The best time of year for playing St Andrews can be framed by Old Course availability, climate, cost, or just over all quality. It’s not an easy one to answer. It depends how you prioritise things. There is certainly value to be add around early April. Late June offers good availability on a local quirk. Whilst late July early September normally sees the course at its best
The final week of June is St Andrews university graduation week (‘Grad Week’). This means that parents and returning students compete with golfers for accommodation. The university operates over a longer lead time, they tend to get first jump. As you might expect, hotels respond with a price increase for the week (usually about 20%) although in truth availability is a bigger problem. With fewer golfer’s in St Andrews during ‘grad week’, it is normally quite a good window to play the Old Course. Faraway Fairways have seen evidence that daily Old Course ballot strike rates rise by 5% during this week, something like 30% over the duration
The score wrecker
"The shortest par 5 in Scotland!"
Don't go there. You'll be all day
This window that starts in the winter season (March), briefly runs through a shoulder season, and finishes on the peak summer season rates. Our own experience is that golfers can more or less pick and choose the number of rounds they wish to play in March. ‘British Summer Time’ begins at the start of April and adds an extra hour’s daylight to a day. The sun sets at close to 20.00 in the first week. The shoulder seasons begins in mid-April. During this period green fees will typically be in the region of 33% less expensive than the peak summer rate. April is the driest month of the year in St Andrews. Indeed, the three months of the spring are also the driest season. The first week of May sees a traditional block-out and is best avoided, but after that the summer season gets into full swing
The Summer is the most popular season of the year. June can be a surprisingly good month for the playing the Old Course, despite there usually being a bit of a dearth of opportunities on Saturday’s due to block-out. In recent seasons however, the month has seemingly been targeted a bit more aggressively as perhaps word started to get out. July is the hottest month of the year and sees the school summer holidays begin. From mid July until the end of August winning Old Course ballots becomes a whole lot harder, although a combination of extended daylight (06.30 first tee-times) and a sympathetic supply softens the blow. One thing we need to advise is that the build up of warmer air from May onwards has usually introduced a bit more moisture into the atmosphere by August. In St Andrews, August is the wettest month of year, albeit the average temperatures are a lot more obliging.
The 18th Green
The first ten days of September are normally clear, after that the Old Course closes and re-opens in the second week of October. It’s easy to conclude maybe that the golf clubs of St Andrews know the answer. They keep mid September for themselves! Despite the autumn being the rainiest season of the year, we do get some idyllic days in September characterised by a warming sun and crisp fresh air swept down from the north. Scottish golf in the fall can be blissful.
By middle of October St Andrews adopts their second ‘shoulder season’ price list which lasts until November 1st. Green fees are typically about 33% less. than they were at the beginning of the month. Despite losing an hour of daylight with the switch to GMT at the end of October, it begins to become easier to win an Old Course ballot as we press into November, and by now we’re on half-price winter rates
With colder air, there is less moisture in the atmosphere. Rainfall needn’t be your biggest worry. Instead the bigger threat comes from cold, frost, wind, and of course snow. Green fees are invariably half-price. Accommodation isn’t far off being either. You will make significant savings. You will also be able to pick and choose where you play. Even the Old Course has unfilled spaces on their tee sheet during December, January and February
What you need of course is the freedom to make late decisions and the foresight to spot a weather window. The sort of person who is best placed to capitalise on this therefore are the mobile and flexible. These might be the golfers of southern England or the big cities of Europe, or even American’s who can get to a New York airport fairly easily.