We were asked recently on Twitter for suggestions on where to watch the Open Championship on the St Andrews Old Course. The reply turned into a thread which in turn seemed a good idea for a blog post. Plus we've added a few extra thoughts.
So for those who of you who may be 1st time visitors this July at the 150th Open in St Andrews, or for those considering a visit in the future, here are some thoughts from a spectator point of view.
Watching the Open on the Old course has become very much grandstand based. The extent and positioning changes year on year and we've been unable to find a map of the course layout so far for this year. It's clear though there will be a lot of grandstand seats.
There are two disadvantages to St Andrews for the spectator.
- Firstly, the course and surrounds are generally flat with little natural mounding for viewing.
- Secondly, spectators are constrained to the outside of the course, so you can only ever be on one side of a fairway. This bunches up spectators and limits visibility unless you are height advantaged. It also makes following a group more difficult, unless they happen to not be very popular and have a small gallery.
The largest grandstands, as always at St Andrews for the Open, will be at the 1st, 18th and 17th. This year there will be 8,000 seats across these holes. However there has long been a principle of the best seats being reserved on the basis of extra payment – whether just for the seat or for a full hospitality package.
The 1st stand is where those without reserved seats can see finishes at 18. However the stand down the 1st goes almost as far as the road crossing. If you are at the wrong end you are not going to see much of what's going on on the 18th green without good binoculars.
Our favourite option, long ago, was to perch on a mound at 'The Loop', behind the par 3 11th, which shares a green with the 7th, before heading to the 1st late in the day. This year the 7th/11th area is going to have 3,500 grandstand seats, so mound perching is unlikely.
We don't have numbers on how many seats were here on previous Opens at St Andrews but it did need a full blown charge to the 11th when gates opened on tournament days for a seat. Whether this will be needed with the 2022 numbers who knows, but with large spectator numbers it might.
The 17th grandstand, at the Road Hole, is an interesting spot. You see errant shots onto the road but the problematic bunker on the fairway side is out of view.
Top tip: If you're going on practice days it's a great opportunity to take a look around and find your preferred spots.
A point of caution: at Opens gone by you were allowed to leave a grandstand for a comfort break or coffee and keep your seat. At the last two St Andrews Opens this wasn't so. The marshalls were very strict we found - if you gave up your seat for any reason at all you lost it. Having not been to an Open since 2015 others may know what's happened more recently. It's a good idea to ask at the stand when you get there. Different marshalls can also apply different 'rules'.
Top tip: If you do find a patch of grass by a green and get sat down for close up viewing of the putts, make sure there isn't a sign between you and the green indicating it's a space for press photographers. You'll seen find your view blocked when a popular group is due at the green.
You don't need to buy a full official programme each day to have an order of play. You can access this online or, even in this digital age, if you prefer a paper copy you should be able to ask for just a printed drawsheet at the programme booths at the entrances to the course.
Top tip: It rains in Scotland and it can rain ferociously during an Open. Zip-loc bags are great for wallets, spare dry socks, phones and dry drawsheets if the forecast is not great – as well as your sandwiches.
Our final top tip is to use your phone to listen to BBC Radio 5 Live. While there are leader boards all around the course, and at most greens, in our humble opinion a day's viewing is definitely enhanced by listening to the BBC radio coverage to keep up to date with what's happening elsewhere on the course. You can find Radio 5 online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/5live or go old school and listen on 909 MW radio. The gentle conversation and updates from various experts and commentators is informative and often amusing - but will be interrupted for the occasional cricket score.
All sorts of additional, official, guidance is available at theopen.com and we'd strongly recommend reading their Spectator Advice. You'll find clear information on what is permitted within the course during the tournament along with FAQs, which will avoid any problems when you arrive.
Some key points to highlight from the spectator advice for this year's Open at St Andrews:
- You can bring in food and drink but no alcohol
- You can't use a selfie stick to get a view over the people in front of you
- No ladders (yes, there *were* lots of people walking around the course with step ladders in days of yore)
- No bringing your own chairs
- You can bring a personal camera, but not a professional one (interesting definition) but you can not film play at any time and you can not take photos of play on tournament days
- You can leave the course and re-enter provided along with your ticket you have an intact re-entry wristband that you collect when exiting the course
- Spectator advice for the 2022 Open Championship at St Andrews
- Getting to the 150th Open at St Andrews – Travel advice
Published: 24 May 2022