The Ballot, how to improve your odds of playing the St Andrews Old course.

St Andrews Old Course is so popular that tee-times are always oversubscribed from April to October. If you are in a position to apply early it is best to apply for an advance booking. They allocate a number of tee times and issue them if oversubscribed by a draw in early September. If you are not successful or cannot fix your dates early there is still a great opportunity to play the Old Course.

St Andrews want to be fair to all golfers so they keep about 50% of the Old Course tee-times for a daily ballot. Yes! It’s a lottery, but not a normal lottery. For example, you can enter as many times as you like for free. However, that’s getting ahead of ourselves, because you can legitimately with careful planning improve your odds of success enormously, it’s not like the races!

Your Tour Operator can do this using years of experience and thoughtful customer service. You need one who goes that ‘extra mile’.

The first consideration is the dates that you are travelling. If they are flexible an experienced tour operator should be able to advise you which months have the lowest number of ballot applications compared to tee-times allocated. This can start you with the best odds. If your dates are fixed however there are more ways to improve the likelihood of success.

The most important consideration is planning your tour so that three or four ballot applications can be made if necessary. This is the game-changer compared with a single application. Fortunately, the location of top-ranked courses in the St Andrews area is high with world ranked Carnoustie, and Kingsbarns and many other fine courses. Even if your tour moves on to Edinburgh or Gleneagles you are only about 50 miles from St Andrews.

Certain days of the week have more ballot slots than others so this is taken into account when planning your tour. If you are available and willing to play at any time when the course is open this will give you the best chance of success.

We make all of the ballot arrangements for our clients, making applications and checking the results. The ballot closes at 2pm two days before you want to play. The results of the ballot are available after 4.30pm the same day. There is no ballot on a Friday because the Old course is always closed 2 days later on Sunday.

There is also no ballot on tournament days which we take into account when planning your tour. To enter there must be a minimum of two and a maximum of four players per card. The only information that we need is your handicap and the name of your golf club. Handicaps must be 24 or better for men and 36 for women.

Clearly, there is a very small possibility of failure even with careful meticulous planning. However, there are still opportunities on the day for early risers or for times that end in the twilight which we can explain to you.

AGS Golf has been making Ballot applications for over 20 years. We do not just consider the ballot but discuss with each client all of their requirements and priorities. We then propose a tailor-made tour that best meets your plans. Success with ballot applications can sometimes interfere with other parts of the agreed tour.

Golf clubs in Scotland and particularly the St Andrews area are aware of this and will often agree to reschedule a booking. Tour Operators such as AGS Golf who regularly do business with the leading clubs get good cooperation in such instances.

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