This article on Scottish golf was written by Liam Frean for his Living as a Links Golfer section of the site. Visit his page to view more of his articles.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to spend a day in Scotland knows that you can get sun, wind, rain and snow within the space of an hour. The worrying thing is, that’s on a good day! This means choosing the time when you visit St Andrews is so important, especially when the town demographic is always changing with students and tourists coming and going.
Autumn – September, October, November
The golf for students commences (as do the studies but we won’t get into that one). This is my second favourite time of the golfing season. The weather tends to be reasonably friendly but don’t forget that it is still Scotland and it can turn on you any minute. The courses tend to be reasonably empty as it will be the tail end of the tourist season and they will usually be in good conditon. Obviously with term time starting the pubs are frequented by many a student giving them a good atmosphere. This is a great time to visit but don’t leave it too late as this is the time when it starts getting VERY cold.
I can’t sugar coat it, the weather is rubbish. It’s cold, wet, and windy! If you know how to handle the cold and have a good pair of waterproofs that would keep you dry in your own shower then it is possible to have some fun, just! If you’re a fair weather golfer, don’t even think of going on the golf course. My student colleagues and I tend to hibernate during this period or flock to warmer lands, so the town can be a bit dead. If you are thinking of visiting St Andrews, this isn’t the time.
My favourite time of year to play is during the spring, don’t get excited though, you still need a minimum of a jumper and your waterproofs should be in your bag at the ready. This is when the links begin to firm up, playing as they should and some sunglasses might be in order. For me one of my favourite things is that the tourist season hasn’t properly kicked off yet, meaning I can still walk onto the Old Course, most of the time.
Apart from the exam filled months of May, this is when most students try to get their last bit of partying in. Stag and Hen Parties (bachelor and bachelorette parties) plague the town at night making it a great time to visit the VIC. I would recommend this time of year to anyone, you can really get lucky with the weather and the town is buzzing with students and tourists, giving the best of both worlds.
With few stressed out students about, this is the tourist season. The weather is the best it will be making the Old Course an even better experience with the sun likely making an appearance. Having only stayed during the last summer my opinion is biased due to the Open, but it’s an absolutely amazing time to be in the town. The courses play hard and fast meaning that you will be playing links golf as it is intended. However, with all the students gone the town tends to feel touristy and less local.
Then there is the old dilemma of the ballot. With the invasion of golfers from far and wide getting a spot on the Old Course can be a bit of a problem. Last summer I went down as a single at 7 in the morning thinking no one would be mad enough to get up that early on their holidays. I was wrong. It turns out that prior to 5AM the line starts to build as people fight for a slot on the course. The summer is great for the weather and conditions but remembers that everyone else is thinking the same thing. Check out Graylyn’s article on getting an Old Course tee time.
In short, St Andrews tends to always be a great place to visit. If you get a round on the Old Course in the summer it can’t beaten, but if you want to improve your chances of getting on through the ballot and maybe a night out with the students, don’t forget Spring and Autumn.