It’s a sad story. So long have we fought for this, planned for this, been excited about this—and now suddenly all this comes to an abrupt and unfortunate end. Carsten and I had this in mind for quite a while now: we wanted to travel to St Andrews, Scotland to play the mother of all golf courses, the Old Course at the Home of Golf.
Even when you’re not into links golf at all, you probably can’t neglect that there is a special appeal to St Andrews in general and the Old Course in special. The whole town is breathing and living golf. Strolling along the narrow streets of St Andrews carrying a golf bag is not weird, it’s the natural thing to do, because everybody else does it too, because this is what people do here: they play golf, they talk about playing golf, they have some beers after playing golf. Golf is the one thing that glues everything together.
St Andrews in the council area of Fife at the east coast of Scotland offers quite a number of famous and unique golf courses, most of them extremely stunning either due to the coast-line setting, the rich history or just because of the breathtaking stretch of holes meandering along the area which connects the sea with the hinterland; the links.
St Andrews is probably the only true golf mecca in the world. People from all around the globe travel to Scotland, play these famous golf courses, fly back and tell the stories about driving, pitching, chipping and putting on mother earth’s very first golf course—the Old Course.
Carsten and I had planned the same thing: 5 days St Andrews with at least 3 rounds of golf, visiting the golf museum, the famous pubs, the sights or just walk and breathe in the town as one of the world’s last relicts that came to fame for something which happened hundreds of years ago, and even now attracts so many people who are willing to pay quite a fortune to come up with one golf experience they can tell their grand-children.
The site is special, no doubt about it. And so is the process to get a tee time. Some of you won’t believe it but it’s not just calling or sending an email asking for a start off time couple of weeks in advance. It’s so different. In order to be able to play the Old Course with a fixed tee time, there’s a period of just over 2 weeks in August/September every year in which you can specify a timeframe of the following year during which you’d like to play. After that period there’s a ballot to determine who’s been provided with tee time and who’s not. After that process there’s basically not a single slot available anymore from March through October. Luxury hotels might have some slots, major travel agencies will most likely too but other than that, the very next golf year for the Old Course is pretty much fixed.
In October they sent out reservation confirmations. We instead received a sorry note stating we won’t be allowed to play the week we wanted to. This was truly a shock. And it doesn’t help that thousands of other received the same unfortunate email. All our plans broke down, all the things we wanted to do, to see and to play.
Plan was to play the Old Course, the New Course and the Jubilee Course. If we could we’d also play the Castle Course in St Andrews and the famous Kingsbarns just outside of town.
When St Andrews send out their emails notifying people that they can’t play the Old Course next year, they at least give you some options: (1) There’s a daily ballot for those slots which free up short notice. No question you must be super lucky and you must be ready to play with one day maximum in advance. (2) If you are a single player, there’s a slight chance they manage to squeeze you in. This is of course no option when it’s not guaranteed and you’re on a 2-guy buddy trip. (3) Move the plans for one year. I leave it with you to judge if those are valid alternatives. Small hint; we were extremely frustrated.
I’m not questioning the process in general, don’t get me wrong, it may the fairest thing to do for a course which every golfer in the world wants to have played at least once in his lifetime. It may be fair, but receiving an email that says you can’t come to St Andrews to play next year at all is quite a motivation killer, I can tell you. We tried to change their minds in various emails but didn’t have any luck.
And this is where we are. Left with no tee time and more or less three shitty alternatives, one being trying the same thing end of 2016 again for a tee time in 2017. We’ll see how that works out.