There isn’t a golfer alive who doesn’t yearn to play the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. The trouble is, demand for tee times on this public-access links — earth’s oldest course — is probably higher than anywhere in the world, with fees ranging from $130-$270. Here’s the scoop on how to get on this sacred sod.
1. GET ON THE BALLOT
Roughly half the tee times are allotted daily via a lottery system called the Ballot. Winners are notified 48 hours in advance every day except Friday (since there’s no Sunday play on the Old Course). Gaining access via the daily ballot requires a minimum of two golfers, with a maximum handicap of 24 for men and 36 for women. Ballot applications can be made by telephone (011 44 1334 466666 from the U.S., 0 1334 466666 in the U.K.), in person at the starter’s box, or at any of the three clubhouses at the Links before 2 p.m., 48 hours prior to the desired day of play. If successful, golfers must provide names, home clubs and a handicap card or certificate. Curious how you fared? Call after 2:30 p.m. on the day you submitted your request, or check the Ballot Results page.
2. GET ONLINE
For advance reservations in 2015, any single golfer or group can apply online or via fax beginning September 3, 2014. A ballot system will also be in place in 2015 for advance reservations; St. Andrews will accept applications within a two-week window, and a lottery will determine the order of allocation. Many restrictions — such as having to book a second St. Andrews course if you play between April 1 and October 31 — apply, but it’s worth jumping through the hoops to know that you’ve secured your tee time before you cross the Atlantic.
3. GET IN LINE
Single golfers with an appropriate, proven handicap who wish to tee it up should show up early the day of play and report to the starter. In a quaint custom, he will attempt to pair you with a two-ball or three-person group, who have the right to reject you — so be on your best behavior.
4. GET ON THE BUS
The final way aboard the Old Course is to pay a premium and book through a tour operator. The St. Andrews Links has an exclusive rights arrangement with the Old Course Experience, although OCE will often farm out packages to other tour operators/packagers. Among the most reputable is PerryGolf.