Playing golf’s most hallowed ground is going to cost quite a bit more this summer. Steve Carroll reports
Maybe you missed it among all the talk of Omicron, or it got lost in the Christmas festivities, but anyone hoping for a summer trip to play St Andrews Old Course may have to dig pretty deep this year.
St Andrews Links announced the 2022 green fees to play the Home of Golf and price watchers will have noticed quite a change if they’re looking get lucky in the ballot for the Old Course in high season.
A precious spot during that period, which is between April 18 and October 16 this year, will set you back £270, a near 40 per cent increase on last year’s £195, as the game’s most hallowed ground welcomes the large scale return of international visitors and gets ready to host the 150th Open.
In fact, such are the large number of reservations moved from 2020 and 2021 into this year, along with the sesquicentennial staging of the world’s oldest major, you can’t apply for tee times during high season – with spots available only through the 48-hour ballot or an “authorised provider”.
The Covid pandemic has hit courses that rely on international tourists particularly hard and two years of lost and significantly reduced revenues will need to be recouped across the industry. Expect green fees to go up at many quality courses across GB&I this year.
A round on the Old Course remains cheaper than several of its, privately or member owned, Open venue rivals. You’ll need to fork out £310 to play Muirfield this summer, at least £325 to get a glimpse of the famous lighthouse at Turnberry (if you’re not a hotel guest), and £285 to recreate the famous duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.
Some will dispute whether £195 was on the cheap side but, compared with courses of similar repute, the chance to have a genuinely life-affirming golfing experience on the game’s most revered stretch of land and still have a little room in the pocket was not to be missed.
Now I’ve been left asking myself whether I’d actually pay £270. The answer, unhelpfully, is: it depends.
I was a late bloomer to the Old, playing it for the first time – and twice in the space of a month – in the spring of last year.
Having never hit that tee shot from the 1st before, or taken on the Valley of Sin, there’s no doubt in my mind that if I was still waiting for the chance to play the Old I’d stump up the cash.
Now, though, having been lucky to have done it a couple of times, I’m not sure I could justify shelling out the better part of £300 this year. And that’s what I think might happen with others.
First-timers and travellers will still grasp the opportunity with joyful abandon, while the rest of us who don’t have a special occasion to mark may stroke our chins and think a bit harder about whether to shell out.
So was a price hike inevitable in these circumstances or should golfers feel short-changed at having to stump up a not inconsiderable amount of money? Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet me.