Playing the Old Course

What’s the deal with playing the Old Course?

 Good question.  

Unlike the rest of your golf, which we can book without much hassle, the Old Course is a little bit different. Here’s an outline of how to play the most famous golf course in the world:

Guaranteed tee time: Some tour operators have guaranteed tee times, but they come at a pretty steep price. Once you strip away all the other elements of the package, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,700 to $2,500 per person just for your round at the Old Course. While we agree it’s the round of a lifetime, it ain’t worth that kind of scratch.

Direct high season application: In late August, golfers can apply directly to the St. Andrews Links Trust in groups 2 to 8 for tee times between mid-April and mid-October. In addition to the Old Course, one other St. Andrews course (New, Jubilee, Castle, etc) must be applied for. The lead golfer must apply for these tee times directly, but the application is a simple online process and we will send you instructions to ensure a foolproof process. April and October are by far the best months to apply for, with July and August offering the slimmest chances. Golfers will hear back by mid-October with regards to their success. We have seen an average of 15%-20% success rate over the past several years, as golf’s popularity grows around the globe.

Direct shoulder season application: Similar to the peak season application, but for the first half of April and the second half of October. Allows applications for groups up to 16. Success rate is much higher than high season application.

Direct low season application: Similar to the previous two options, but for November 1-March 31. This is the best way to virtually guarantee yourself an advance tee time on the Old Course at a fraction of the normal price. Success rate is nearly 100%. The only catch, in addition to the colder temperatures (still above freezing year-round!), is that all full shots played from the fairway must be played off of small pieces of artificial turf. In addition, some bunkers may be undergoing repair work and the tees will be moved slightly forward (the course will still play over 6,000 yards). However, no temporary greens will be in use and shots from the rough, bunkers, and around the green will be played normally.

48-hour ballot: The most popular way for our clients to play the course and the manner in which around half of tee times for the entire year are allocated. A random drawing takes place two days in advance of each day of play for tee times that have been set aside for what is known as “The Ballot”. Tee times are available just about every day that the course is open, with the majority of tee times on Thursdays and every single tee time on Saturdays set aside for the ballot. Groups from 2 to 4 golfers are entered and results are posted by approximately 4:00 pm local time in St. Andrews. The beauty of the ballot is that it allows us enough time to reschedule any conflicting tee times if you receive a tee time on a day you are scheduled to play another round of golf, so we will enter you into the ballot every day you are in St. Andrews until your group is successful and we will make any necessary arrangements based on your results each day. Unlike the direct applications, which receive entries from all across the globe, the ballot is typically limited to groups staying in the St. Andrews area, so odds of success are much higher. During the low season of November-March, chances of success are close to 100%, while April and October offer closer to a 50/50 chance on any given day, with the odds increasing the closer you get to April 1st/October 31st (in the first week of April this year, a group played the Old Course via the ballot every single day of the week!). During high season, odds are roughly 33%, meaning that groups who enter for at least four days are likely to receive a tee time.

Standing by: If all else fails, the Old Course operates a standby list each day that allows people to fill in the tee sheet where space is available (often more than 25 people per day!). The list is operated on a first-come, first-served basis, so in the summer months you will need to arrive no later than 3 am to ensure your spot. Threesomes and twosomes are filled as they come up on the tee sheet, so if you’re a group of four, you’ll probably be split across three or four different groups. For those determined to play the course, this is a memorable last resort and a great way to build camaraderie amongst your group and the other hardcore golfers joining you.