Golf at The Old Course

The Old Course is run by the Links Trust and is open to the public, but the demand for tee times means getting on isn't always easy. Here's how to earn your date with destiny at the Old.

The Basics
The Old Course opens at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday (May-August) and at first light the rest of the year. The course is always closed on Sundays. Greens fees are 115 (about $215) between April 18 and October 16; 80 ($150) April 1-17 and October 17-31; 56 ($105) from November through March.

Know Your Number
A valid handicap index card is required when you arrive for your tee time. The limit is 24 for men and 36 for women.

First Wednesday
On the first Wednesday of September, the Links Trust begins accepting reservations for the following year. "Be as quick as you can, they fill up within two weeks," says Links Trust spokesman Paul Kirkcaldy. E-mail the details of up to eight golfers (name, home club and handicap) to reservations@standrews.org.uk, or fax to 011-44-1334-477036.

List preferred dates:
You can request two times per day, but from April through October one of those rounds must be played on another of the Trust's six courses. Provide details for one person in your group whom the Links Trust can contact.

The Lottery
Half of the annual tee times are assigned in a daily lottery ballot, providing a last shot for golfers without a reservation. Pairs can enter the lottery for next-day times in person at the starter's shack or by calling (466666) before 2 p.m. Lottery results are drawn at 4 p.m. and posted at several locations in town.

Caddie Corner
St. Andrews' caddie manager Rick Mackenzie offers the inside dope on hiring the right bagman.
Do first-time visitors need a caddie? When the wind is blowing, it's said, "The sheep hold onto the gorse with their teeth!" Imagine how difficult it is for visitors. Yes, take a caddie.
How do visitors hire a caddie? And how much does it cost? You can request a caddie in advance or on the day. We have a fixed caddie fee of $65 and $47 for trainee caddies.
What about tipping? I'd say $19 to $28.
What should a golfer expect from his caddie? A friend once said, "Caddying is not brain surgery, it's far more complicated." They are at times a companion, guide, psychologist, history teacher, storyteller and valet all rolled into one. We have approximately 180 regular caddies, including 13 females. The stereotypical image of the rough-hewn drunk is long gone.
What's the most important piece of advice you would offer visiting golfers? Never hire a caddie with hiccups!
-Josha Hill
Just Show Up
Few reservations are accepted for single golfers, and those have already been snapped up for 2005. Singles can't enter the lottery, but they can arrive early at the starter's hut to be slotted in where possible during the day. The wait could be minutes or hours. Check in with the concierge at some of the smarter hotels in town; they often have the next day's tee sheet and know just how many single slots remain.

Old Course Experience
Book a vacation package with The Old Course Experience, which owns exclusive overseas selling rights to Old Course tee times. Golfers stay in the town's best hotels and are guaranteed a start on the Old, usually between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Four nights start at $2,845 per person in April and $3,575 from June through September. Includes rounds on the Old Course, New Course, Jubilee Course and Kingsbarns; transportation to courses; breakfast, lunch and two dinners. Entering the company's annual Father-Son golf tournament also gets clients on the Old Course. For more information call 011-44-1334-479050 or visit oldcourse-experience.com.

When to Go
"Nae rain, nae wind, nae golf," the Scots say, so don't expect fine weather. Pack for all seasons, no matter when you go. April has the least rainfall (1.6 inches), July is the hottest month (average high: 65 degrees), and May has the most sunny days.

When Not to Go
Local clubs, tournaments and members of the R&A are allotted a chunk of tee times, so always call the Links Trust or visit standrews.org.uk before booking a trip. In 2005, the course is closed from June 20 to July 18 for the Open. Also, you might want to avoid November through February when golfers must hit off mats in the fairways to protect the course.

Bargain Hunt
Local hotels and guest houses are also allotted tee times and are the best place to find bargains. Check out the options--from the quaint Albany Hotel ($112-$169 per person, per night) to the West Park House ($51-$61 per person per night)--at stayinstandrews.co.uk. Check "Special Offers" for information on The Links Trust Winter Package: a guaranteed round on the Old Course and meal vouchers, for 99 ($185) per person December through March, accommodations not included.

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