The first day we arrived in St Andrews we parked behind the R&A and
were immediately drawn to the first tee and the 18th green. It is so
nice to see people from literally all over the globe fulfill their wish
of playing what is probably the most famous and iconic course in the
world; the Old Course in St Andrews. Immediately we started discussing
what club we were going to use, even though it was 4 days before our tee
How do You Book a Tee Time on The Old Course?
Let’s get straight to the point! One of the most asked questions in golf
is “How do I get a tee-time at the Old Course”? Well this is a simple
question with a complicated answer. Basically there are 3 ways;
1. Tour Operators
Multiple Tour Operators offer tee-times on The Old Course. These are
often combined with other courses, hotels etc. The downside is that the
prices for these combined offers are high. The upside on the other hand
is that your tee time is guaranteed and you will have an awesome time.
2. The Ballot
The famous ballot
every player can give their name via email, phone or at the pavilion
before 2PM two days before you want to play and then the same day at
4:30 PM you will hear whether you can play. More details via this link
Upside: if you are a single or two players you will probably get lucky
in 1-3 days. Downside: This is not guaranteed so you might come for
nothing and bigger groups don’t have much chance.
3. Advanced Tee-times Ballot
The third way is the one we used and it’s called the Advanced Tee-times Ballot
. This is available on the Official St Andrews Links Website
usually on the last week of August and the first of September (in 2019
it was from 21st of August until the 4th of September). Here it is
possible to plan 3 options (date wise), and you have to play at least
one extra course next to the Old Course. You can reserve for an entire
flight and the more flexible you are the more chance you have.
You get the results at the end of October and you pay face value (£
170 per course). The upside is that you pay the normal price, you know
far ahead when you are going so you can plan your trip better. You can
even change the players, just not the mail applicant. The downside is
that it might take you a long time to get in. It took me 4 years before I
was in, but then again, I was in the ballot alone. If you enter 4 times
you should be able to play within in a year.
The Town of St Andrews
What is nice about the town of St Andrews is that it oozes golf from
every pore. Every pub is filled with golfers, the R&A building is
there and the golf museum just across the road. Every shop is a golf
shop and the streets are filled with players that are either silently on
their way to the first tee or joyeus and loud on their way to the Dunvegan
pub after finishing on the 18th.
First course: Crail Golfing Society (1786)
Crail Craighead Links (Photo credits, member Leonard)
Before playing the ultimate course we decided to have a proper
preparation at several courses close to St Andrews. The first one we
played was Crail Golfing Society
which was founded in 1786, pre-French revolution! They have two 18-holes courses, the oldest is the Balcomie Links
and recently they added Craighead Links. Balcomie was built in 1895
(1st nine) and 1899 (2nd nine) by the famous Old Tom Morris. Craighead Links
(1999) was the first design (and built) by Gil Hansen in Europe. He
supposedly was on the bulldozer himself for months and the whole
development cost less than 1 million pound for everything. I guess that
the bill for Castle Stuart was a bit steeper.
A violent thunderstorm started when we were playing Craighead, and
with a big blow of a horn we were called of the course just as the
torrential rain began. While we were waiting for the weather to clear I
asked the manager what weather website he was checking. His reply was
that they don’t check any websites. So I asked what do you do then? He
said they determine the direction of the wind and start calling clubs
that are up wind, as they will give them the most reliable thunderstorm
information there is. Guess that’s how you do it if you’re 230+ years
Perfect Base for a Trip to St Andrews
After playing Crail we went to St Andrews and had dinner in one of the more trendy restaurants. Rogue
on 209 South Street, great place for steak but a bit upmarket though. From Rogue we went back to the Dunvegan
for some pints with golfers from the US. They typically come over to
Europe to play 13 courses in one week. Chopper up to Dornoch, and emerge
themselves into the links heaven.
During our trip we stayed at Drumoig Golf Hotel
which is just 20 minutes north of St Andrews. This is a really nice
base for a trip like this. It has big, spacious rooms, traditional
English breakfast, a bar down stairs and it costs about £ 65-90 per
room. Bonus is that they have a nice, not so difficult Parkland course
which is great to play after all the big guns in the area. With a green
fee of £30 during the week and £40 in the weekend it has excellent
View from Drumoig Golf Hotel across their course (Photo credits, member Leonard)
Kingsbarns Golf Links (2000)
Teeing off at Kingsbarns Golf Links (Photo credits, member Leonard)
The next day we got ready to play the first of the (really) big names: Kingsbarns Golf Links
This is probably one of the most famous modern courses out there.
Designed by Kyle Phillips and shaped by Mick McShane this course only
finished in 2000 but it looks like it’s been there for 100+ years. The
holes on this course are amazing. All of them have a view on the sea,
they have height differences, great maintenance and excellent service.
For a more information about the course and our experience, have look at
my review of Kingsbarns
After Kingsbarns we went back to St Andrews and spend some more time
watching the players come in on the 18th and teeing off the first. Again
we were debating what club to use on the big day. Within the four ball
we had one driver, two 3-woods and one 4-iron, for now at least…
The Jubilee Course (1897) at St Andrews Links
The beautiful 8th at The Jubilee Course (Photo credits, member Leonard)
The day after Kingsbarns we had a tee time on The Jubilee Course
This is one of the 5 courses managed by St Andrews Links in St Andrews.
The course was built in 1897 to commemorate the 60 year jubilee of
queen Victoria. Initially it was intended for ladies and beginners, but
in 1988 this course was converted to a championship course. It is
probably the hardest of them all.
The course is right next to The Old Course and in the beginning there
are many similarities; deep pot bunkers, beautifully maintained
fairways that are never really flat. One of the most beautiful holes of
the Jubilee is the 8th just before the turn. The fairway of the hole
lies in a tub of dunes and the green is completely surrounded by a round
dune. My favourite Jubilee hole is the 15th par 4 though. The green of
which is tucked away behind a hill on the right-hand side, fantastic!
Just to give you an idea how much of a Golf mekka St Andrews is: next
to the Old Course there are The Jubilee, The New Course, The Eden
Course, The Strathtyrum Course and the Balgove Course (9 holes), which
are all located in the city limits. The Castle Course is just a 5 minute
drive south and the most recent (2008) addition. Just to give you some
figures; more than 230,000 rounds of golf are played on the
seven courses each year with around 45,000 being played on the Old
Course alone. That’s a whopping £ 42 million pounds in green-fees per
year. What you see as a golfer is very well maintained courses, great
service and a super experience.
The Old Course (1552)
The Home of Golf (Photo credits, member E.Hollander)
Finally the big day arrived. Blue skies, some clouds and a little
wind on our way to our 7:50 tee-time. Luckily, the well furnished
driving range (located behind the Old Course Hotel and fitted with
Trackman’s at every bay) was open at 7:00 o’clock. After finishing our
warming up we drove to the Old Course and parked behind the Royal and
Ancient clubhouse. One thing you should NOT forget is your handicap
registration card, because if you can not present that to the starter you will not play!
So we got to the first tee on the right and behind there are
spectators, just like we were spectators the last couple of days. The
advantage is that the 1st and 18th are next to each other so you have
some room to play with, the fairway(s) are about 130 yards wide so no
need to worry. Still this shot was by far the most pressure I felt on a
first tee-shot in my 20 odd years golfing career. Not so much the fear
of hitting it Out of Bounds, but more that I did not want to have the
memory of a crappy opening shot on this iconic course.
After all the debating, visualizing and dreaming, finally I decided
on a hitting 3-wood. I struck it crisp and straight down the middle….
This actually is heaven!