How tough is St Andrews Old Course?

Everything you need to know about the golfing challenge on the best courses in and around St Andrews

Last Updated: June 29, 2023
Reading Time: 9 minutes

How does the old course compare with Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and other courses in the St Andrews area?

find out the Overall course difficulty rankings and PREDICTED SCORES for scratch & AVERAGE golfers


Answering the questions I am asked most by my clients

How tough is St Andrews Old Course to play?

St Andrews Old Course has a Slope Rating of:
Men – 129
Ladies – 138

How difficult is St Andrews Old Course for a good (scratch) player?

St Andrews Old Course has a Course Rating of:
Men – 71.4
With a par of 72, scratch golfers (with a handicap index of 0) are likely to post a score of -1

Ladies – 75.5
With a par of 76, scratch lady golfers (with a handicap index of 0) are likely to post a score of between par and -1

How hard is St Andrews Old Course for an average (bogey) player?

The Old Course has a Bogey Rating of:
Men – 95.4
With a par of 72, average golfers (with a handicap index of around 20) are likely to post a score of +23

Ladies – 108.0
With a par of 76, average lady golfers (with a handicap index of around 24) are likely to post a score of +32

How does St Andrews Old Course compare with Carnoustie and Kingsbarns?

For men, Carnoustie Championship course and Kingsbarns are both more difficult overall than St Andrews Old Course.

Men – Carnoustie has a Slope Rating of 135, Kingsbarns 132 and the Old Course 129

For ladies, Carnoustie Championship course is more difficult than St Andrews Old Course. Kingsbarns is much easier than both. 

Ladies – Carnoustie has a Slope Rating of 140, the Old Course 138 and Kingsbarns 126

Is the Old Course as challenging as Carnoustie and Kingsbarns for a good (scratch) player?

Carnoustie Championship course is much more challenging than the Old Course and Kingsbarns for a good player, regardless of gender.

Men – Carnoustie has a Course Rating of 73.6, St Andrews Old Course 71.4 and Kingsbarns 71.1

Scratch golfers are likely to post a score of +4 at Carnoustie (par 70) , whilst at St Andrews Old (par 72) and Kingsbarns (par 72) it’s likely to be -1

Ladies – Carnoustie has a Course Rating of 77.3, St Andrews Old Course 75.5 and Kingsbarns 70.7

Scratch golfers are likely to post a score of +3 at Carnoustie (par 74), whilst at St Andrews Old (par 76) and Kingsbarns (par 72) it’s likely to be -1

How demanding is the Old Course for an average player compared with Carnoustie and Kingsbarns?

Carnoustie Championship course is a much more difficult challenge than St Andrews Old Course and Kingsbarns for an average playerregardless of gender.

Men – Carnoustie has a Bogey Rating of 98.7, Kingsbarns 95.6 and St Andrews Old Course 95.4

Average male golfers (with a handicap index of 20) are likely to post a score of +29 at Carnoustie, whilst at Kingsbarns it’s +24 and St Andrews Old it’s likely to be +23

Ladies – Carnoustie has a Bogey Rating of 110.3, St Andrews Old Course 108.0 and Kingsbarns 100.4.

Average female golfers (with a handicap index of 24) are likely to post a score of +36 at Carnoustie, +32 at St Andrews Old whilst at Kingsbarns it’s likely to be +28

How tough is St Andrews Old Course with compared other courses in the area?

Compared with 30 of the best tracks in the area, St Andrews Old Course overall is of average difficulty for men, but one of the hardest for ladies. 

For both good (scratch) male and female players, and average (bogey) men it’s of average difficulty compared with courses in the area, whilst for average (bogey) lady golfers it’s harder than the average.

But overall it’s Carnoustie Championship that’s the toughest of all the courses.

Regardless of golfer ability and gender, it consistently ranks first or thereabouts for difficulty compared with all the other courses in the area.

…where I compare 30 of the best courses in the St Andrews area, including St Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie & Kingsbarns. With tables and charts to show how tough they are to play and what a good (scratch) and average (bogey) golfer might expect to score on each course.

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Analysis of the data


  • Below are charts ranking each course in the St Andrews area by overall playing difficulty along with analysis for scratch golfers and bogey golfers
  • Data is provided for 2 tee positions – regular men’s tees and regular ladies’ tees
  • For simplicity, it assumes men play off yellow tees and ladies off reds. Where a course has no yellow/red tees, the equivalent visitor regular tee is used

Explanation of terms used

  • Course Rating
    Playing difficulty for scratch golfers; likely strokes taken
  • Scratch Golfer
    Scratch golfer has a handicap index of 0
  • Bogey Rating
    Playing difficulty for bogey golfers; likely strokes taken
  • Bogey Golfer
    Male bogey golfer has a handicap index of around 20; female around 24
  • Slope Rating®
    Relative playing difficulty for bogey v scratch golfers
    Minimum slope = 55, maximum = 155, average = 113
    The higher the slope the more difficult the course for bogey golfers

  • Terms trademarked by USGA (

  • Full explanation of terms here

Overall course difficulty

  • Overall course difficulty is measured by Slope Rating which, simply put, shows how much harder the course plays for bogey (regular) golfers rather than scratch golfers.
  • Courses are ranked by Slope Rating.

Regular Men’s Tees

CourseSlope Rating
25St Andrews Links - Castle137
20Carnoustie - Championship135
19St Andrews - Duke's134
21Trump International133
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary131
5Monifieth - Medal130
11Crail - Craighead130
8Leven Links129
37St Andrews Links - Old129
34Dumbarnie Links128
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks128
23Gleneagles - King's128
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee127
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance126
26St Andrews Links - New125
35Carnoustie - Burnside122
31Elie - Golf House Club121
28St Andrews Links - Eden121
10Crail - Balcomie119
24Gleneagles - Queen's118
36Carnoustie - Buddon117
12Monifieth - Ashludie110
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum101

Regular Ladies’ Tees

CourseSlope Rating
20Carnoustie - Championship140
37St Andrews Links - Old138
5Monifieth - Medal134
8Leven Links134
24Gleneagles - Queen's132
25St Andrews Links - Castle131
21Trump International131
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks130
31Elie - Golf House Club130
26St Andrews Links - New128
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee128
34Dumbarnie Links127
19St Andrews - Duke's125
10Crail - Balcomie125
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance124
35Carnoustie - Burnside124
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary124
11Crail - Craighead124
23Gleneagles - King's122
12Monifieth - Ashludie120
28St Andrews Links - Eden120
36Carnoustie - Buddon119
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum105

Overall course difficulty v length

  • This graph shows how courses compare based on their difficulty and their length.
  • Difficulty is measured by Slope Rating.

Regular Men’s Tees

Regular Ladies’ Tees

My observations:

  • For men, Carnoustie Championship, Trump International, Kingsbarns, St Andrews Castle and Gleneagles PGA stand out as being the most difficult of the premium courses. Fantastic challenges, all of them!
  • Notice how length doesn’t automatically equate with difficulty. St Andrews Castle is more difficult than Carnoustie Championship even though it measures 213 yards less off yellows; that’s around one club less each hole!
  • For a St Andrews alternative with the same difficulty and length as Carnoustie, try Duke’s Course.
  • If you are a mixed group, taking data for both men and ladies tees together, Carnoustie Championship offers the strongest challenge in terms of overall difficulty. Then Lundin, St Andrews Castle, St Andrews Old, Panmure and Ladybank.
  • Although St Andrews Old is one of the longer courses in the area, for men it is by no means the most difficult.
    If you are unable to get a time on the Old Course and seek a great value alternative, then St Andrews Castle, Duke’s, Ladybank, Monifieth Medal, Lundin, Crail Craighead, Leven Links and Downfield are courses with at least the same level of difficulty, but at a lower green fee (often less than half the cost of the Old).
  • The newer premium courses like Dumbarnie, Trump International and Kingsbarns all offer multiple tee boxes so you can decide the most appropriate tee for your handicap to derive maximum pleasure from your round. Similarly with Crail, which has gone to ability based rather than gender defined tees.

  • For courses with above average length for men but below average difficulty look no further than Dumbarnie Links, St Andrews New and Jubilee, along with Scotscraig.
  • Or, for courses that are shorter and therefore an easier walk, but by no means a walk-over, then Lundin, Panmure, Fairmont Torrance, Gleneagles King’s and Queen’s, St Andrews Eden and Carnoustie Burnside should all be considered.
    Special mention also to the 2 Crail courses here; especially Balcomie which is around 1000 yards shorter than Old Course but still rates at a respectable 119 for slope.
  • For ladies, Carnoustie Championship and St Andrews Old Course stand out as being not only the longest in the area but the most difficult too. If you can’t play the Old Course, Carnoustie will be as much of a treat.
  • For courses with above average length for ladies but below average difficulty look at St Andrews New and Jubilee, along with Monifieth Medal, Scotscraig, Fairmont Kittocks, Ladybank, Elie and St Andrews Eden.
  • For ladies, shorter courses that still have teeth are Lundin and Panmure in particular, also all Gleneagles courses, St Andrews Castle, Trump International, Dumbarnie Links, Kingsbarns, Duke’s and Crail Balcomie.
  • For the high handicap player, St Andrews Strathtyrum is ideal for both men and ladies. Monifieth Ashludie also, for men.

Difficulty for Scratch Golfers

  • Course difficulty for scratch golfers is measured by Course Rating.
  • Courses are ranked by the likely score to par for a scratch golfer, measured by Course Rating minus par for the course.

Regular Men’s Tees

Regular Men's TeesParCourse RatingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship7073.6+4
19St Andrews - Duke's7172.7+2
8Leven Links7071.4+1
23Gleneagles - King's7071.0+1
25St Andrews Links - Castle7171.7+1
26St Andrews Links - New7171.6+1
10Crail - Balcomie6767.5+1
5Monifieth - Medal7171.40
31Elie - Golf House Club6969.30
35Carnoustie - Burnside6868.30
21Trump International7272.30
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary7272.20
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks7171.10
24Gleneagles - Queen's6868.00
36Carnoustie - Buddon6867.70
37St Andrews Links - Old7271.4-1
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee7271.2-1
34Dumbarnie Links7271.0-1
28St Andrews Links - Eden7068.9-1
11Crail - Craighead7270.8-1
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance7269.6-2
12Monifieth - Ashludie6865.2-3
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6963.4-6

Regular Ladies’ Tees

Regular Ladies' TeesParCourse RatingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship7477.3+3
25St Andrews Links - Castle7173.0+2
36Carnoustie - Buddon6869.8+2
5Monifieth - Medal7374.5+2
31Elie - Golf House Club7373.9+1
8Leven Links7373.8+1
35Carnoustie - Burnside7171.8+1
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee7474.6+1
21Trump International7272.6+1
26St Andrews Links - New7575.40
19St Andrews - Duke's7171.20
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance7271.90
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary7271.70
23Gleneagles - King's7170.60
37St Andrews Links - Old7675.5-1
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks7473.4-1
12Monifieth - Ashludie6968.3-1
34Dumbarnie Links7270.6-1
28St Andrews Links - Eden7371.6-1
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6866.6-1
24Gleneagles - Queen's7472.1-2
10Crail - Balcomie7269.9-2
11Crail - Craighead7471.8-2

My observations:

  • For expert golfers off yellows and reds as a whole, Carnoustie Championship and Ladybank offer the biggest challenge overall to shoot par or below. Followed by St Andrews Castle.
  • With their relatively modest green fees and high difficulty for expert golfers, Leven, Downfield, Panmure, Monifieth Medal and Duke’s are recommended courses for scratch golfers seeking a great value golfing challenge.
  • St Andrews Old offers a good opportunity to score under par for both expert men and ladies alike. Likewise for two other premium courses – Kingsbarns and Dumbarnie Links.
  • For men in particular, after Carnoustie, Duke’s is especially challenging for expert golfers.
  • In addition to Carnoustie, Ladybank and St Andrews Castle, expert ladies should find Scotscraig and Monifieth Medal particularly challenging.

Difficulty for Bogey Golfers

  • Course difficulty for bogey golfers is measured by Bogey Rating.
  • Courses are ranked by likely score to par for a bogey golfer, measured by Bogey Rating minus par for the course.

Regular Men’s Tees

Regular Men's TeesParBogey RatingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship7098.7+29
19St Andrews - Duke's7197.6+27
25St Andrews Links - Castle7197.2+26
8Leven Links7095.4+25
21Trump International7297.0+25
23Gleneagles - King's7094.8+25
5Monifieth - Medal7195.6+25
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary7296.5+25
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks7194.9+24
26St Andrews Links - New7194.8+24
37St Andrews Links - Old7295.4+23
11Crail - Craighead7295.0+23
35Carnoustie - Burnside6891.0+23
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee7294.8+23
34Dumbarnie Links7294.8+23
31Elie - Golf House Club6991.8+23
10Crail - Balcomie6789.6+23
24Gleneagles - Queen's6889.9+22
36Carnoustie - Buddon6889.4+21
28St Andrews Links - Eden7091.4+21
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance7293.0+21
12Monifieth - Ashludie6885.6+18
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6982.2+13

Regular Ladies’ Tees

Regular Ladies' TeesParBogey ratingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship74110.3+36
5Monifieth - Medal73106.1+33
25St Andrews Links - Castle71103.9+33
8Leven Links73105.4+32
37St Andrews Links - Old76108.0+32
31Elie - Golf House Club73104.6+32
21Trump International72103.5+31
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee74104.8+31
26St Andrews Links - New75105.6+31
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks74104.1+30
35Carnoustie - Burnside71101.0+30
36Carnoustie - Buddon6897.9+30
19St Andrews - Duke's71100.7+30
24Gleneagles - Queen's74103.2+29
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance72101.1+29
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary72100.9+29
34Dumbarnie Links72100.6+29
23Gleneagles - King's7199.4+28
12Monifieth - Ashludie6996.6+28
10Crail - Balcomie7299.4+27
11Crail - Craighead74101.0+27
28St Andrews Links - Eden7399.9+27
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6891.4+23

My observations:

  • For bogey (or regular) golfers off both yellows and reds, Carnoustie Championship again offers the biggest challenge overall to shoot par or below. Followed again by Ladybank and St Andrews Castle.
  • Just as for expert golfers, Panmure, Leven Links and Monifieth Medal are some of the most challenging courses overall for average golfers over both tee boxes. They are traditional links and reasonably priced too. Downfield, though not a links course gets a mention here as well.
  • Again, taking both sets of tees together, of the premium courses, Trump International and St Andrews Old are a relatively high difficulty for the regular golfer.
  • Off yellows only, Duke’s offers a particularly high degree of difficulty for the bogey golfer combined with great value. Whilst off reds only, Ladybank once again provides a strong challenge.

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