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Scotland Golf Trip Advice

Boston...
5 posts
1 review
Scotland Golf Trip Advice

Hi I'm planning a weeklong golfing trip to Scotland for the first time and wanted to ask you helpful experts for advice. I've looked at some other threads, but I feel like I'm at more of a basic stage. I'm tempted to go with a vacation package, but on reading that it's easy to plan yourself I'm hoping maybe I can do that for a better experience.

It will just be me and one other friend. We're planning on going either the second-to-last week or more likely the last week in August. We are both in the low 20's on handicap and are happy pairing with others.

I've done a little research, but here are some questions to start off:

1) Let's say we arrive on a Saturday and leave the following Sunday. That gives us seven non-travel days to golf. Is it realistic to try and play seven different courses in seven days?

2) We'd like to play all of the finest courses we can get on. I've got a preliminary list of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield (is this private?), Inverness, Royal Dornoch, Turnberry and Royal Troon. Are there any others you would add?

3) It seems like the courses are clustered in three areas: just east of Edinburgh (e.g. St. Andrews), further away and southwest of Edinburgh (e.g. Royal Troon) and way up in the highlands (e.g. Royal Dornoch). Is it realistic to hit all three of these areas in that time period or should we focus on two? Which two? Or even one?

4) Is there any good method of transportation other than renting a car (which I'd rather not do since we're American and not used to driving on the left)? Should we hire a driver? Public transport?

5) Can you generally stay at the golf courses or is it better to find other hotels in the area?

I think that's all I have for now. I'm sure I'll have follow up questions. Thanks for any tips!!

Virginia
Level Contributor
919 posts
2 reviews
1. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

So many questions! Let me start by saying that I've planned two trips to Scotland for golf, one last May, and one this coming June. Last May's trip was a great success, and I'm confident our upcoming trip will be great too. My first recommendation is for two references. First is a book called Golf in Scotland, by Allan Ferguson, you can buy it online at: http://www.fergusongolf.com/. The second is a website called http://golfnook.com/. Both offer lots and lots of information and advice as to how to independantly plan a golf trip to Scotland.

You say you're looking at August. First, I hope that you mean August 2013, it may be a little late to be planning for this August. As I understand things, August is one of the busiest times of year for visitors to Scotland, so you may find it difficult to arrange tee times and lodgings. It seems that every club has a different method for making bookings in advance, I suggest you have a look at the ones you're most interested in to understand their systems

Now that I've rained on your parade, I'll try to say something useful. Its definitely possible to play a round of golf every day you're in Scotland. However, to play the list you've provided would require LOTS of driving. I'd suggest staying in one or two of the golf centers you've identified. For instance you could stay in St. Andrews, and play the Old Course (with proper planning) and Carnoustie, and perhaps the New Course (built in the 1890's), Kingsbarns, and one or two less famous but equally historic and entertaining courses. Around Inverness, you could play Royal Dornoch (my personal favorite), Castle Stuart, Nairn (home of this year's Curtis Cup), and many more.

For transportation, I'd recommend that you drive. Its really not difficult, just make sure that you rent one with an automatic transmission. From everything I've read, hiring a car and driver doesn't make monetary sense unless you have a big group of guys.

For lodging, most golf clubs don't have lodging (Turnberry is a notable exception). I've enjoyed staying in B&Bs and guesthouses, and the prices are generally much better than proper hotels.

I think thats it for now. Get Mr. Ferguson's book, and read through the golfnook website, and come back with more questions when you've digested it all a bit. You're also welcome to read my trip report from last May in this forum, perhaps there's something in there to learn from (I think I posted it in the fall sometime). Good luck!

Boston...
5 posts
1 review
2. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

Thanks so much for your help! I ordered the book and will call a bunch of the courses to ask about tee times.

Unfortunately I was thinking about this August. I realize that is the busiest time. Are all the good courses going to be fully booked already even during weekdays?

Virginia
Level Contributor
919 posts
2 reviews
3. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

You can do a lot of the tee time research online, just go to each course's website and look for a link for Visitors. I can answer for a couple of courses. For the Old Course in St Andrews, you apply for advance reservations in September for the following year, so you're out of luck that way, but you might be able to get a confirmed time through a tour packager. You'll pay through the nose for that. You can still apply through the daily ballot. That's all explained at the St Andrews Trust website, and in a number of threads here. Muirfield shows no availability at all in August. Carnoustie does show some opportunities for a two-ball to join other players. Royal Dornoch is showing some availability, although there's a solid week with nothing, probably a competition going on.

I admit, I was shocked when I first realized how far in advance we needed to plan our trip, but its been worthwhile. In the meantime, you might consider a US golf trip this year, and save Scotland for another time. I have a condo in Pinehurst, and I know there are great deals to be had during the summer. That's when we like to visit, fewer "tourists" in our bars and restaurants, and easy tee times. Of course, it can be beastly hot, but like is a series of trade-offs.

New York, NY
Level Contributor
1,125 posts
126 reviews
4. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

if you really want to play muirfield, check the online tee sheet everyday. there's cancellations every so often. when you see the tee time available and it's for a day you can do, take it fast cause it probably won't be open for long. general consensus among my golf buddies about muirfield is the course is ok but you go for the experience (play morning 18, go in for lunch in the clubhouse in suit and tie, play best ball after lunch).

definitely drive yourself and get a europe-enabled garmin to be safe. check with your car insurance and credit card company which rental insurance option you should choose. if it's your style, you can try tipping the old course starter for a tee time if you don't get in via lottery. as a 2-ball and with some flexibility, you can probably still put together a good schedule for august.

Virginia
Level Contributor
919 posts
2 reviews
5. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

Just a stray thought, but a potentially important one. You mention that your handicaps are in the 20's. Be aware that many of the best golf courses will require documentation of your handicap, and may have limits on handicaps. I know that the maximum handicap allowed on the Old Course is 24, and 28 at Carnoustie. The max at Muirfield is be 18. It would be no fun at all to make the arrangements, pay in advance, and then not be allowed to play for any reason. For most of the lesser-known courses, there are no handicap limits, although they definitely encourage (or require) you to play at a proper pace.

I'm interested in Trippy's suggestion that you tip the starter to get onto the Old Course. Do you have direct experience with doing that?

Boston...
5 posts
1 review
6. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

We have documentation of our handicaps and we're both lower than 24 but not lower than 18. So I guess Muirfield is out but the others should be fine. Playing speed isn't an issue - we both play pretty fast. Tipping the starter is a good idea. We'll definitely try that. I'm hoping being a twosome will give us a lot of helpful flexibility.

Nashville, Tennessee
Level Contributor
2 posts
11 reviews
7. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

I will 'second' everything davep043 has said. Allan Ferguson's book is the best and my DH uses it faithfully.

Some of these well-known courses are private and only offer tee times to non-members on certain days of the week. Then there is booking around those and any member tournaments on these golf courses. It really is better to start the planning process in January for the same calendar year. If you eat inside Muirfield, IIRC, there is a strict dress code. Hubby had to pack a sport coat and nice shoes, etc. No women allowed inside, so he saved that one for a trip with his buddies.

I have gone a few times with my husband, and he has made several more trips to Scotland with his golf buddies. Working out of a "hub" is most efficient and cuts down on moving to new accommodations daily or every other day (which gets old very fast.) to every three days.

FWIW, Carnoustie is our least favorite course. We stayed at the hotel there on the course and it gave me the creeps. (bad Feng Shui?)

If you get up to Royal Dornoch , be sure to check out http://www.broragolf.co.uk/, just a quick drive up the road. When we were there in 2001, there were cows and sheep roaming the course, which added to the local color aspect. The greens had electric fences around them to keep the livestock off it. Truly a very unique experience that we'll always treasure. We never would have known about Brora, if it wasn't for another American couple we ran across at Cruden Bay golf course who had just come from playing it the day before. BTW, Cruden Bay is definitely worth playing. Rabbits all over the back nine,which added to the experience.

Edited: 13 April 2012, 10:22
Riverside...
Level Contributor
90 posts
5 reviews
8. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

I'm in the midst of planning a trip for this September???? Am I going to have a hard time getting tee times ???? You all scared me!!! Was planning to see st. Andrews, play Glen Eagles , Carnoustie , and then Troon and Turnberry. Are these not so good choices??? We are driving out of Edinburgh and was planning 6 days time to golf and sight see along the way before flying out of Glasgow for Ireland. HELP!!!!!!!

New York, NY
Level Contributor
1,125 posts
126 reviews
9. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

alex215--muirfield clubhouse is now open to women as well. law was passed in the past 2 years that banned "segregation". the changing area for women however is not much more than a closet.

susan w--there's really no bad golf choice in scotland. you can contact many of the courses directly for tee times (besides old course). 2ball of course probably not as hard to come by as 4ball if you have a little flexibility. don't be scared about carnoustie. we played there in 40mph wind and sleet and it was still a blast. great course. you'll have a great time. if it matters to you, we thought food in scotland was way better than in ireland.

Riverside...
Level Contributor
90 posts
5 reviews
10. Re: Scotland Golf Trip Advice

Wow, thanks for the advise.. We are golfing in Ireland as well ... Any tips for there ??? Appreciate your help.

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