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

How TOUGH is St Andrews Old Course?

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

Carnoustie, Championship hole 5

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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 are likely to post a score of -1

Ladies – 75.5
With a par of 76, scratch lady golfers 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 of 20) are likely to post a score of +23

Ladies – 108.0
With a par of 76, average lady golfers (with a handicap of 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 player, regardless of gender.

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

Average golfers (with a handicap 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 golfers (with a handicap 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 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.

Note: All measurements are taken from the regular tees for men and ladies

…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.

Chris Toll, ginger beer golf travel

Analysis of the data

Overview

  • 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 of 0

Bogey Rating
Playing difficulty for bogey golfers; likely strokes taken

Bogey Golfer
Bogey male golfer has a handicap of 20, female 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 (www.usga.org)

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
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary137
25St Andrews Links - Castle137
20Carnoustie - Championship135
11Crail - Craighead135
19St Andrews - Duke's134
21Trump International133
3Kingsbarns132
5Monifieth - Medal131
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks130
30Lundin130
7Ladybank129
8Leven Links129
37St Andrews Links - Old129
23Gleneagles - King's128
9Panmure128
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee127
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance125
26St Andrews Links - New125
24Gleneagles - Queen's124
4Scotscraig123
35Carnoustie - Burnside122
28St Andrews Links - Eden121
10Crail - Balcomie118
36Carnoustie - Buddon117
31Elie - Golf House Club117
12Monifieth - Ashludie107
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum101
6Downfieldn/a
34Dumbarnie Linksn/a

Regular Ladies’ Tees

CourseSlope Rating
20Carnoustie - Championship140
9Panmure138
37St Andrews Links - Old138
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance134
8Leven Links134
7Ladybank133
24Gleneagles - Queen's131
25St Andrews Links - Castle131
21Trump International131
31Elie - Golf House Club129
23Gleneagles - King's129
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary128
26St Andrews Links - New128
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks126
3Kingsbarns126
30Lundin126
5Monifieth - Medal126
35Carnoustie - Burnside124
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee121
10Crail - Balcomie120
11Crail - Craighead120
28St Andrews Links - Eden120
36Carnoustie - Buddon119
4Scotscraig118
19St Andrews - Duke's118
12Monifieth - Ashludie113
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum105
6Downfieldn/a
34Dumbarnie Linksn/a

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 mens tee difficulty versus length - graph

Regular Ladies’ Tees

Regular ladies tee difficulty versus length - graph

My Observations:

  • For men, the premium courses at Gleneagles PGA and Carnoustie Championship stand out as being not only the longest in the area but two of the most difficult too.
    Fantastic challenges, both of them!

  • Notice how length doesn’t automatically equate with difficulty.
    St Andrews Castle is as difficult as Gleneagles PGA even though it measures 322 yards less off yellows; that’s a couple of clubs less each hole!
    Crail Craighead is 404 yards less than Carnoustie Championship with the same difficulty.

  • If you are a mixed group, taking data for both men and ladies tees together, Carnoustie Championship offers the best challenge in terms of overall length and difficulty.

  • Although St Andrews Old is one of the longest 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, then St Andrews Links Castle, Crail Craighead, Duke’s, Monifieth Medal, Fairmont Kittocks, Lundin, Ladybank and Leven all offer you a course with at least the same level of difficulty, but at a lower green fee (some 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.
  • For courses with above average length for men but below average difficulty look no further than the St Andrews Links New and Jubilee, along with Scotscraig and Elie.

  • 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 Links Eden and Carnoustie Burnside should all be considered.
    Special mention also to the 2 Crail courses too here; especially Balcomie which is around 1000 yards shorter than Old Course but still rates at a respectable 118 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 Links New and Jubilee, along with Monifieth Medal, Scotscraig, Fairmont Kittocks, Ladybank, Elie and Lundin.

  • For ladies, shorter courses that still have some teeth are Fairmont Torrance, Gleneagles King’s and Queen’s, St Andrews Links Castle, Trump International and Kingsbarns.
    Special mention here to Panmure which ranks as high as Old Course for difficulty.

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

CourseParCourse RatingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship7073.6+4
19St Andrews - Duke's7172.7+2
8Leven Links7071.4+1
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary7273.0+1
6Downfield7071.0+1
23Gleneagles - King's7071.0+1
9Panmure7071.0+1
25St Andrews Links - Castle7171.7+1
26St Andrews Links - New7171.6+1
10Crail - Balcomie6767.6+1
11Crail - Craighead7272.30
21Trump International7272.30
5Monifieth - Medal7171.30
35Carnoustie - Burnside6868.30
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks7171.00
24Gleneagles - Queen's6868.00
4Scotscraig7170.90
36Carnoustie - Buddon6867.70
37St Andrews Links - Old7271.4-1
7Ladybank7170.4-1
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee7271.2-1
30Lundin7170.2-1
3Kingsbarns7271.1-1
31Elie - Golf House Club7069.0-1
28St Andrews Links - Eden7068.9-1
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance7269.2-3
12Monifieth - Ashludie6865.2-3
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6963.4-6
34Dumbarnie Links72n/an/a

Regular Ladies’ Tees

CourseParCourse RatingLikely score to par
7Ladybank7175.0+4
20Carnoustie - Championship7477.3+3
25St Andrews Links - Castle7173.0+2
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary7274.0+2
36Carnoustie - Buddon6869.8+2
31Elie - Golf House Club7374.0+1
6Downfield7475.0+1
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks7475.0+1
12Monifieth - Ashludie6969.9+1
35Carnoustie - Burnside7171.8+1
8Leven Links7373.8+1
21Trump International7272.6+1
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee7474.6+1
9Panmure7474.5+1
26St Andrews Links - New7575.40
23Gleneagles - King's7171.00
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance7473.80
19St Andrews - Duke's7170.60
37St Andrews Links - Old7675.5-1
3Kingsbarns7270.7-1
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6866.6-1
28St Andrews Links - Eden7371.6-1
10Crail - Balcomie7270.4-2
24Gleneagles - Queen's7472.0-2
11Crail - Craighead7471.5-3
4Scotscraig7268.4-4
5Monifieth - Medal7369.4-4
30Lundin7367.7-5
34Dumbarnie Links72n/an/a

My Observations:

  • For expert golfers off yellows and reds, Carnoustie Championship offers the biggest challenge overall to shoot par or below. Followed by Gleneagles PGA.

  • Despite it being shorter than either Carnoustie Championship or Gleneagles PGA, scratch golfers are also unlikely to go under par at St Andrews Links Castle.

  • With their relatively modest green fees and high difficulty for expert golfers, Leven, Downfield, Panmure and Duke’s are recommended courses for scratch golfers seeking a great value golfing challenge.

  • St Andrews Old course offers a good opportunity to score under par for both expert men and ladies alike.

  • Off reds only, Ladybank offers a high degree of difficulty combined with great value.

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

CourseParBogey RatingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship7098.7+29
19St Andrews - Duke's7197.6+27
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary7298.5+26
25St Andrews Links - Castle7197.2+26
11Crail - Craighead7297.4+25
8Leven Links7095.4+25
21Trump International7297.0+25
23Gleneagles - King's7094.8+25
9Panmure7094.8+25
5Monifieth - Medal7195.6+25
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks7195.2+24
26St Andrews Links - New7194.8+24
3Kingsbarns7295.6+24
37St Andrews Links - Old7295.4+23
7Ladybank7194.4+23
30Lundin7194.4+23
24Gleneagles - Queen's6891.0+23
35Carnoustie - Burnside6891.0+23
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee7294.8+23
4Scotscraig7193.8+23
10Crail - Balcomie6789.5+23
36Carnoustie - Buddon6889.4+21
28St Andrews Links - Eden7091.4+21
31Elie - Golf House Club7090.7+21
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance7292.4+20
12Monifieth - Ashludie6885.1+17
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6982.2+13
6Downfield70n/an/a
34Dumbarnie Links72n/an/a

Regular Ladies’ Tees

CourseParBogey ratingLikely score to par
20Carnoustie - Championship74110.3+36
7Ladybank71106.1+35
9Panmure74107.0+33
25St Andrews Links - Castle71103.9+33
8Leven Links73105.4+32
22Gleneagles - PGA Centenary72104.2+32
37St Andrews Links - Old76108.0+32
21Trump International72103.5+31
31Elie - Golf House Club73104.4+31
1Fairmont St Andrews - Torrance74105.4+31
2Fairmont St Andrews - Kittocks74104.7+31
26St Andrews Links - New75105.6+31
23Gleneagles - King's71101.4+30
35Carnoustie - Burnside71101.0+30
36Carnoustie - Buddon6897.9+30
27St Andrews Links - Jubilee74103.1+29
24Gleneagles - Queen's74102.9+29
3Kingsbarns72100.4+28
12Monifieth - Ashludie6996.6+28
19St Andrews - Duke's7198.4+27
28St Andrews Links - Eden7399.9+27
10Crail - Balcomie7298.7+27
5Monifieth - Medal7399.1+26
11Crail - Craighead7499.8+26
30Lundin7397.4+24
4Scotscraig7296.2+24
29St Andrews Links - Strathtyrum6891.4+23
6Downfield74n/an/a
34Dumbarnie Links72n/an/a

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 Gleneagles PGA.

  • Despite St Andrews Links Castle being much shorter than Gleneagles PGA, bogey men and ladies are likely to go the same over par at Castle as PGA.

  • Just as for expert golfers, Panmure and Leven Links are two of the most challenging courses overall for average golfers. They are traditional links and averagely priced too.

  • Trump International, Gleneagles King’s and St Andrews Old are also high difficulty for the regular golfer, off both sets of tees.

  • 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.