A St. Andrews golf trip in April? You can dodge rain - and the crowds

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

Every golfer's St. Andrews trip nightmare involves a Gene Kelly moment. You know, splashing in puddles wide as a stream and deep as a Jacuzzi tub. Only, there is no singing in this rain.

Old Course at St. Andrews - hole 1
Drier weather and easier-to-get tee times make April a choice month for a St. Andrews golf vacation.
Old Course at St. Andrews - hole 1Old Course at St. Andrews - ScotlandNew Course at St. Andrews - Scotland
If you go

There is only the pure misery of watching your expensive, dream vacation wash away. Of telling your buddies back home how you experienced the Old Course at St. Andrews - from the clubhouse.

Which is why St. Andrews in April makes more sense than it first sounds. Sure, it is a little chillier in April (a 46.1 Fahrenheit average temperature), but it is also a whole lot drier. In fact, it is almost half as wet as some of the prime tourist times. Aprils in the St. Andrews area average 2.4 inches of rain. Augusts and Septembers average 4.3 and 4.6 inches of rain respectively.

Which begs the question: Would you rather be playing in a slightly thicker windbreaker (even Augusts in the heart of the summer average only 57 Fahrenheit) or playing from a puddle?

"There is this feeling that if it's April in St. Andrews it's going to be winter," said Graham Spears of The Golf Travel Co., a packaging service that's been in the St. Andrews market for years. "But in reality, I've played golf there in my short sleeves before in April. More importantly, it's a decidedly drier month.

"The courses are in great shape because all the tourists haven't been there for the season yet and there's plenty of daylight."

St. Andrews tee times are easier to get in April

Another advantage of April is tee time selection. You can get on the courses in the prime summer months with advance planning. But the choices of when you're going to play will be extremely limited. In April, it does not feel as much like you are begging to be let into a trendy restaurant.

"Everything's just a little more relaxed," Spears said.

Some things are a little less expensive as well. While the legendary golf courses like Carnoustie, Crail and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club rarely tweak their green fees noticeably, other outside costs do fall.

"It's not so much the courses as the hotels," said Mitch Healy of Scotland-Ireland Golf Tours, another packaging company. "The hotels go down and that can make a significant difference in the overall cost of your trip."

This year, St. Andrews in April takes on an even more practical advantage thanks to the British Open. With the Old Course hosting the major this July, it is closed to all play from June 19-July 18. Then, the Old Course shuts its gates again to public play for most of September.

In order to see the changes made to the long-ago-dubbed Home of Golf in preparation for the Open, you have to go early in 2005. More than 90 bunkers are being rebuilt on the 600-year-old course in anticipation of Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and friends. Included is arguably the most famous bunker in the world, the Road Hole Bunker on the 17th hole. The Road Hole Bunker is being extended, the better to snare even more pro shots.

"The Road Hole Bunker will retain its fearsome reputation," course superintendent Gordon Moir promised, "and provide even more of a challenge to the world's best golfers."

And maybe to you, Joe Average bogey hacker, too.

For some golf tourists getting to say they landed there first is a powerful draw.

"With the British Open at the Old Course, St. Andrews is even more in demand than it usually is," Healy said. "That's why more people are looking to find that small window when the crowds aren't out in force."

April could provide that opening. It still carries just enough of a daunting reputation to chill most golfers from thinking of going. It might be the only time the old town is not overrun this summer. Many of the St. Andrews residents not involved in the golf industry are planning their own vacations away at the height of the British Open fuss.

"In April, you have a much better chance of seeing more real Irishmen," Spears said, laughing.

April showers? More like April powers.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Misinformation and Nonsense!

    Bernie Barrett wrote on: Jan 11, 2005

    "From spalshing puddles wide as a stream and deep as a Jacuzzi tub" to the "ninth hole at St. Andrews when you are not dodging raindrops or fighting crowds". Well what is it guys....Jacuzzi sized puddles or raindrops?
    From "the pure misery of watching your expensive, dream vacation wash away" and of "telling your buddies back home how you experienced the Old Course - from the Clubhouse".
    Unfortunately the authors and various contributors to this article simply don't get it. Golf in Scotland is about the experience of playing this ancient game of golf as it should be. A return to the traditional values of the game of golf played over seaside links in the most natural and picturesque coastal landscapes in the world today.
    I've packaged and personally operated golf tours here in Scotland for over 8 years (yes on the road personally with my clients) and never have experienced a round of scheduled golf washed out, whilst acknowledging that it does happen on an extremely rare occasion.
    "Wind cheaters of varying thicknesses" may be a part of the experience of playing golf as played by local Scots for 100's of years...a game that is inheritant in their culture and played throughout the year winter and summer alike, but are not a particular consideration to the summer months when humidity contributes to the comfort factor of a magnificent day in bright sunshine on the links. To suggest then that the only other alternative might be to play from a puddle is nonsense. These courses are built upon pure sand and drain as quickly as the heaviest downpour might attempt to soak them.
    April can be a very good month for golf here in Scotland as can August. Whilst May and June thru to the lead up to the Open Championship are heavily booked, there are prime opportunities for travel available in April and August.
    Play over the Old Course is managed....there's no such thing as crowding on the 9th or any hole, and with a great year in prospect we can only encourage those who wish to understand the true value of the product we are proud to be associated with to come and experience these beautiful links for yourselves without considertaion to a "few raindrops" if you were unfortunate enough to catch a few. As a golf tour operation we've never had a need to offer towels to our clients, but if the authors insist I'll throw a few into the bargain anyways.
    Bernie Barrett
    On Course Golf, St. Andrews


  • Articles on St Andrews

    Peter Mason wrote on: Jan 5, 2005

    Your articles seem to make the common mistake of assuming that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club runs the courses at St Andrews including the Old Course. This is wrong - all the courses are run by the St Andrews Links Trust which is a charity set up by an Act of Parliament to ensure that the courses stayed open to the public. The R&A has no responsibility for Links at all but does run the Open Championship wherever it is held.
    Secondly, this April is a particularly good time to play because the green fees have been reduced in the first two weeks by about 30%. This is because the Links Trust is introducing a shoulder season between the winter rates and the summer rates.
    All good stuff.