Updated: May 21, 2015
Playing Golf at the Old Course in St. Andrews:Once you have booked your tee time at the Old Course you are all set. The next question that comes to mind is - What should I expect once I arrive at the course? From my recent experience (2010), the procedure was fairly smooth. Go to the starters booth near the first tee. If you have never been to St. Andrews, look at a map of the links before you depart and get an idea of it's location. The pro shop and links Clubhouse is also a good place to start - they can direct you where to go. Once at the starters booth, you present your tee time voucher or confirmation code. They may also ask for your handicap card (they did with us). Men are required to have a 24 handicap or lower and women need a 36 handicap minimum. The course itself is fairly open, so don't be initimated by the crowd that surrounds the first tee. Once you are out on the 2nd hole it gets much quieter. We had people walking between the 18th and 1st fairways the day we played and I guess that's pretty common. A car also drove right across the same path before we teed off. Seemed strange at such a well respected course.
The starter will get you off - usually on time - and they expect a decent pace of play. Around 4 hours is normal for a round of golf in Scotland. Also, keep in mind that you are walking the course. NO buggies are allowed but you can have a pull cart (trolley is the word in the UK). If you are concerned about keeping up out on the course, consider hiring a caddie, they can help things move along as they can guide you through the course. We didn't need caddies and finished just fine, only a few minor holdups along the Old Course as we got caught in the some of the huge bunkers. The course itself is not that scenic from say holes 3 through 7. The middle section of the front 9 is just like most other courses you've played except that you are in St. Andrews and on the Old Course. The greens were not that difficult to read and putt on, the only problems that come up are either the small carries off the tee or the bunkers that are waiting for tee shots. There are course marshalls along the way that will let you know how you are doing. We had excellent weather - sunshine and minimal winds - so our round was much easier than some we've seen on TV that show howling winds and constant rainfall. Since almost all the tee times are pre-booked and non refundable, you get what you get and should expect to make the most of it no matter what the weather conditions.
Old Course Golf:The Old Course was less than what I expected. The first tee is a momentous area with crowds from the town watching golfers tee off. The whole scene is impressive and worth the price of 18 holes. I was disappointed after the 1st hole in that the course was not in that great of shape (except for the greens) and the issue with shared fairways and shared greens meant that you constantly had to be on the lookout for wayward golf balls from other foursomes. Part of the fun was trying to hit out of the bunkers, although they were not in the best of shape on the day we played. Many had wet, heavy sand, while others had light, fluffy sand. Not consistent to say the least. The greens were in good condition and ran at about a muni golf course speed. Having played the Castle Course the day before (the greens there are wicked fast), the Old Course seemed rather easy once around the greens. The finishing few holes - 17 and 18 are definitely memorable. The 17th tee shot requires some guts as you have to hit over the Old Course Hotel that sticks out. You can play it safe and direct your tee shot left, but that takes all the fun out of it. The 17th hole, also called the Road Hole, has a great pot bunker in front of the green (our friend got in their and ended up with a 12 on the hole). The 18th is perhaps the most famous of all holes in golf. You hit the tee shot back towards the town and then cross over the famous bridge that pro golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have crossed over themselves. Be sure to have your digital cameras or camcorders ready to take a photo or video as you pass over. All golfers do this, so don't be worried even if the group behind you is already on the tee box.
St. Andrews Golf Courses:If you are planning on playing at the Old Course, be prepared to play another one of the courses offered by the St. Andrews Links. There are the Castle Course, New Course, Jubilee Course, Eden Course, Balgove Course, and the Strathyrum Course. They are all public courses and each offers something different. We choose the Castle Course and we were not disappointed. Set along the coast a little south of St. Andrews, the setting was amazing. A few holes have excellent viewpoints looking back towards the town of St. Andrews. The course was the toughest I faced and that includes Carnoustie, Muirfield, and Turnberry.