Considerations for a Scottish Golf Vacation

There’s golf, and then there’s golf in Scotland.  You’ll be playing in the centuries-old home of the sport and you’ll have historic backdrops and majestic coastlines while playing, to say nothing of the warm hospitality and great side trips that await you when you’re not on the green.  But there’s a lot to think about when planning such a trip, so we’ve put together a few of the most important considerations for you.

Bring Friends

This will be a trip of a lifetime, so you’ll want to bring some friends with you.  They don’t have to be an amazing golfer to want to come.  As long as they are up for an amazing adventure, they’re going to have a great time.  Golf will certainly be at the center of the trip, but there’s plenty to enjoy in Scotland besides that.

Think Regionally

A big mistake that Americans often make, not just with a Scottish golfing trip, but with traveling to Europe in general, is the tendency to want to “do all the things.”  For some reason we think we’ll never come back to Europe so we have to try to see all of it on this trip.  This is a terrible strategy.  Instead of pretending that seeing all or even most of it is possible, pick a few places that matter and build a trip that you’ll remember, not a vacation that will live only as a blur in your mind.  The biggest regions for golf are East Lothian, the Kingdom of Fife (home to St. Andrews), and the Ayshire Coast, with three Open courses in Trump Turnberry, Royal Troon (with its quirky railway hole), and Prestwick (golf’s oldest Major).

Gear Up

Bring plenty of your own golf balls: you won’t find any abroad at such good rates as you’ll find here in the homeland.  Also don’t forget your rain gear, even if sun is in the forecast.  It’s Scotland so the weather changes all the time.

Know What You Need for St. Andrews

Don’t go to Scotland and miss St. Andrew’s.  You’ll regret it.  There are three ways to get in:

  • Advance Application — these open in late August through early September and you can enter up to eight names across six weeks for the following year’s peak season (mid-April through mid-October).  You’ll be notified of application results in October.
  • Daily Ballot — if you don’t get a tee time through Advance Application, you can try the tee time lottery which takes place two days prior to each day of play.
  • Stand-By List — Every day there are between 10-30 tee slots available, on average, which are taken on a first-come, first-served basis.  There’s no luck involved here, as with the previous two lotteries.  You just need to get the starter’s hut at the first tee early in the morning.

The majority of people get to play St. Andrew’s through one of these methods and pay the public green fee of $220.  If you don’t want to mess with any of that, a guaranteed tee time at St. Andrew’s can be had for around $1000.  Various tour operators have these sorts of privileges with St. Andrew’s.

Tours and Consultants

Speaking of tour operators, if you aren’t sure about putting together the jigsaw puzzle of a Scottish trip, which starts with the simple issue of how you’re getting around (should you drive yourself, get a driver, or take the train), you can always hire a tour operator or a consultant.  They can listen to your perspectives and what you’re hoping to do and see and try to put together an itinerary that makes sense for you.

Whether you do it yourself or get help, always keep in mind that you need to plan at least 9-12 months in advance of your visit in order to make the most of the 500+ courses that Scotland offers.

Have you golfed in Scotland?  How was it?  Let us know in the comments below.

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