The Independent Golfer

The Old Course at St. Andrews and other Scotland golf courses

Most American golfers want to include in their itinerary one or more of the more famous Scotland golf courses that host the British Open or the Ryder Cup matches. For these, you will need to plan well ahead, seek starting times early and, yes, be prepared to pay for the privilege.

Getting a Tee Time for the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Playing the Old Course at St. Andrews is clearly everyone's biggest goal. There are, in fact, six golf courses administered by the St. Andrews Links Trust, including the Old Course, the New Course, The Jubilee Course, the Eden Course, the Strathtyrum Course, and the nine-hole Balgove Course. A seventh is under construction.

St. Andrews, Scotland

The Old Course is surely the one you want, but be advised, to play it you will be required to play a second round at another of the St. Andrews courses. Further, a handicap requirement of 24 for men and 36 for women is strictly enforced. You will need to show your valid USGA-Affiliate handicap card.

There are a number of ways to secure a tee time.

Put in a request well ahead of your travel. The emphasis here is on "well ahead." For the main season between April and October you must submit your request to play golf at least 12 months in advance. Eighteen months is recommended. Advanced requests can be submitted through the Links Trust's website.

Enter the daily visitor's ballot (lottery). The Trust's management issues about 50% of the available starting times in this manner. You must apply by telephone or in person by 2:00 pm for a time on the following day and you must have a minimum of two golfers applying. They don't take singles applications for the ballot. The results of the lottery are posted on the Trust's website and in various shop windows around town at 4:00 pm. The management is quick to point out that "Success in the ballot is not guaranteed and chances vary according to the time of year, how busy the golf course is and the weather."

Walk on. It is common for tee times to be given to two or three golfers, leaving slots to be filled by singles. You can show up at the Old Course's Starter's House in the early morning and ask to be put on the list. Play starts at 7:00. Golfers are known to be there as early as 5:30 looking for a time. Because of the long summer days in this northern land, you can also check in just after noon to find a single slot in the late afternoon.

Play with a local. Each day, tee times from 8:00 to 9:00 and from 5:00 to 6:00 are reserved for local golfers. This offers you yet another way to get on. You just need to know a resident of St. Andrews who will take you out. How? If you don't know anybody who lives there (and chances are, you don't) you need to start talking to folks when you arrive -- the bar tender or patron in the pub in which you eat lunch, the shopkeeper where you purchase a souvenir, or the proprietor of the hotel or guest house where you are staying. They might know friends who might welcome a visitor. And don't forget that St. Andrews is a university town and university students play often and for ridiculously low green fees. Find a student and chat him/her up.

There are other, more costly ways of getting on to the Old Course. Hotel packages at the big hotels often include tee times. there is also "The Old Course Experience" which puts together tee times, lodging and meals into a very pricey package that might result in your tee time costing you over $1,500.00! How much is playing the Old Course really worth to you.

Other Scotland Golf Courses That Are Sites of the British Open

  • Carnoustie – This is a municipal course and they are eager to attract play. They do not post a general policy for available tee times. Instead, there is an easy-to-use Online Booking facility which enables the golfer to choose his/her own tee time as a one stop exercise. In addition to their Championship course, they offer the Burnside Course and the Buddon Links. Carnoustie features a Combination Ticket which gives the golfer excellent value for money, eg., the Championship Course price is £125 in 2008 (cheapest Open venue course) but you can play all three courses for £145. There is a handicap restriction of 28 or less for men and 36 or less for ladies on the Championship and Burnside courses.
Carnoustie Golf Course, Scotland
  • Muirfield – Play at Muirfield is very restricted. You get the distinct feeling that they don't want visitors. Tee times can only be booked on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:40 and 9:50 and, if there are four of you playing, you must start on the 10th tee. The handicap limit for men is 18 and women, 20. Use their website to reserve a time.

  • Royal TroonYou are required to pay for and play both their championship course and their second Portland course. Visitors may only play from 9:30 to 11:00 and 2:30 to 4:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Times can be sought on the web at .

  • Turnberry – If you do not stay at their Resort Hotel you cannot reserve tee times until two weeks before you want to play. By then, the chance that times will be available is small. You can always try.


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