On most days of the year there are tee-times held on the St Andrews Old Course for entries in the daily ballot.
The ballot gives golfers who have not secured a guaranteed tee-time in advance a chance of playing the Old Course and is used by thousands of golfers every year.
The base facts are, golfers submit their details by 2pm two days in advance of the day they'd like to play. The results are published some time after 4:30pm that same day.
So, as an example, for play on Thursday you submit your details by 2pm on Tuesday. In practice you can submit your details for Thursday on the Monday afternoon after 2:30pm once the Wednesday ballot entries have closed.
Some refer to the process as the daily lottery. There are almost always, especially in high season, considerably more applications for ballot times on the Old Course than there are spaces available so only a percentage of golfers will be successful.
There are generally more ballot times available on Thursdays and Saturdays, when the ballot is operating, as most Thursday afternoon tee-times, and most Saturday times, are kept for both the 'open' ballot - which we are talking about here - and the local ballot, which is for local residents and club members.
Key additional points are:
- There must be at least two players per application.
- Online entry is possible on the St Andrews Links Trust website, as well as by phone or in person.
- All golfers must provide their name, home club and handicap.
- There is no ballot drawn on a Friday as the course is closed on a Sunday.
- Only named golfers on the entry sheet may play.
- All successful golfers must be able to present an official handicap card, record or certificate to the Starter before play. Maximum handicaps are 36 for both men and women golfers.
- Only one entry is accepted each day for each golfer, all duplicate entries are disqualified.
The cost of a round on the St Andrews Old Course in high season in 2020 is £195
Successful golfers are asked to check-in with the Starter 20 minutes before their tee-off time. All these details can be viewed on the St Andrews Links website.
You will increase your chances of success in the ballot by being available at any time of day - in summer this could mean a 06:30 tee-off.
It will also help to have more than one day available to enter the ballot, so it's best to plan to be in St Andrews for at least 2 days or more. You could leave one day free for ballot entry and make reservations at other local courses that try and be helpful in re-arranging times for golfers who are making multiple ballot entries - courses such as Crail, the Kittocks, the Duke's, Kingsbarns or the Torrance. Bear in mind what is possible will depend on their other bookings so be prepared to be flexible on what time of day you play.
We'll take a look at arranging a few days of golf in St Andrews around entering the daily ballot in a future blog.
Finally, check the busy times for the Old Course before planning the dates you will be in St Andrews.
In 2019 between the start of April and the end of October there were over 9,000 open ballot times available and almost 8,000 golfers were successful in securing times from their ballot entries - remember not all entries will be for 4 golfers, which leave gaps during the day that tend to be filled by walk-up golfers. We'll come back to that topic another day.
Lots more interesting facts and figures about the daily ballot in our next blog post - for now you might like to know that the highest number of golfers playing the St Andrews Old course in a single day through the ballot in 2019 was 120 - which was on a Saturday in July.