St Andrews Old Course ballot success rates for 2022

The results are in!

First published: July 9th, 2022
Last Updated: June 29, 2023
Reading Time: 14 minutes

My analysis of daily St Andrews Old Course ballot results from April to october 2022, and my prediction for THE 2023 SEASON.

By Chris Toll, Ginger Beer Golf Travel

As golfers return in their numbers to play St Andrews Old Course, I look at ballot success rates in 2022 and how they have been affected by events such as Covid and The Open.


Put simply, Covid wiped out a lot of golf tourism in 2020 and 2021, especially for those destinations that normally welcome a high number of visitors from overseas. My expectation was that those visitors, deprived of travel for two years, would now return in their numbers. Plus, rescheduling from previous years into 2022 and beyond might have an impact on the number of ballot times available.

Likewise, with The Open returning to St Andrews in 2022, the Old Course was closed to all golf visitors from 18th June to 18th July to prepare for the tournament. The expectation here was that tourist traffic that would normally visit to play at this peak time would divert to earlier and later months.

The Old Course ballot, a longstanding and democratic method of allocating scarce Old Course tee times to the visiting golfer is perhaps the purest yardstick to test these hypotheses. The prospect of a guaranteed tee time at the normal public green fee attracts all-comers, regardless of wallet size, and it’s free to apply (i.e. there’s no commitment/prepayment). Furthermore, raising the minimum handicap to 36 makes it even more accessible for all levels of players. Crucially too, it’s the one area where there is data available for analysis.

The analysis

  • I’ve looked at St Andrews Old Course ballot data for each day there was a ballot from April 1st to October 31st 2022.
  • I’ve analysed how many ballot times were available – both ‘open’ (visitor) and ‘local’ (local ticket holders), how many ballot applications were successful and, using the number of unsuccessful applicants (or ‘overcards’), calculated the success rate.
  • Then I’ve produced the results as a daily averages, so as to compare with other periods in the past.

Also, previously, in July 2022, I looked at Old Course ballot data for each day there was a ballot from April 1st to June 17th 2022 when the course closed in preparation for The Open. I calculated the ballot success rate and predicted how the rest of 2022 might shape up. You can see this analysis here.

Did my prediction for a further reduction in success rates in 2022 play out? Yes it did.

Read on to see how …

Disclaimer:

Copyright:
This content is the copyright material of Ginger Beer Golf Travel and permission is not granted to copy it or otherwise make use of it in any way.

– I am exceedingly grateful to St Andrews Links Trust for providing the overcard data (even though it no longer distinguishes between open and local ballot data) which has enabled me to provide analysis on the results.
Even though the daily ballot draw is publicly available, it must be stressed that these are neither ‘official’ statistics nor approved by St Andrews Links Trust as the analysis is based purely on my own interpretation of the draw data.

To the results then ….

Success rate

Chart - Daily Av % success rate - open and local combined
  • The daily average ballot success rate between April 1st and 31st October 2022 was 16.2%compared with 28.2% over the same period in 2019.
  • So, just a little over half as successful as 2019.
  • 2019 was the last ‘normal’ year that was completely unaffected by Covid, so a valid year for comparison.
  • St Andrews Links Trust no longer releases separate figures for open and local ballot overcards each day. So we do not have the success data for separate ballots in 2022. Success rate therefore is for open and local ballots combined.
Chart - Daily Av % success rate by ballot type
  • However, we do have previous years’ overcard data which shows that in both 2018 and 2019 around 91% of overcards (i.e. failed ballot cards) were in the open ballot and only 9% were in the local one. Using this same ratio and applying it to 2022 data yields an estimated open ballot success rate down to 10.71% , the local success rate down to 48.44%, generating the combined success rate of 16.23%.

So how do we account for the estimated drop in open ballot daily average success rate from 20.15% in 2019 to just 10.71% in 2022?

The chance of success is simply governed by the relationship between the supply of ballot tee times and the demand for them on any given day. So let’s examine them separately …

Supply of ballot tee times

Chart - Daily Av of ballot times
  • On average, on days when the ballot operated, 4 fewer ballot times per day were available in 2022 compared with 2019 (22.2 v 26.4). A 16% decrease in supply.
  • Number of open ballot times has dropped by 20% (12.2 v 15.1), equating to 3 fewer tee times per day , or around 370 during the course of the year.
  • Number of local ballot times has dropped slightly by, on average, 1 time per day (10.0 v 11.3).

This overall reduction in ballot times may perhaps be explained by reallocating some ballot times to accommodate the final few groups whose tee times had to be rearranged into 2022 owing to Covid.

But this reduction in the daily average number of ballot times is not the only contribution to the drop in success rates.

Let us look at the TOTAL number of ballot tee times …

Chart - # of ballot days
  • The ballot was available on 28 fewer days in 2022 compared with 2019 (126 v 154). A drop of 18%. This is explained by The Open Championship in July 2022 when the Old Course was closed for approximately one month in preparation for and during the staging of the tournament.

Contributing to …

Chart - total # of ballot times
  • 1268 fewer ballot times in 2022 compared with 2019 (2796 v 4064). A drop of over 30%.
  • That’s 784 fewer open ballot times (1535 v 2319) and 484 fewer local ballot times (1261 v 1745).
  • So, since we have seen above that around 370 open ballot times were lost during the year owing to 3 fewer times on average each day, the remainder – around 414 (784 – 370) – have been lost owing to the ballot being available for fewer days.

In summary: 784 fewer open ballot times in 2022 v 2019, with around 414 being lost to non-ballot days, and around 370 to fewer open ballot times on ballot days.

Everything equal then, with 28 fewer days available to ballot and 3 fewer times each day, we may expect greater competition on days when the ballot was running.

So let’s look at the demand side of the equation …

Demand for ballot tee times

Chart - Av # of ballot cards open and local
  • The demand for ballot times can be quantified by the number of ballot applications made; i.e. the total number of ballot cards submitted.
  • On average, each day around 53 (157.3 v 103.8) or 52% more cards were submitted in 2022 compared with the same period in 2019, largely responsible for twice as many unsuccessful applications in 2022 compared with 2019 (131.8 average per day v 74.5).
  • Note too, there were 13% fewer successful cards in 2022 compared with 2019 (25.5 average per day v 29.3), broadly in line with 16% fewer ballot times being available (22.2 average per day v 26.4 – see earlier chart).

Let’s look specifically at open ballot cards, having used our earlier 91% : 9% ratio of open to local ballot overcards as a basis for estimation …

Chart - Daily Av # open ballot cards
  • On average, each day there were 3 fewer successful open ballot cards (14.4 v 17.3). This is to be expected, given we already know that there were around 3 fewer open ballot tee times.
  • But, overall, there have been an estimated 50 (134.3 v 85.8) or 57% more applications daily, leading to an estimated 75% increase in daily unsuccessful applications in 2022 compared with 2019 (119.9 average per day v 68.5).
  • We know that 3 fewer tee times each day only contributed to 3 additional unsuccessful cards. By far the main contributor to the much lower open ballot success rate is this substantial increase in ballot applications.
  • This may be explained by visitors returning in abundance post-Covid. But, in addition, the course closure for The Open would have certainly channelled visitors into travelling to St Andrews in other months, adding to the demand on any given ballot day.

In conclusion: You could say 2022 was the perfect storm: visitors returning to St Andrews in their numbers, competing for fewer ballot times. So it comes as no surprise the success rate almost halved from 20.15% in 2019 to just 10.71% in 2022.

Prediction for 2023

  • The Walker Cup is being held on the Old Course at the end of August and the start of September so that’s a few additional days when the ballot won’t be available.
  • On the plus side however, there is no Open Championship in 2023, so the overall supply of ballot days should return to near 2019 levels (I calculate around 148 days).
  • Furthermore, the number of ballot times each day should also return to 2019 levels as there should now be no significant requirement to re-allocate ballot times to rescheduled Covid-affected bookings.
  • However, does this mean that the open ballot success rate will jump back up to 20%? My sense is that the answer is no.
  • I feel there is still a huge residual, untapped demand to play golf after the imposed lay-off during the Covid years. The demand for an Old Course tee time is stronger than ever, with clients booking for 2024 12 to 18 months in advance. Indeed, the number of daily ballot failures (as measured by the total number of overcards) is already trending higher now (start April 2023) than this time in 2022!
  • My prediction for 2023 is that the positive effect of a rise in the number of ballot times will be neutralised by the continued increase in demand, so that the daily average open ballot success rate is unlikely to rise much above 10%.

Some suggestions going forward

If these trends continue, what do they mean if you’re a golf tourist visiting St Andrews on a ballot-based trip in 2023, or a Golf Tour Operator with such clients?

  • You should consider extending your stay and incorporating more ballot attempts into your itinerary to improve your chances of success. You could now view a stay of 8 or more nights with at least 7 ballot attempts a reasonable duration in order to have at least one success in the ballot.
    (Calculation: using the binomial distribution, based on a 10.71% daily average success rate, 7 ballot applications should yield a 54.75% probability of at least one success (>50% means more probable of one success than not).
  • Consider a two-location trip based on St Andrews and one other within easy distance of St Andrews so you can return to play if you get lucky in the ballot. Angus (for Carnoustie, Panmure and Monifieth), Aberdeen (for Royal Aberdeen, Trump International, Murcar and Cruden Bay), North Berwick (for West Links, Gullane, Muirfield) and Gleneagles (PGA Centenary, Kings, Queens) spring to mind.
  • You should expect more failed ballot days and prepare accordingly. For example, leave ballot days free in your itinerary then take advantage of resources to provide quality alternative golf options in case of ballot failure. For example, this extensive Last Minute Tee Times service provided by Ginger Beer Golf Travel covers availability for all the best alternative courses in the St Andrews area when the ballot results come out.
  • Be methodical in your approach to deciding when the best time will be to visit St Andrews for ballot success. Look at my analysis of ballot results for 2018 and 2019 and my useful guide to St Andrews trip planning which looks at success rates as well as other factors too such as weather and cost.
  • If the idea of planning a ballot-based trip to St Andrews is unattractive, given the likely low odds of success, then you should consider the other routes open to you to secure a guaranteed tee time. Contact me for help in your quest.
  • A final thought for single golfers who can’t enter the ballot – through my popular Ballot Buddy service I can hook you up with another single so you can enter the ballot together and, if successful, avoid having to join the overnight walk up queue.

Lastly, don’t lose sight that whilst the ballot is a lottery, it’s free and without commitment to enter and produces winners every day who go on to enjoy a round on the famous Old Course at the cheapest possible green fee rate (£295 high season).
It’s still the best ticket in golf, and you have to be in it to win it!

As always, I welcome all comments and questions.

This content is the copyright material of Ginger Beer Golf Travel and permission is not granted to copy it or otherwise make use of it in any way.

Old Course ballot success results and analysis for April 1st to June 17th 2022

Compiled July 2022.
Now updated for full year results – above.

Success rate

Chart of success rate
  • The daily average ballot success rate between April 1st and 17th June 2022 is 20.66%compared with 37.02% over the same period in 2019.
  • So, just a little over half as successful as 2019.
  • This rate is for open and local ballots combined; we do not have the success data for separate ballots in 2022.
  • 2019 is the last ‘normal’ year, unaffected by Covid, so a valid year for comparison.

The chance of success is simply governed by the relationship between the supply of ballot tee times and the demand for them on any given day.
Let’s examine those separately ….

Supply of ballot tee times

Chart of number of ballot times
  • On average, slightly fewer ballot times were available in 2022 compared with the same period 2019 (24.6 average per day v 27.8).
  • Number of local ballot times has remained constant in 2022 compared with same period in 2019 (11.5 average per day v 11.3).
  • Whilst the number of open ballot times has dropped by 20% (13.1 average per day v 16.5), it only equates to around 3.4 fewer times per day.

Demand for ballot tee times

Chart of number of ballot cards
  • The demand for ballot times can be quantified by the number of ballot applications made; i.e. the number of ballot cards submitted.
  • Around 55 or 66% more cards were submitted in 2022 compared with the same period in 2019 (137.3 average per day v 82.7).
  • There were only slightly fewer successful cards in 2022 compared with 2019 (28.4 average per day v 30.6), in line with slightly fewer ballot times being available (24.6 average per day v 27.8 – see previous chart).
  • BUT, there have been over twice as many unsuccessful applications so far in 2022 compared with same period in 2019 (108.9 average per day v 52.1).
  • So we may conclude that by far the main contributor to the much lower success rate is the substantial increase in ballot applications rather than the slight reduction in tee times available.
  • In other words, it’s been demand-driven by visitors returning to St Andrews in abundance.

Prediction for the rest of 2022

Going forwards then, what can we expect success rates to be for the rest of 2022 when the Old Course opens again after The Open on July 19th?
My prediction is that success rates are going to drop even further.
Why so? Well, here are the two kickers:

Chart of success rate by ballot type
  • Kicker #1 – the success rate combines local and open visitor ballot data. Local ballot success rates (see 65.13% and 66.43% in 2019) inflate the overall rate. Taking open visitor ballot data on its own, the success rate is likely to be even lower than 20.66%, if the trend in 2019 is followed (open ballot success rate 29.19% v combined success rate 37.02%, or 20.15% v 28.2% taking 2019 as a whole).
  • Kicker #2 – the open ballot daily success rate at the start of the golfing season tends to be higher than the daily average for the whole season April to October (For April to June 2019 it was 29.19% v 20.15% for April to October) as there are fewer golf tourists around in April to make a ballot application than in the July and August peak months. So the success rate for the remainder of the golfing season, once the ballot reopens after The Open is likely to be even lower than 20.66%.
  • Both these predictions assume that the supply of ballot tee times remains relatively in line with previous years. But only time will tell whether 2022 is a ‘reset’ year where the normal distribution of tee times amongst ballot, advance guaranteed, reserved and PATT (Private Advance Tee Times) is somewhat disrupted to take account of the final rescheduling of Covid-affected tee times from 2020 and 2021 into 2022.

Some suggestions going forward ….

If these trends continue, what do they mean if you’re a golf tourist visiting St Andrews on a ballot-based trip in 2022, or a Golf Tour Operator with such clients?

  • You should consider extending your stay and incorporating more ballot attempts into your itinerary to improve your chances of success. You could now view a stay of up to a week with at least 5 ballot attempts a reasonable duration in order to have at least one success in the ballot.
    (Calculation: using the binomial distribution, based on a 15% daily average success rate, 5 ballot applications should yield a 55.6% probability of at least one success.)
  • You should expect more failed ballot days and prepare accordingly. For example, leave ballot days free in your itinerary then take advantage of resources to provide quality alternative golf options in case of ballot failure. For example, this extensive last minute tee time service provided by Ginger Beer Golf Travel covering availability for all the best alternative courses in the St Andrews area when the ballot results come out.
  • Be methodical in your approach to deciding when the best time will be to visit St Andrews for ballot success. Look at my analysis of ballot results for 2018 and 2019 and my useful guide to St Andrews trip planning which looks at success rates as well as other factors too such as weather and cost.
  • Check out official ballot results for specific days in the past here.
  • If the idea of planning a ballot-based trip to St Andrews is unattractive, given the likely low odds of success, then you should consider the other routes open to you to secure a guaranteed tee time. Contact me for help in your quest.
  • Lastly, don’t lose sight that whilst the ballot is a lottery, it’s free and without commitment to enter and produces winners every day who go on to enjoy a round on the famous Old Course at the cheapest possible green fee rate. You have to be in it to win it!
  • A final thought for single golfers who can’t enter the ballot – through my popular Ballot Buddy service I can hook you up with another single so you can enter the ballot together and, if successful, avoid having to join the overnight walk up queue.

As always, I welcome all comments and questions.

This content is the copyright material of Ginger Beer Golf Travel and permission is not granted to copy it or otherwise make use of it in any way.

Further resources