This post is the third in a series about planning a golf trip to Scotland. The first post was How to Plan a Golf Trip to Scotland and the second covered Where to Play on a Golf Trip to Scotland – enjoy!
When golfers think about “local knowledge” for their golf trips, “where to play” is the first thing that comes to mind. However, when to play is perhaps the even better question.
The bulk of Scottish Golf Trip Consulting clients and those who email me want to take their trips in June, July, or August. Their reasoning is the better summer weather. It seems like a natural choice, but is it really the best option?
Is the summer weather really better than the shoulder seasons? Should weather even be your main factor for trip timing? What about budgeting concerns? The courses are packed busy in the summer, but is it the same in the shoulder seasons? This guide for when to plan your Scottish golf trip will set you straight!
Let’s face it, the weather can be terrible in Scotland all year round. You can have absolutely perfect days in November and you can have cold rain for a week in July. We had three weeks one April in St Andrews where there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The average days with precipitation in St Andrews is lower in April than in July. If you are concerned about weather, the main consideration should be temperatures.
Despite the possibility of rain in nearly every month, the off-season will have colder temperatures. It is easy to throw on some Under Armour, a hat, and mittens, but for some the colder temperatures of the shoulder seasons are a deal breaker. March/April will have temperatures in the mid-40s (F) and July/August experience average temperatures around 60 degrees (F). Frost delays are a common occurrence through the winter and even into the shoulder seasons. If you have the choice, don’t book 7AM tee times because you could end up waiting until 10AM for the course to thaw.
Newer courses that don’t serve many locals, such as Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart, and Trump Aberdeen actually close in November and re-open in March/April.
Another large factor when considering off-season travel to Scotland should be light. Scotland is on a higher latitude than Nova Scotia, so the days are very short in the winter and very long in the summer. We’re talking sunrise around 8:30AM and sunset around 3:30PM in the winter. Follow that with 4:30AM sunrises and 10:30PM sunsets in the summer. This means final tee times in the summer fall as late as 5:30 or even 6PM. The evening light lasts forever, which always made it my favorite time to play.
Light spills into quite a few other factors when planning your trip. Playing 36 holes in a day during the off-season, or even the shoulder seasons, can be a difficult task! Shorter days also mean fewer tee times up for grabs. That being said, fewer traveling golfers means less competition for those times. If you want to enter the Old Course ballot or get a tee time at Muirfield, the shoulder seasons often provide much higher success rates.
Shoulder season rates can be a great way to save money on your trip. You can expect anywhere from a 20-50% discount off of peak (summer) tee time rates from March to April and September to October.
One consideration is the mats that some courses make golfers use when hitting from the fairway. The small piece of artificial turf ensures that you don’t take divots that would struggle to heal through the winter. They take some getting used to, but I have found that they never ruined a round of golf for me. Are the mats worth the savings and the less busy courses? That will be up to you!
A final factor is course conditioning. While many courses are in great shape over the winter and off-season, some utilize winter greens and others cut down the rough substantially before it grows back in the spring. This is less of a factor in the shoulder seasons, but will affect your trip if you plan it in the winter months.
If I was planning a trip to Scotland, I would look to April. The colder temperatures don’t bother me as much, especially considering you are walking, and the savings allow for tons of flexibility. The main point is that you don’t have to travel in June, July, or August. Great trips take place in the shoulder seasons, which provide a more “local” experience.
–Scottish Golf Travel Podcast (a great site and podcast dedicated to Scottish golf travel)
–Top 100 Golf Blog (Scottish course reviews in this case)
–Visit St Andrews (perfect for local tips and recommendations)
–Scottish Golf Trip Planner (a section of my site dedicated to planning your own trip)
–Scottish Course Reviews (my large database of Scottish course reviews)
If you would like help planning your own golf trip to Scotland, have a look at the Scottish Golf Trip Consulting feature on the website. It provides an alternative for golfers who want to avoid costly tour companies, but don’t have the time or knowledge to plan a trip themselves. Additionally, you can always send over a question via email at email@example.com.