5 ways you can play the Old Course at St. Andrews

The par-4 17th green, with the par-4 18th behind, at The Old Course at St Andrews.

The par-4 17th green at the Old Course, with the par-4 18th in the background.

Getty Images

We are just days away from the 150th Open Championship, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The first Open in 1860 fielded just eight players; this anniversary unites the golf world amid the sport’s internal conflict and opposing messages between tours. Many golf enthusiasts agree with commissioner Jay Monahan’s right hook to the LIV Tour, preaching “legacy, not leverage.”  Given the current climate, the timing is perfect for this year’s Open to return to the home of golf, the 30-time host site: St. Andrews Links. 

While this venue challenges 156 of the world’s best players, all vying for the revered Claret Jug, it could also be the destination of an annual golf trip, your travels through Europe, or even your daily college experience. It’s easier than you might think to bring your game to the home of golf. 

Here are five ways you can tee it up on the iconic, 129-yard-wide 1st fairway.

the old course at st andrews.
The 129-yard wide first fairway of the Old Course at St. Andrews. Getty Images

1. The Old Course Ballot

The St. Andrews Links Trust, which oversees the management of seven courses in the area, strives to maintain fairness and accessibility with its lottery system. Nearly half of all tee times are unavailable for reservation, allowing the remaining slots to be filled 48 hours before play. If you have between two and four golfers in your party, you can enter the ballot online, by phone, or in person at the Old Pavilion or one of the clubhouses. If you’re under a 36 handicap and have your official handicap card, here’s more information about how to enter. Your greens fee will be £270, or the equivalent of about $327 during high season. This is a better deal than Pebble Beach or The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, and is slightly more expensive than Bandon Dunes. 

2. Play alone and increase your chances

It is Scottish golf etiquette to always welcome a single to play with twosomes or threesomes, and this tradition remains true at St. Andrews. If you’re in the area and wish to take on the Old Course, simply check into the Old Pavilion, and golf staff will try to pair you with an existing group that isn’t full. While there is no guarantee, the odds are in your favor if you sign up alone and on a non-busy date.

3. Reserve your tee time with an authorized provider

This is by far the safest route, but it may cost you. There are many websites that offer deals, so make sure it has the “Authorized Provider” of St. Andrews Links seal to ensure that package guarantees a tee time. It’s nearly impossible to find a single tee time option, as these providers offer vacation packages that include the Old Course as one of several days. Their websites offer the opportunity to inquire about pricing, so make sure to compare options before finalizing your golf trip.

4. Apply to the University of St. Andrews

Since the St. Andrews Links was initially a gift to the residents, playing privileges are extended to the locals. If you choose to attend the University of St. Andrews, you are considered a local resident, and the student rates seem too good to be true. For just £240, or $292, students can play any of the seven courses all year. And yes, this includes the old course. Former William & Mary University golfer Trevor Hecht decided to take one more year of classes, and he made the right choice. He took full advantage of the St. Andrews University student playing privilege. “Three of my friends and I played pretty much every day,” Hecht said. “We played the Old Course alone about 80 times in one year.” 

5. Compete in one of St. Andrews’ many amateur events

The Open Championship isn’t the only way to compete at the Old Course. St. Andrews offers amateur events for boys, girls, men, and women. The St. Rule Trophy is a 54-hole amateur stroke play tournament open only to women with a handicap index lower than 2.4. The St. Andrews Links Trophy allows 144 male amateurs to compete for 72 holes. Notable past competitors include Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. The St. Andrews Boys’ Open and Junior Ladies’ Open allow another 200 young golfers to compete in a stroke play qualifying tournament leading into match play. With tournament entry fees starting at £40, this is quite the incentive to start practicing. 

Tyler Zimmer

Golf.com Contributor

Tyler is a collegiate golfer for Cornell University working as GOLF.com’s summer intern. He was the editor-in-chief for The Haverford School’s Index after serving as the sports section editor. Tyler writes tournament content, product reviews, and instructional pieces from his perspective as an active player.