ITINERARIES and St. Andrews
IT'S NOT DIFFICULT TO SECURE AN OLD COURSE TEE TIME AT ST. ANDREWS . . . HERE'S HOW TO DO IT
Questions to ask yourself and your group before you go
Have you been to Scotland previously? If so, what courses did you play? Do you want to play any of them again?
If this is a first trip, is this a "Trip of a Lifetime" or might you make more than one trip?
What is the length of the trip?
What is the upper limit of your budget?
How many golfers are going? How many non-golfers?
Do you want to play only the most famous "Rota" courses or are you interested in mixing it up with some "hidden gems?"
How good a golfer are you? Are you prepared for the difficulty of "championship" links golf?
How fit are you? (You will be walking unless you have a physical/medical exemption.)
Do you want to play every day? Do you want to play more than one round per day?
Do you want to pay for caddies? (a major cost center for trip planning)
Do you want to drive or be driven?
Are you interested in train travel to reach golf courses or for sightseeing?
Sightseeing - Do you like cities, countryside, golf towns, or all of the above?
Do you have non-golf priorities? (e.g., If whisky, you need to know where the distilleries are.)
Securing a Tee Time at St. Andrews' Old Course
First, the least expensive methods - You will pay only the current fee or green fees (with an Old Course time, St. Andrews requires play on one of their other 18-hole courses; the usual choice is either the New or Jubilee. Costs - 2020: New/Jubilee £85, Castle Course £120, Old Course £195).
1 The normal way to get a tee time at St. Andrews is through the advance reservation process. Links Management deals directly with a lead golfer. A tour operator or travel agent cannot do this for you. However, we are not in "normal" times . . . .
2021 - Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of tee times made for 2020 have been re-scheduled for times in 2021. Therefore, the Links Management is not accepting requests for advance reservations in 2021. For continual updates, see www.standrews.com.
CORONA VIRUS NOTE: The Open had been scheduled for St. Andrews in 2021. Due to the virus epidemic, the 149th Open will be played at Royal St. George's in England July 11-18, 2021. The 150th will be at St. Andrews in 2022. See www.theopen.com for more information.
2 Daily Ballot: Schedule a St. Andrews stay in your itinerary and enter the 48-hour daily ballot (two days prior to day of play). About half of all Old Course times are distributed through the daily ballot. Normally, even in high season, if you give the ballot two or three days to work, it would be highly unusual if you did not get an Old Course time. Based on my years of experience, the success rate is 95% in all months except August. This is the least expensive way to get a tee time because no second course is involved.
3 Check in with the Starter when you are in St. Andrews. Whether in the early morning queue or later in the day, you may be able to play as a "walk-on." Due to weather or for other reasons, St. Andrews often has open slots. Obviously, this will work best for singles or twos.
Now for the expensive options . . . Any time secured through a third party (i.e., a tour operator or lodging host) will be significantly more expensive.
1 Some "trade times" are still being distributed through preferred tour operators. Call a tour operator and tell them you want to buy a "trade time" through them. Hard to say how much this will cost. You can ask for a trade time any time, but they go fast - not much chance after January. The time will virtually always be wrapped into an expensive package tour. This is the main source of all those "guaranteed tee times" advertised by the tour operators. The times are date-specificthat is, they are "guaranteed," but they are only available to you if you can travel when the seller wants you to travel.
2 Certain hotels, guest houses, and B & Bs are allocated some tee times. You can inquire via www.stayinstandrews.com, but as a practical matter, these are usually sold on to major tour operators who, in turn, package them up with minimum stays, dinners, and other requirementsall at a premium price, of course. This is the other main source of all those "guaranteed tee times."