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

Your level of obsession with the Old Course

About 90% of enquiries that Faraway Fairways receives will seek to play the St Andrews Old Course. In some cases the drive to do so can reasonably be described as irrationally obsessive. In other cases it might be regarded as an extra bonus that comes on top of a series of courses, the quality of the programme having already been assured from these. When the Links Trust abolished the walk up rule they cut out the best safety net that a golfer who was pursuing a heavy Old Course focus had by way of insurance. Increasingly golfers are going to need to choose between loading up on St Andrews with the loss of quality elsewhere in Scotland, or refusing to be held hostage by the Old Course and seeking out as many other top courses from all over the country, and treating the Old Course as a bonus

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 probably 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 if you want to start ticking off Open Championship venues or the top-100 list as you could get pinned to St Andrews

18th green

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

The abolition of the walk up rule

In March 2024 the St Andrews Links Trust abolished the walk up provision that allowed single golfers to present to the starter and request a day of play tee-time. This was replaced by an Old Course singles ballot, which is going to prove much more difficult to win than it ever was to make a walk-up attempt work. We used to be able schedule a walk up attempt at the end of an itinerary with a degree of confidence that if used aggressively, we would succeed with it. We can’t do that anymore. In order to make this application, you have to be in St Andrews in person. This could mean that Old Course obsessed golfers might need to stay longer in St Andrews than they used to

We might be witnessing the retreat of the traditional point-to-point golf tour in favour of less expansive daily back-to-base models centred on St Andrews

The Travel Area

It still might be 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. That’s now been denied to us with the abolition of the walk up rule and the creation of the singles ballot which we suspect will enjoy a comparatively paltry 5% daily strike rate. A strategy that relies on 2 to 4 days should still work most of the time for the month of April, but outside of this we will begin to hit trouble and have to run a higher risk if travelling away from St Andrews.

It’s become a value judgement increasingly. You’ll need to balance your pursuit of the widest golf experience, with a determination to play the Old Course. If you’re in the latter camp, you might need to spend more time in St Andrews to the detriment of other options

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