A St. Andrews golf trip in April? You can dodge rain - and the crowds
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.
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.
November 21, 2004