It’s the ultimate test for any amateur golfer – taking on one of the courses on the Open Championship rota and playing holes that you’ve watched the professionals take on so often on television.
With Carnoustie, St Andrews, Royal Troon and Muirfield, Scotland currently has four courses on the rota for the tournament that was established back in 1860.
This becomes five if you include the Ailsa Couse at Turnberry, which technically has not been removed from consideration although it is unlikely to host the tournament for the foreseeable future – for reasons we’ll get to.
One of the unique things about playing golf is that it’s one of the few sports where it’s relatively easy to play where your heroes ply their trade – an amateur footballer is unlikely to ever play under the floodlights at Hampden Park.
With a little forward planning (and no small amount of cash) it’s possible to play all of Scotland’s Open Championship courses.
Carnoustie Championship Course
The Carnoustie Championship Course has hosted the Open Championship on eight occasions, most recently in 2018.
Tee times at the course, which at 7,421 yards is the longest Open, are available on a strictly first come, first served basis to club golfers with a handicap of 28 for men and 36 for women.
Currently online booking is available up until the end of October 2021 here and you can expect to pay around £260 for a round.
If you can’t get onto the Championship Course, consider playing Carnoustie’s other two excellent courses – the Burnside Links and Buddon Links – which are cheaper and have more availability.
The home of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Muirfield has hosted the Open Championship on 16 occasions, most recently in 2013.
Muirfield usually only offers tee times to visitors on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings and you can reserve a spot up to a year in advance on the club’s website, with high season times getting booked up quickly.
During 2021, due to the pandemic, visitor tee times are also available on Monday mornings.
Greywalls Hotel, which looks over the course, also has a limited amount of tee times available to guests (a minimum of a two night stay is required), and packages can be booked here.
Both men and women need a minimum handicap of 18 to play the course and you can expect to pay from £285 for a round.
The Old Course at Royal Troon
Royal Troon has hosted the Open Championship on nine occasions, most recently in 2016. It will return to the course in 2023.
Visitors are only allowed onto the course on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays, between late April and October.
Bookings are accepted on a first come, first served basis on the club’s website from summer the year before play, with men needing to have a minimum handicap of 20 and women a minimum handicap of 30.
Expect to pay £260 per round.
The Old Course at St Andrews
The historic Old Course at St Andrews has hosted the Open Championship on a record-breaking 29 occasions, most recently in 2015. It will welcome the tournament back for its 150th edition in 2022.
Usually tee times are available on the world’s oldest course a year in advance but, due to the pandemic and the course hosting the Open in 2022, no advance bookings are available for next year.
There will still be limited tee times on offer through the course’s balloting system, available on the course website from 2.30pm three days before play until 2pm two days before play. Groups of between 2-4 golfers can apply and will hear if they have been successful 48 hours before they play.
If you are very lucky there are also occasionally last minute tee times if you visit the Old Pavilion on the day you want to play.
Finally, there are a number of tour packages available that include a round on the Old Course, also available on the course website.
You need a minimum handicap of 36 to play and can expect to pay £195 for a round.
Turnberry Ailsa Course
Trump Turnberry’s Ailsa Course has hosted the Open Championship on four occasions, most recently in 2009, and was the location of the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in 1977.
Technically it has not been taken off the Open rota but R&A chiefs have publicly stated that, due to the involvement of former US President Donald Trump, it is currently not being considered as a host venue.
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers explained in a statement earlier this year: “We have no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future.
“We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances.”
Those who wish to play Turnberry can book up to a year in advance on the course website, or get preferential green fees by staying at the hotel.
Players do not need a handicap to play the Ailsa Course and can expect to pay from £275 for a round.