Scotland golf: How to play the Old Course at St. Andrews

If you've ever put a tee in the ground, you've no doubt thought about what it would be like to play a round in the birthplace of golf: St. Andrews, Scotland.

A common misconception of the famed Old Course at St. Andrews is that it's an exclusive, private club like Augusta National. That couldn't be further from the truth.

While it's true that green fees at St. Andrews -- and all of Scotland -- have skyrocketed over the past 30 years, the Old Course is open to the public on most days. For a round, it costs about the same as your normal PGA Tour venue open to the public. Depending on the exchange rate, the 2018 green fee to play the Old Course is 180 pounds, which is about $250.

So how can I make a tee time on the Old Course at St. Andrews?

There are numerous ways to play the Old Course that vary in convenience and price.

The easiest option -- and most expensive -- is to book a golf package with a guaranteed tee time. While the packages used to be almost solely provided by the Old Course Experience, the Links Trust has since spread out the times to about 90 local providers, from golf packagers to local hotels and B&Bs. One new nugget for 2018, the Links Trust has partnered with ReCounter, a photography service that will photograph groups on a guaranteed time on the 1st, 17th and 18th holes and provide those groups with a code to view, share and download their images.

The smarter way to get a guaranteed tee time at the posted green fee rate for that season is to write or email the St. Andrews Links Trust ( Each fall, the Trust holds an open period to accept group-booking requests. The more golfers you have in your group, the tougher it will be to accommodate everyone, but this is a surefire way for smaller groups that can commit to a date well in advance. Tour operators can help you submit these requests if you'd like to use one for your trip.

But you don't have to plan well in advance -- or shell out more money as part of a golf package -- if you're willing to gamble a little. The Old Course holds a tee-sheet ballot every day the course is open to the public, and golfers (minimum of two) can enter the drawing, which is announced two days prior to play (so Wednesday tee times are announced Monday afternoon). Now, if you have a group of more than four, be prepared to split up or risk some of you not getting a time. You can enter the ballot at the Links Trust website. Results are posted at 4:30 p.m. every day.

So if you stay three or four days in St. Andrews, plan on entering the lottery for every day you are there, but book some "safety" tee times at nearby courses. These clubs know about the Old's ballot policy, and just about all of them are happy to give you a rain check should you earn a ballot spot the day you're supposed to play their course (just mention your plans to do so when booking with the course). Many clubs now offer online tee times as well so you can make last-minute arrangements.

The last option, if all else fails or if you're a single, is to walk on. You'll want to head to the starter's shed at the crack of dawn and give your name to the starter, who will put you on the list and pair you with any incomplete groups. Keep your fingers crossed for no-shows. Golf Channel's Will Gray successfully attempted this method and wrote a detailed column on the experience, along with additional details about the wait list.

The Unlimited Golf ticket at St. Andrews

This is a game changer for St. Andrews golfers. Recently, the Links Trust began selling an "unlimited golf" ticket for three (£220) and seven (£440) days. Good for each of the courses except the Old, you can set up tee times in advance for your morning round at any course and then have space-available replays in the afternoon. This is especially ideal for those willing to enter the Old Course Lottery during their stay in St. Andrews.

Video: Matt Ginella shares his tips on how to play the Old Course

A few other logistical notes about the Old Course at St. Andrews

You will need a handicap certificate to play the Old Course. So be sure to register for one with the USGA or your local club in advance of your trip. Maximum allowed handicaps are 24 for men and 36 for women.

The Old Course closes for golf and turns into a public park every Sunday with the exception of days it hosts a tournament like the Dunhill Links or Open Championship. So even if you don't have the money to play the course or couldn't score a tee time in the ballot, you can still walk the entire golf course. Heck, bring a Frisbee, a picnic or a dog along.

The golf course is open year-round (weather permitting), but golf in the winter months requires the use of mats in the fairways in order to protect the turf.

While the Old Course Hotel comes into play on the famous Road Hole, it's not the "official" hotel of the Old Course and its access to tee times isn't much better than any other hotel in town. When Herb Kohler bought the hotel, he also bought the Duke's Course about a mile outside of town. It's a scenic and challenging heathland course that offers wonderful views of the town skyline (not to mention golf carts).

Great golf throughout St. Andrews and Fife

It sounds sacrilegious to say it, but your group could play a week of golf around St. Andrews without playing the Old Course and it would still be arguably one of the best itineraries in Scotland. Seven miles east of town, the spectacular and modern Kingsbarns Golf Links is a top-10 course worldwide. There are five other courses in the town operated by the Links Trust besides the Old Course, the best being the New Course and Jubilee Course, both true links playing on the same soil as the Old.

Other more classic links include Crail's Balcomie Links, located to the east. Modern courses lack the history but dazzle with views like the Fairmont St. Andrews Torrance Course and Kittocks Course. The Castle Course is one of the newest golf courses in Scotland and features the best vantage point of the town skyline to go with a rugged David McLay Kidd design atop bluffs.

Expand your radius a little more and you're just an hour from Gleneagles and East Lothian's storied must-plays links like North Berwick, Muirfield and Gullane.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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Has the price gone up that much? I got a twosome when I asked the caddy master after flying in from Finland and it was 85 pounds a person. What a glorious day. Got to play the other courses of St Andrews on a 75 pound all you can play 5 day deal. Wow


How does the Castle Course compare with these others?

Matt kent

In three months I’m traveling to Scotland for my anniversary with my wife at the end of August it’s my All time dream to play at St Andrews. What the best way to make a tee time ? Before or after I get to Scotland?

Pat Dunn

I plan to be in Edinbourough April 21-23 and am wondering about my chances of a walk-on at St Andrews.

BrandonTuckerGA Staff

Check out this "busy dates" link from the Links Trust:

BrandonTuckerGA Staff

Coincidentally enough I will be there close to that time as well and will be entering the lottery multiple days. Having spoken already with the Links Trust, it's a time of year that doesn't have many special events or other anything out of the ordinary. Of course, April 22nd your chances are 0% as the course is closed every Sunday.

Peter Craigon

A somewhat ill informed article above I am afraid albeit I know Brandon writes many great articles about golfing a variety destinations - in 2017 the St Andrews Links Trust changed the supply arrangement for guaranteed Old Course tee times. They appointed a number of golf tour operators as Authorised Providers (of Old Course packages) - each of these golf tour operators can offer golf packages which guarantee tee times on the Old Course so giving golfers from all over the world a much greater choice.
Peter Craigon, Managing Director, Morton Golf Holidays, Scotland

BrandonTuckerGA Staff

Knew that deal was in the works but was not aware it was live. Thanks for letting me know. We'll look into it and update.

Jim Aswell

Brandon: You are correct in saying that the easiest way to book a tee time on the Old Course is to book a guaranteed tee time, but you are incorrect when you say that the only way to do this is through The Old Course Experience group. There are a few select tour operators that are allotted guaranteed tee times on the Old Course by St Andrews Links. Golf Scotland, LLC, which I am associated with, is one of those tour operators. The cost of these guaranteed tee times is higher then what you would pay if you walked on the course or were successful with the ballot, but not at the price you mentioned in your article. It should also be pointed out that St Andrews Links has a two course policy for guaranteed tee times on Old Course.. They require you to book a second tee time on one of thier other courses, such as the New, Jubilee or Castle courses. All worth playing when there. These guaranteed tee times go quickly and if someone is planning a trip to the Old Course they need to start working with a tour operator in August of the year before they plan to travel. Also, as you state, St Andrews Links does open their books in the fall of each year to the public, but it is far from a sure fired way for a small group to get a tee time. They open their books for the public only, tour operators are not permitted to apply, and the groups are entered into a lottery. In early October the results of the lottery become available. To increase your chances of success you have to be very flexible in your travel dates. As you stated, tour operators, such as Golf Scotland, can assist groups with the entry into the lottery in the fall.


Having been to St. Andrews and trying to play the Old Course this past August I was very disappointed after trying the ballot for two of us 4 times while there. The results each day seem to favor almost always foursomes and not twosomes--never did I see on any four days two different names listed for one tee time which would let me know that two different groups of two had drawn a tee time.  So if yo have a foursome I think your chances in the ballot may be much better. We did play at Crail Balcomie up the road--loved it--and Fairmont Kittocks. Kittocks isn't a links course--more of a course you would find in the states--nice wide plush fairways and golf carts for everyone who wants to pay the extra 40 pounds to ride (per person). We also booked and played at Leven Links in Leven which is maybe 25 or 30 minutes from St. Andrews. A great fun links course to play and it only set us back 25 pounds each to walk--loved it! Note: If you want to play either of the Fairmont courses do not book them through the golf course itself--better deals can be found on-line thru websites at less than half the price of 82 pounds you'll pay to the course directly.

BrandonTuckerGA Staff

Thanks for sharing, and sorry to hear it didn't work out for you. Thanks much for the tips and glad you still got some great rounds in, which is easy to do in Fife regardless if you get on the Old or not. 

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