Old Course Tee Times
Everyone who journeys to Scotland for golf, whether for the 1st time or the 50th time, is keen on playing the Old Course in St. Andrews. And who can blame them. It is the ultimate golf destination for the golf aficionado. This is the home of golf and a place where you can play a circuit that has regularly hosted the (British) Open Championship since Tom Kidd won there in 1873. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and James Braid have each won the Open twice in St Andrews. Palmer won two Open Championships in a row but a life regret was that neither win took place at the Old Course. Bobby Jones won there as an amateur in 1927 and remarked later:
…although I have played it many, many times, its charm for me increases with every round. The more I study the Old Course, the more I love it, and the more I love it, the more I study it.
This is the charm of the Old Course. The average golfer can walk in the footsteps of the great and near great. While you cannot take a swing at a 95 mile an hour fastball at Yankee Stadium or volley for serve at Wimbledon, the Old Course is open to the rich and poor, men and women, young and old. It is one of the reasons why everyone wants to play there at least once. For first time players, there is nothing like the feeling that washes over you as you stand on the first tee preparing to strike your inaugural shot on the Old Course. (Oddly, professionals will tell you that they feel the same “giddiness,” awe and sense of history.)
Since Scotland is all about the democratization of golf, the administrators of the Old Course (The Links Trust) implemented a system that gives everyone a fair and equitable opportunity to get a tee time. While your chances improve if you are local St Andrean, a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (or another club in town), a resident of the county or serving at the military base in neighboring Leuchars, everyone is subject to a lottery of sorts. If for example, you submit your group’s name on the first Wednesday in September for the previous year you wish to play, that grouping goes in a bucket for a drawing at near year end. Also, there is a daily lottery, or ballot, for next day play. You submit your request by 2 P.M. the day before play. If you are a single or twosome, get up early to visit the starter. He will tell you if there’s any chance of playing. Your odds are very good but likely will require a wait. A quick note, don’t bother trying to grease the skids with the starters. It’s more likely to set you back. If money is no object and you positively must play the Old Course, call the Old Course Experience. They will get you on the course but prepare for great expense. Lastly, your concierge or General Manager sometimes has slots that he or she may be able to help you with but prepare for a hit or miss experience.
Good luck in your quest to play the Old Course. If you arrive in Scotland with a flexible itinerary, there is a good chance that you can get a slot. If you don’t…there are eleven other courses in town and 65 other championship courses within an hour ride. Try again the next day. This is where a stay at Monarchs House will help.