How To Play Golf At St Andrews Without A Reservation

Golf In Progress sign at St Andrews

St Andrews is, quite simply, the home of golf. They’ve even trademarked the slogan.

If you want to play golf at St Andrews, and you don’t have a reserved tee time, don’t worry, it can be done with a little patience and luck.

If you are a single golfer, you cannot make a tee time reservation for any of St Andrews‘ courses, so you need to show up on the day you want to play and see the starter. If you are in a group, book in advance or call and get in their tee time lottery. The rest of this is for players looking to walk on as a single. You could try walking on in pairs, threesomes, or foursomes, but that will be very difficult.

If you want to play golf on the Old Course at St Andrews, you do need to have a printed out handicap to present to the starter. People will often show up at the starter’s house before 6am, so if you want to get out straight away, stay in St Andrews itself and hustle down early.

If you are not staying in St Andrews, the first train from Edinburgh leaves Waverly Station at 530am. You’ll arrive at the Leuchars train station near St Andrews an hour later. From there it is a short £2.75 bus ride to the clubhouse at St Andrews, just ask the driver where to get off. You’ll duck between houses and find yourself alongside the 18th fairway, right by the Swilcan Bridge.

What a sight.

Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews

On the day I arrived to play golf at St Andrews, there was already half a dozen players on the starter’s sheet at 7am. I did not have a handicap with me, so I couldn’t play the Old Course. I haven’t played much golf since becoming a dad, and while I the starter said he might be able to get me out, I was fine with playing any of the other courses at St Andrews.

In fact, I could walk on the New Course immediately upon seeing their starter just down the road. Built in 1895, the New Course runs right along the Old Course. It’s like dating the 2nd prettiest girl in town. You’re there, but not quite.

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Honestly, I was fine with not having to wait, paying £50 less, and being in the same spot where golf was born. To play golf at St Andrews on any of the courses is a treat, and since the land is public, you can wander the links and fairways without paying a dime. You’ll often see people scoot out between foursomes to take pictures at the Swilcan Bridge, all without paying the green fee.

If you come with a spouse that doesn’t golf, they are free to walk the course with you. They could also sit in one of the local cafes or wander the quaint university town.

The experience at the Old Course is like an adult Disneyland. There are many posed pictures, the caddies escort the golfers around, and the greens and bunkered are bigger and more manicured than the New Course. The smiles and awe on the players is a wonderful sight to see. On a more leisurely trip, I may have taken up the starter on the offer to play the Old Course, but I am saving it for another day.

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You can expect to wait anywhere from 3-5 hours to play the Old Course if you show up as a single at first light. The starter suggested heading out on the New Course while our names were on the list and then coming to play the Old Course afterwards. It’s an option, as a single with no wait time on the New Course, I hustled around in well under 4 hours despite taking my time with pictures and the experience.

When I got back to the Old Course starting hut, the player I had arrived with on the train was already out on the Old Course, so the wait can be quick – if you’re prepared to make it. And you should. It is a fabulous experience, just remember to bring a printout with your handicap to prove you’re a golfer that can handle The Home Of Golf.

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Total cost to play the New Course at St Andrews: £219.60 (About C$330)
New Course green fee: £70
Club rentals: £40
Locker: £1
Assorted souvenirs from the club house: £80
Return train/bus tickets: £28.60

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