Getting to play the Old Course at St. Andrews


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.

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Comments (5)

  1. Bob says:

    As a golfer there is obviously a part of me that would like to play at the Home of Golf so this is a useful guide to the process. The problem is that I live way down south and it would take me a long time to drive up north to get there for my tee-off time even if I was lucky in the ballot. Also it would be difficult to suddenly drop work and other commitments to head up to Scotland.

  2. Tony says:

    Don’t forget that there are another 10 courses up in St Andrews. If you are staying in St Andrews you can enter the lottery a few times in the hope that you get lucky. If not can you always play one of the other great courses around St Andrews. That’s not a bad consolation. Though whatever happens don’t forget to take your handicap certificate with you. It could be a long flight or drive home to pick it up.

    • Gary Childerly says:

      If you are unlucky in the ballot playing the other courses in the area is some consolation. Although you won’t be getting the tradition of the Old Course you will be getting the St Andrews’ style of golf course. Wherever you play you will.probably get the infamous winds and rain. The other courses can do the famous St Andrews rough and some of them are good at deep bunkers too.

  3. Allisson Nadler says:

    I sincerely don’t see anything interesting in the Home of Golf, although if I were a person who plays golf as I see in the previous comment it would be very useful, I imagine. I also think it would be great if places like this are opened or held with events in different places other than St Andres.
    For example Sux, where thousands of people and even my acquaintances and relatives play golf, of course I can not demand to you hahaha, you just wrote something about the subject, is my humble opinion to this interesting article …Greetings!

  4. Jo says:

    Even though golf sends me to sleep, I can see why St Andrews is a bucket list destination and I imagine plenty of fans flock to the Old Course every year. It’s good you linked to further information on green fees as I wouldn’t have been able to guess how much it would likely cost to play here. It sounds very exclusive, like with making a private application to play there, though I guess that’s also part of what makes it so special and a trip of a lifetime for a lot of people, unless of course you’re very well off and can afford it!

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