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Shane Bacon

The Old Course changes ballot system for first time in 100 years

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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One of the beautiful things about the Old Course at St. Andrews is no matter who you are, or where you come from, if you have a handicap that is less than your weight, and a hundred pounds (money, not Biggest Loser) or so, you have a chance of getting on the famous course that day.

But things are changing in St. Andrews. For the first time in over 100 years, the ballot system in place at the Old is changing from 24 hours in advance to 48 hours in advance, but is this a good thing?

To catch you up to speed, and sum up this Scotsman article, the St. Andrews Links Trust decided that by extending the balloting system, it would give people a better chance of landing a tee time somewhere else if they failed to get on the Old Course. Also, it suggests that hotels around the area will have a better chance at planning what their patrons do with more knowledge of their itinerary.

Living and working in St. Andrews for a summer, I'm not sure if I'm totally sold on this idea, because I always loved that you could toss your name on the ballot the night before and then wait to see if you got called (which happens more than you think), but I sent an email to a local friend of mine in St. Andrews to see what he thinks.

James Yule is an owner of a bed and breakfast called the Braeside House, and an avid golfer, mostly at St. Andrews. As we've learned with St. Andrews, any change is normally met with serious hesitation from the locals, so I asked him his opinion.

"This will undoubtedly encourage more people to apply for a tee time via the ballot, but as the ballot is always oversubscribe in the summer months and there will be no additional times available it will mean a higher level of oversubscription thereby reducing the chances for locals and visitors to obtain places. Therefore I personally do not see this as a significant change which will make a positive difference," Yule said. "In the town the most contentious issue regarding tee times on the Old Course is the secretive arrangement which the Links Trust have with the Keith Prowse organization."

Basically, if you are heading to St. Andrews in a planned trip (as most Americans are), you already have your tee times booked, but if you were a college kid swinging up during your abroad "vacation," this could be beneficial.

Still, I'm not sure I love the changes. The meat of the St. Andrews golf course hasn't been changed in 400 years. I sure wish they'd do the same to the process of getting on.

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