Golf vacation planning tip: How to book tee times on the Old Course at St. Andrews
Prestigious? Sure. Exclusive? Hardly. Myths and misconceptions abound regarding how difficult it can be to play the Old Course in St. Andrews.
True, it's the most coveted golf course in Scotland, and demand is high. But scoring a tee time, even at the last minute on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in July, is still a possibility.
Here's a look at some of ways the public can book a tee time on the Old Course, one of which should suit your golf group.
Write the St. Andrews Links Trust
For those who are adept at planning well ahead, you can write the Links Trust a year in advance for a guaranteed tee time. Each Sept. 1 prior to the following summer season, you can file an application online for your group.
Each fall, you can write to the Old Course for guaranteed tee times. You will receive a response within a few weeks. Be sure to write them within days of the date announced, which is usually on Sept. 1.
You can post your request to: Reservations Office, St Andrews Links Trust, Pilmour House, St Andrews Fife KY16 9SF Scotland.
Guaranteed tee times through golf packagers and hotels
If you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime golf trip to Scotland and simply must play the Old Course, there are a select number of guaranteed tee times available through golf packagers and area hotels. The Old Course Experience has the bulk of these times, but they charge a high premium for it.
Other golf vacation packagers have a fewer amount of guaranteed tee times, and many will set up your package to enter you in the daily ballot during your three- or four-day stay in St. Andrews, which will give you a pretty good chance of being selected.
Hotels in St. Andrews are given very few, select tee times each year for the Old Course. It's worth asking but very difficult to get, and they can charge whatever they want. For a list of properties, visit StayinStAndrews.co.uk.
The Old Course daily ballot
The most popular way of getting on the Old Course is through the daily ballot. You can enter groups of two or more; singles can not enter and must walk-on the day of play.
According to the communications department at the St. Andrews Links Trust, the odds of getting a slot seldom get any worse than one in four, and it's usually much better, closer to one in two. Just remember, the Old Course is closed on Sundays, and other days are closed for club competitions, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Ballot results for the next day are posted online every afternoon. You can view your name in the ballot, or check out empty spots that might be possible to walk-on, especially if you're a single or twosome. Check out the Old Course Daily Ballot on the St. Andrews Links web site.
Didn't get on in the ballot? You can still golf at St. Andrews
In the event your group is not selected for the ballot, there's still plenty of options to play golf in St. Andrews and around Fife.
The most obvious choice is to play the New Course next door to the Old. The Links Trust set up the tee sheet at the New Course to cater to walk-ons who don't make the Old's daily ballot. An allotment of times have also been set aside for bookings up to a month in advance.
The Castle Course was built in 2008 to help relieve play on the existing Links Trust courses, and it can also be booked last-minute. Shuttle service is available from the Links Trust to the Castle Course about a mile outside of town.
The Duke's Course, owned by the Old Course Hotel, is a last-minute, golfer-friendly option, not to mention being one of the few courses with buggies for hire. Also, the Fairmont St. Andrews' two golf courses overlooking the sea, the Torrance Course and newly-renovated Kittocks Course, can often be booked last minute as well.
If you have your own transportation, you can head out of town to play Fife-area golf courses. There are more than 40 golf courses in Fife, so there's plenty of choices, and they're all less expensive than options in St. Andrews. While most courses are understanding of the St. Andrews ballot and will welcome last-minute guests, it's recommended to call in advance (just showing up unannounced is considered rude at some traditional clubs).
All golfers must present a valid handicap certificate from their home club in order to play the Old Course. For men, the maximum handicap is 24; for women, it's 36. If you don't have a handicap certificate, apply for one at your nearest local golf club (many municipal clubs have handicap computers) and input the minimum number of rounds.
November 5, 2009