Playing golf at Scotland's St. Andrews
Q: We are going to England next year and my wife and I both like to golf. We decided we'd take a few days and go up to Scotland and play golf at St. Andrews. Do you have to have reservations? What is the procedure we have to follow in order to play a round or two?
A: Ah, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the historic home of the sport and Mecca for golfers everywhere. You can play there, but it takes some advance planning.
St. Andrews has five top-notch 18-hole courses: the New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathyrum and, of course, the world-renowned Old Course. There's also a nine-hole course, Balgove, and a Golf Practice Center that has facilities for beginners to expert golfers.
Advance reservations for all courses can be made for any day except Saturday. The Old Course is very popular and most available tee times are booked by mid-December. Applications for next year opened Oct. 1 so you better hurry. The application for whichever course you choose must be accompanied by a request to play at least one other St. Andrews course.
There is, however, one other way. You can cut through the red tape if you know someone who is a member of St. Andrews. That person can take you as a guest, making getting a tee time much easier. Another requirement for the Old Course: All golfers must show proof of their current handicap.
Here's how to get additional information: Check www.standrews.org.uk or e-mail your reservation query to email@example.com. Also tee times can be reserved using the new online system, Linksnet, which enables golfers to book slots at any of the courses well in advance.
The British Tourist Authority's Chicago office can help you out with brochures and other information. Call (800) 462-2748 or visit www.visitbritain.us.
You might be interested in a little fun book I recently ran across and purchased for one of my golfing relatives. It's called "A Wee Nip at the 19th Hole" by Richard MacKenzie, the current caddie manager at St. Andrews. It celebrates one of the most entertaining and time-honored traditions in golf - the St. Andrews caddie.
Here's how the book jacket describes it: "Many of the characters, including Old Tom Morris, graduated from this band of 'ragamuffins' to assume a place of prominence in golf history. In fact it was Old Tom himself who in 1864 attempted to elevate the respectability of the caddies, insisting that they 'appear for work clean and moderately sober.' Old Tom was routinely disappointed. Join Old Tom and his compatriots Stumpie Eye, Trap Door and other infamous and famous friends for a seat at the most famous 19th hole in golf - St. Andrews."
I'm sure your favorite bookstore will order it for you if it's not on the shelves.