options, coming back for St Andrews if necessary from bases like Edinburgh, Aberdeen or even Troon as a part of breakout day
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 themDiscover
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 calendarDiscover