How I played Golf at St. Andrews for $300 while studying abroad
I just got an email from someone studying abroad at St. Andrews next year, asking about the difficulty of getting a membership to the St. Andrew’s Links and playing on the Old Course. I know that golf was one of the biggest factors in my decision to come to St. Andrews, and I realized, had I not known someone who had come here before me, I would have never known about that opportunities for students to play golf here for dirt cheap. They don’t actually publicize it at all on the Link’s site, like it’s some big secret. So essentially, here is a copy of the email I just sent describing the process of gaining access to the world’s golf heaven.
If you’re not a student, the Link’s homepage does have an entire section devoted to methods of getting a tee time on the Old Course, so feel free to check that out.
First and foremost, it’s extremely easy to get a student membership to all 7 courses. Once you get your student ID card during orientation week, you’ll head down to the Eden Clubhouse. Just walk past the 18th,17th, and 16th holes on the Old Course, and you’ll see the clubhouse. There will be three options depending on your ability level, how much money you’re willing to part with, and which courses you want to play.
St. Andrews Links Student Membership Option #1
Option #1 is the most expensive option is the all inclusive membership, which gives you access to all 7 courses including the Old Course. It will cost you around 170 pounds, or $300. That may sound expensive, but keep in mind, you can golf almost year round, and one round on the Old course alone runs the normal golfer 130 pounds in the busy season.
In order to get that membership, you’ll need to provide documentation of an official handicap of 24 or less when you sign up. The Old Course is the only course out of the 7 that requires you to have a handicap, and if you have the all inclusive membership, you will probably never be asked to show proof again when booking a tee time (although I always keep a copy in my bag in case the starter asks). If you don’t have a handicap, you’re best option is to go to your local golf course and ask the pro shop to hook you up. Even if you are not a member, most places will still provide you with one for a few extra bucks (Mine was $35 total I think).
As far as getting on the Old Course, *NEWSFLASH* disregard every myth you’ve ever heard about the difficulty of getting a tee time. Yes, from May to late September, it can sometimes be a little busy. But from late October/ November to March, you can plan on just walking on without a tee time no problem. The way it usually works is that you enter a ballot the day before you want to play, and if you get on the ballot, you’re in. If you are playing by yourself, you can always go to the starter and try to get paired up with a group who made the ballot.
Starting in about November, the ballot never fills up entirely, so like I mentioned, you can check the ballot online the day you want to play and then just walk over when there are available times. For example, today, the ballot was open from 11:30 on. So that’s option number 1, the membership I have – In my mind the best option, and the most cost efficient.
St. Andrews Links Student Membership Option #2
Option #2 runs for about 100 pounds, or about $170. This membership includes 5 of the 7 courses – it excludes the Castle Course and the Old Course. It doesn’t require you to have a handicap which is nice. If you are more of a beginning golfer, the Eden and Strathtyrum are great, straightforward, courses, and if you’re searching for greater difficulty, the Jubilee is what you’re looking for.
Now I stress getting the all inclusive membership, the previous option, for these reasons: The Castle Course overlooks the town and will give you some of the nicest views of St. Andrews that you’ll ever see, not to mention its the newest and nicest course; and the Old Course, the course of every golfers dream – if you want to play it more than once, the all inclusive membership will save you big bucks. I say “if you want to play it more than once” because with membership #2, I believe you are entitled to a round on the Castle and a round on the Old for around 10 pounds a piece (don’t quote me exactly on that).
So it really depends on how many times you want to play the Old and Castle Courses. I’ve played the Old twice and the only reason I haven’t been on it more is because Britain’s in the midst of one of its worst winters in 40 years.
St. Andrews Links Student Membership Option #3
Option #3 is the cheapest option at around 30 pounds. There is a reason its so cheap. I believe you’ll only have access to the Strathtyrum, Eden, and Balgove courses. The Balgove is essentially a field they turned into a 9 hole golf course. As I said above, if you’re a beginner golfer, this may be all you need, but if you want to play any of the other courses at all, I would suggest getting one of the other 2 memberships.
If you’re an avid golfer, you’ll be able to play a lot. During weeks when I don’t have that much work, I’ve been able to play 4, 5, and even 6 times. Continental Airlines charged me an extra $150 dollars to check in my clubs as a third bag when I came over here. I’m not going to lie, that sucked, but it was definitely worth it. Renting clubs here will cost you 25 pounds a round. So if you add the airline baggage fees to the total cost of membership option #1, you’re talking about $450. That’s an incredible deal – seven of the most well kept courses in the world for under $500.
Just remember to bring your ID card and proof of a handicap with you when signing up for a membership, and be sure to go over all your options again with someone who works at the clubhouse.
P.S. you’re probably only going to be in Scotland once in your life. Don’t hesitate to play the Old Course because you think you suck. If you have a handicap of 24 or less, or can make it look like you do, then play the Old Course as soon and as often as you can.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!