The Old Course at St. Andrews is arguably the most popular bucket-list course on any golfer’s list of must-play links. This is not only because of its famed difficulty, or the long list of incredible players and stars who have crossed the Swilcan Bridge, or the list of important tournaments that have crossed its greens. The Old Course is high on golf fans’ lists to play because it’s also the first place golf was ever played 600 years ago, at least according to the records we have, and is therefore known as The Home of Golf.
Getting to play the Old Course is a special treat, especially for anyone making a point of traveling to Scotland to play. But booking a round isn’t as straightforward as it is at many clubs throughout the world. There are several ways to get to play the Old Course, although few are guaranteed.
Requirements to play the Old Course
Because it’s a public course that is owned by the city of St. Andrews, the St. Andrews Links Trust, which manages the club,does its best to ensure that anyone can play. Of course, there are some requirements, including a maximum handicap of 24 for men and 36 for women. You must also be ready to provide the name of your home golf club. Players must also be able to pay the green fees, and generally you need a minimum of two and maximum of four players to secure a tee time.
Guaranteed tee times at the Old Course
The St. Andrews Links Trust allocates a small number of tee times to authorized providers, like Worldwide Golf Adventures, in June a year in advance. These guaranteed tee times are advance-bookable and offer unparalleled access to the Old Course. However, they tend to be extremely expensive, and may not be conducive to a date you want to travel.
The Old Course private application
We recommend the private application process to get onto The Old Course to most of our clients because it is the most cost-effective. The St. Andrews Links Trust opens the private application for advance reservations for the Old Course in August each year for a two-week period. In October, players who are accepted through the private application receive their tee time. While this method is not guaranteed, it is generally the most successful way to get to play The Old Course. We will generally plan the rest of the client’s trip to Scotland around this tee time at The Old Course.
The Old Course ballot
As another method of letting as many people play as possible, the St. Andrews Links Trust holds a lottery ballot for tee times. Nearly half of the tee times for the Old Course for the entire year are given out through the ballot. The ballot is held at 2pm every day two days ahead of play, for every day except Sunday, when the course is closed (meaning there are no drawings on Fridays). Anyone who secures a tee time through the ballot is notified at 4pm on the day of the drawing. Again, this method is not guaranteed, but for anyone who was unable to secure a tee time during the application period, it’s the next best way to go.
Walking on to The Old Course
As a final way to get on to the Old Course, it’s possible to walk on the day of golf as a single golfer. To do so, check in at the Old Pavilion the day you wish to play, and the staff may be able to add you onto a threesome or twosome. Of course, the existing golfers are not required to make up a four-ball, but typically they’re glad to welcome a single player.
Getting to play the Old Course is the experience of a lifetime, and any way you can do so will be well worth it.
Ravi Coutinho is Founder and Lead Golf Travel Expert at Worldwide Golf Adventures. Worldwide Golf Adventures is a luxury golf tour operator that arranges custom golf vacations for clients around the world.