Fergus Bisset gives the lowdown on how to get a tee time on the world's most famous golf course. It's easier than you might think.
The Old Course at St Andrews features on the “must-play” list of almost every golfer on the planet. St Andrews is the sport’s spiritual home and the Old Course is its beating heart. Almost every great who ever wielded a club has walked its hallowed fairways and negotiated its unique layout.
With the exception perhaps of Augusta, The Old Course is probably the most famous course in the world. The two tracks certainly have things in common – both have incredible character and recognisable features: Ray’s Creek, the Swilken Burn, the azaleas, Hell Bunker, Magnolia Drive, Granny Clarke’s Wynd; They both regularly host the world’s top professionals; and they’re both home to organisations that act as custodians of the game – The R&A and The Masters.
One thing about them, however, is very different. Unless you’re a member, or close friends with a member, you’ll never play Augusta. But anyone with a handicap (max 24 for men and 36 for ladies,) and the necessary funds to spare can play the Old Course. It is, after all, a municipal. And it’s actually easier than you might think to get a game on golf’s “Grand Old Lady.” So how do you go about it?
Book in advance
It is possible to book in advance through the Reservations department at St Andrews Links – telephone number is 01334 466 718 – but there are restrictions, and the available slots are taken up quickly. Between April and October, players can only book in advance if they also book a round on at least one other St Andrews Course; No advance times are available through September because so many competitions are played on the Old Course. Advance bookings are not available on a Saturday and an individual can request advance bookings for a maximum of eight players.
In years when The Open is at St Andrews, further restrictions to advance bookings apply.
During the off-season there is far more scope for booking in advance and the green fees are reduced.
Enter the ballot
This is how nearly 50% of the times on the Old Course are allocated each year. To enter, golfers should provide their names, home club and handicap details either by phone or at one of the clubhouses before 2pm, 48 hours before the day they wish to play. The result of the ballot will be available online at 4.30pm that day. To enter there must be a minimum of two and a maximum of four players per card.
St Andrews Links offers a winter package that includes a time on the Old Course. Also, companies such as “The Old Course Experience,” offer tour packages that include a guaranteed time on the Old Course. There’s also a package available if you stay at the Old Course Hotel that includes a round on the Old.
Take your chances
If you’re on your own, you could simply turn up at the Old Pavilion on the day you wish to play. The starter will then try to team you up with a two or a three-ball. If a group doesn’t want to accept a “tagger-on” they don’t have to. In high season, you have to be on the ball if you opt for this tactic. In the summer months, singletons can start queuing from 4.00am.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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