How Many Days Do You Need in St Andrews ?

Planning Around Old Course Ballot Probabilities


As ever with 'what' or 'how' questions related to St Andrews and Old Course ballot probabilities, the answer is invariably "it depends" but perhaps we can finesse this a bit with some broad guidelines

The Walk Up Rule

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

Over-doing the Siege

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

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

18th green

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 


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%.

The Travel Area

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.

St Andrews with a rough 2 hour isochrone

Base map by Eric Gaba CC by SA 2.0

The 17th looking towards the 18th

Swilcan Bridge - Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

2 - 4 Days

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

5 - 7 Days

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

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Chance of winning the ballot

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


Are 'Guaranteed tee times' worth the extra cost?

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


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


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


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!


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


Planning St Andrews

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