Tips For Planning a Golf Trip to St Andrews
Every year, thousands of golfers from across the world make their own journey to St Andrews. A visit to the town is something that everybody who loves our great game should do at least once in their lifetime. However, with centuries of history to consume, dozens of courses to play, and an abundance of notable off-course landmarks to discover, how can you make the most of your own trip to the Home of Golf? Simple - check out our handy guide below!
There are plenty of reasons to head to St Andrews on a trip, but the golf itself should surely be top your list! In addition to the iconic Old Course, the town and its surrounding area is home to more than a dozen top-quality layouts, all well versed in accommodating visiting parties of all sizes, ages and abilities. The St Andrews Links Trust manages seven courses in the town; The Old, The New, The Jubilee, The Castle, The Eden, The Balgove, and The Strathtyrum. As you’d imagine, all are in fantastic condition and are just about as pure a links experience as you’re likely to get anywhere on the planet. Despite its name, The New Course dates back to 1897, whilst the Eden and Jubilee have both also celebrated centenaries; keeping the Old Course - or Grand Auld Lady - company for quite some time.
Elsewhere within the town, the Fairmont Hotel also boasts two courses in the Kittocks and Torrance. Whilst these layouts aren’t managed by the Links Trust, they have played host to European Tour events over the years, and offer an idyllic resort-type experience in St Andrews with the golf right there on site. Likewise, the Duke's Course on the outskirts of town presents an alternative style of golf too.
One of the beauties of St Andrews is also its proximity to other world-class courses in the area. Some, such as Crail and Lundin Links, have been in the area for almost as long as those within the Links Trust. However, as an increased number of visitors have flocked to the region over the past 50-years, additional layouts have continued to open, with some of the most notable including Kingsbarns, and the more recent - yet highly acclaimed - course at Dumbarnie Links.
Playing The Old
It’s the reason many head to the region, and worthy of its own section here, as playing The Old Course at St Andrews requires some forward planning. The first two methods of playing The Old Course both involve a ballot. Each year, the Links Trust opens up a certain number of tee-times for the following season with golfers from around the world hoping to confirm their slot. This is arguably the ‘best’ way of booking a tee-time, as the ballot will take place towards the end of the previous year, allowing you to properly plan in the rest of your trip.
The second ballot that one can enter for tee-times on The Old Course takes place much closer to the allocated spaces. Names are pulled at random for times just 48-hours later, with successful applicants often needing to rearrange games that are planned elsewhere! This is the ideal option for those whose trip to St Andrews isn’t solely focussed on playing The Old, with golfers able to plan in their itinerary without The Old included, and swap it in if they’re successful in the ballot.
A third option includes booking through an Authorised Provider, such as Golfbreaks. Spaces with these providers are often limited, and will generally need to be part of a wider package to the town. However, if you’re looking for security around your tee-time, booking with an Authorised Provider can offer peace of mind ahead of travel.
The last option also requires the most effort … and least amount of sleep. Each day, single golfers are invited to enquire at the Starter’s Hut for available spaces on the day. If you’re willing to get there extremely early, this method generally has a decent level of success. However, with the Starter’s Hut opening at 06:30 each morning, and golfers often queuing overnight - make sure you’re well rested before joining the line!
With more than a century’s worth of visitors coming to the town to experience golf on the hallowed turf, it should come as no surprise that St Andrews is full of excellent options for accommodation. Some of the larger hotels include the famous Old Course Hotel and The Rusacks which border the 17th and 18th fairways of The Old Course respectively. These are great options for larger groups who want the convenience of having everything on their doorstep, with hotels that have looked after guests for decades. Larger groups should also check out the Fairmont St Andrews, located just a couple of miles from the centre of town – with the hotel providing a regular minibus for guests.
Elsewhere in the town, both the Ardgowan and Hotel du Vin are super-centrally located, putting you right at the heart of the action. The Albany and Greyfriers Inn are fantastic options too, with character aplenty. In addition to the more traditional hotel offerings, there is also an ever increasing number of ‘AirBnB’ properties in St Andrews which are perfect for smaller groups - providing you’ve got a volunteer amongst you to make the breakfast!
The Local Hotspots
St Andrews is home to two of the most famous watering holes in the sport; The Jigger Inn and The Dunvegan. Both are within a stone’s throw from The Old Course and have welcomed some of the most famous names in golf into their establishments over the years. Indeed, The Dunvegan practically uses small photo frames filled with famous faces as tiles within its rooms! Make sure to at least nip in for a swift half during your visit.
The wider town is also packed with great spots for a post-round debrief, with pubs, bars and restaurant lining the main streets in this university town. The likes of Forgans, Hams Hame Pub & Grill, and Tulsi are ever-popular with visiting golfers. Indeed, the latter is part-Indian, part-Thai (and also offers some more British-style dishes too), meaning that there literally is something to suit everybody here. Another top choice is Ziggy’s - a rock-themed restaurant offering a protein-heavy menu including ribs, steaks, burgers, and wings.
A last recommendation from us on food and drink would be to check out the offerings at the courses themselves. Whilst The Old Course doesn’t strictly have its own clubhouse bar (at least one that’s accessible to the public …), the recently refurbished Tom Morris Bar & Grill located within the St Andrews Links Clubhouse is a real treat, and just a matter of seconds from the 18th greens of both The New Course and The Jubilee
As you might expect, St Andrews is chock-full of golfing history. The home to arguably the most famous Father / Son duo in the sport, both Old Tom and Young Tom Morris left significant marks on the town. The elder Morris was the keeper of the links at St Andrews for many years, whilst designing the likes of Carnoustie, Muirfield, and Prestwick - as well as The New Course and The Jubilee Course in St Andrews .. all whilst winning The Open Championship on four occasions. His son emulated his father in winning The Open four-times, and would have likely gone on to win further trophies if not for his death aged just 24. Both Morris’ graves can be found within the town, and are a worthy addition to any trip.
Those wanting an early morning walk to clear their head should venture down to the iconic West Sands which border the courses in the town. Used as the backdrop for the famous Chariots of Fire opening scene, the sands boast two-miles of uninterrupted beach - as well as easy access to The R&A World Golf Museum and St Andrews Castle.
Lastly, and speaking of castles, the buildings around the town themselves are well worth exploring. With churches and cathedrals dating back over 900 years, and a University built in the 1400s, there’s plenty of history to sink your teeth into as you wander around some of this bustling golfing mecca’s more peaceful spots.
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