St. Andrews cancels overnighters

A new daily lottery will fill the final slots for coveted Old Course tee times

By Jim Bebbington

The line at the Old Course starter shack in August, 2023, at dawn. Photo by Jim Bebbington


The most fun all-nighter in golf buddy trips is no more.

The St. Andrews Links Trust in Scotland on Wednesday announced they are immediately doing away with the practice of allowing single golfers to check-in in person at 6 a.m. and be given the chance of receiving tee times on the Old Course that day.

The practice began in the 1990s and has led to lines of golfers waiting every morning at the starters shack at the world’s oldest golf course. In recent years the line began forming the night before, and at times dozens of visiting golfers would spend all night sleeping on the tee box and the grounds in order to claim their place in line. Weather conditions overnights in Scotland can be … mixed.

“Over the past decade numbers have grown to such an extent that many golfers were queuing overnight for upwards of 12 hours, often in inclement conditions, in the hope of being offered a tee time,” the Links Trust said in an announcement emailed to reporters Wednesday.

The Old Course. Photo by Jim Bebbington

(My son and I did it in 2022, showing up at 2 a.m. and being numbers eight and nine in line. By 6 a.m. we were in line with buddies from Michigan State University, a group of men from Cleveland, couples from around the world, a single young man from Northern Ireland, and many, many more. We each were placed with threesomes, teed off by 8 a.m., and had the rounds of our lives.)

“The significant growth in the number of golfers utilising the singles queue in the past decade has been such that we felt it was impacting the customer experience and becoming increasingly challenging for our dedicated team to manage expectations,” Neil Coulson, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said. ““For many golfers, playing the Old Course is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the new singles daily draw will ensure golfers successful in securing a tee time can enjoy the experience having had a good night’s sleep while maintaining the practice of allowing single golfers to join pre-existing groups of two or three.”

The course is moving to a new daily lottery for singles. People will need to check-in at the starter shack in-person to ensure they are in town and available. By 5 p.m. a random drawing will be held for tee-times the next day. To protect the integrity of the tradition – that single golfers can walk up and get a chance to play – the new system will take photos of the golfers to ensure they each were actually there.

They will notified by text messages to their phones.

Tee times on the Old Course are highly coveted. An annual online lottery held each fall fills up a huge number of the entire next year’s slots. Then a daily online lottery allows goups of twos, threes and fours to register and if they are selected get a tee time for two days later. That lottery can be filled out anywhere in the world, so long as the golfer can get to northeast Scotland in 48 hours.

For more information on this regretful development, click here.


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Jim Bebbington is the Director of Content at Colorado AvidGolfer. Contact him at [email protected]