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Episode 31 – Playing the Old Course as a Single Golfer Explained


The lure of playing the Old Course is comprehensive no matter what nationality or playing ability. Every visitor golfing in Scotland wants to play at The Home of Golf St Andrews and walk in the footsteps of the golfing legends past. What many fail to understand is the public accessibility of the links best illustrated during the ‘walk up’ process. Host Ru Macdonald shares his experience of this first hand as he joins the ‘lucky queue’ at 5am. While finding out what draws these golf fans out of their beds very early in the morning, Ru experiences first hand those who’s patience are rewarded as they play the famous links that morning. A process which is repeated everyday and an option you should consider when trying to play the Old Course St Andrews. Below are some tips to optimise your chances.

Early Means Early

On the episode you hear the varying alarm clocks which the golfers set which is dictated by where they end up in the queue. Time and time again you are advised to get in the queue early but you really should. Later than 4am and you could be waiting around until after lunchtime for a tee time so yes, this time the early bird catches the worm.

Look at the Ballot

Co host Graylyn Loomis mentioned the importance of checking the ballot before setting out to join the ‘lucky queue’. The ballot published 48 hours prior gives you an idea of how many single spots might be up for grabs on the day. This is found here.

Thursdays and Saturdays

These days tend to be the best for single walk ups getting out on the Old Course with Saturday being some what of a surprise to many including us! (Source Starter)

Stay Nearby you might Queue Jump

While the starters will make an effort to find you when your name is up next they simply do not have the time to guarantee notifying you, especially if you are 800 yards away hitting balls at the range! The queue can change quickly and even if you are five spots away it only takes a foursome to have missed their connection and their resulting tee time before you are top of the list in a matter of minutes. The message is stay close, you might be up sooner than you think.


Furthermore when registering in the morning with the starter he or she will give you an estimated time you might be out as the single spots dictate that day however the mistake most golfers make is they only listen to the first half of this sentence. ‘You can expect to be out around 11am but subject to some change you may be out sooner or on rare occasions *later.’ Quite often the golfer decides to disappear and arrive at the time suggested potentially missing an earlier opportunity. 

*Players with an advanced booking have the right play as a twosome but the majority accept the request of the starter to pair up with those in the single queue.

Stand Out in the Crowd

Mentioned prior, staying near the first tee is advantageous as the starter searches to put a name to a face. Strategically pick your brightest or most eccentric  outfit which will allow the staff managing the early morning queue to identify you from the crowd. It might just work in your favour.

Return in the Afternoon

As the list grows throughout the day many golfers will add their name never to be seen again. So if in town pop back down in mid to late afternoon and ask that question again to Malcolm, Keith and the staff in the Old Course pavilion.

‘Any chance of getting a round on the Old?’

For more information on all things Scotland golf travel subscribe to the Scottish Golf Podcast here.

Co host Graylyn Loomis’ website is another informative resource which includes detailed course reviews of all the great Scottish links courses together with a new section entitled Your St Andrews Story. Post yours here. 

One thought on “Episode 31 – Playing the Old Course as a Single Golfer Explained”
  1. Lars July 24, 2015 on 12:53 pm

    Thank you for a great article and podcast! That helped me to get my first round on the Old Course yesterday! This being the week after The Open, I decided to go early and was at the Pavillion at 2am, after a 2h drive from North Berwick. And there were already 5 people there, the first one having arrived at 10pm! At 4:30, the queue was already 15 people long, with 18 slots open after the ballot. This week was probably more busy than others due to the Open, but it showed that early means really really early. There were many people arriving shortly before 6am who were quite surprised about the length of the queue. There were additional cancellations over the day, so we got out earlier than anticipated (in my case at 9 am) and it was a great experience, a sunny day with a very strong wind! The night was extremely cold, so bring your jackets and/or blankets. The Pavilion does not have outdoor seating. We were lucky that there were still chairs standing around from the Open, but normaly it seems you are expected to stand all the time, so maybe bring a fold up chair if you decide to come so early. There is also no outdoor vending machine, so you if you come very early, bring Tee/Coffee to keep you warm until the pavillion opens at 6am. Despite the waiting seeming long, the time passed quite quickly with chatting with other golfers. Again, an overall great experience!

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