How to Plan a Golf Trip to Scotland

Graylyn LoomisScottish Golf Travel12 Comments

This article is the first in a series about maximizing your time and money in planning, booking, and experiencing a golf trip to Scotland! The second article is Where to Go on a Golf Trip to Scotland!

The key to planning a successful golf trip to Scotland is knowledge. One of the goals of this website is to provide golfers with the knowledge necessary for planning their own trip. Whether they book the trip through a tour company, use the Scottish golf trip consulting option, or simply built their trip by themselves, I hope everyone finds this site useful in the process!

This article is a quick look at the topics you will need to address in order to have a successful golf trip. I provide tips that I picked up while living for four years in St Andrews and I’ve thrown in links to other useful sites along the way! Email in any questions to graylyn@graylynloomis.com

First Things First

Tour company or plan it yourself?
This question can be answered by the amount of free time you have and the size of your budget. In most cases you provide basic information to the companies and they return with an estimate for the trip. Keep in mind you are paying a premium with this option. Tour companies can also be a good way to snag guaranteed tee times on the Old Course, but that is where things start to get pricey. Tour companies can be pricey, but they offer a very easy way to book your trip.

Golfers that don’t have the time to plan out an entire trip but want a customized itinerary should think about newer options like the golf trip consulting option on this site. You fill out a questionnaire and I provide an itinerary custom tailored to your interests both on and off the course that is extremely easy to book yourself.

Planning and booking a trip completely by yourself is a great option for those with time and some patience to do the research. There are some great resources out there to help, including this site and those listed under “Resources” below!

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Setting your budget

Your budget is largely a personal choice, but there are great ways to maximize the money you plan on spending. Choosing a B&B over a pricier hotel, setting up base in one area and making day trips from there, or splitting some of the fixed costs among a larger group are all great methods for saving money. I talked about this topic at length with Ru from the Scottish Golf Travel Podcast, and that podcast episode can be found here.

Is it worth taking a caddie?
I have written an article on taking caddies that can be found here. In summary, a caddie can add greatly to a round of golf on a course you have never seen. That is especially true on some Scottish links with lots of blind shots. If caddies aren’t in the budget, consider splitting a forecaddie within the group – you get much of the advice at a fraction of the cost.

Choosing where to go

I plan to expand on this topic in the second article in this series. A quick preview is that I highly recommend basing yourself in one or two regions for the trip. Playing all over the country is exhausting, expensive, and doesn’t maximize your time.

I go into the various regions, driving times, and their golf offerings in Where to Go on a Golf Trip to Scotland!

Where to stay

B&Bs, hotels, or home rental?
Again, this comes down to budget in many cases. I prefer staying in B&Bs because you feel much more attached to the community. The proprietors are almost always friendly locals who can offer great advice and tips about the area. They are also almost always less expensive than a chain hotel. The included Scottish fry-up breakfast you’ll receive at most B&Bs is worth its weight in gold!

Home rental can initially seem like an expensive option, but if you’re traveling as a foursome or larger, it can actually be very cost effective. Splitting a £1000/week home between four golfers is a lot easier on the wallet than a week in a £150/night B&B or hotel. Your choice will largely depend on whether you want to travel or base yourself in one area.

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Transportation

An important consideration on your trip is transportation. If you are a twosome, threesome, or even a skinny foursome, renting a car is a viable option. Keep in mind you’ll need a driver who is comfortable driving on the left side of the road in what will likely be a manual car. Also be sure to request a large rental car. If you find yourself in a typical European car it will be extremely difficult to fit all of your bags and clubs, let alone the golfers. Also, take note of the drunk driving mention below.

For larger groups, a transportation service or driver can be incredibly nice. Everyone can relax, have a pint after the round, and not have to stress about navigating in a new country or avoiding drunk driving laws (a single beer puts you at or just over the limit in Scotland). The cost of this option when split among a larger group can make a lot of sense.

Another way to avoid driving yourself is public transportation. It’s not the easiest or most convenient option, but it is relaxing, scenic, and is how I traveled Scotland during my four years in St Andrews. If you want to look into train travel, I suggest visiting Scottish Golf By Train to help sort everything out.

Getting Tee Times

Getting tee times at most courses isn’t a problem, given you’re booking enough time in advance. Other courses like Muirfield and Renaissance Club have limited guest play, so you’ll want to get on those really early. The Old Course is a different tee time beast, and I’ve written an entire article on that here.

If you know you’ll want to play a course twice, it is worth asking about their replay rate. Some courses offer great deals if you play again that day or even within that week. One example is the very pricey Kingsbarns Golf Links that offers 50% off if you play again within one week of that first round.

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Valuable Resources

Scottish Golf Travel Podcast (a great site and podcast dedicated to Scottish golf travel)
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 have any questions and would like advice about your trip, I am always happy to chat golf! Just drop me an email at graylyn@graylynloomis.com

12 Comments on “How to Plan a Golf Trip to Scotland”

    1. Hi RJ, a lot depends on where you are flying from in the States (assuming you are in the States). My best tip is to look at fare comparison sites like Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia. If you want to branch out from there and try to go cheaper, check some of the European airlines like Aer Lingus, which often offer better rates, but include connecting through Dublin.

      Another tip is to vary the time of year you’re looking, as rates change depending on season. I wish I had a knockout tip up my sleeve, but it’s a frustrating battle against the airlines. Hopefully this helps!

  1. Hi!
    I am planning a surprise trip for my husband to go with his father this upcoming March (first or second week). Is that too soon to book any tee times/lodging? Also, is it usually way too cold for it to be enjoyable?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you for the comment! What a good gift to give to your husband and father-in-law.

      March can be pretty darn chilly. If you think they would be okay putting on hats, gloves, and layering up with warm clothing, it is possible! The other negatives are the potential for frost delays in the mornings and some courses may have “winter greens,” meaning that they have made a small secondary green short of the actual green to protect it during the winter. If possible, I would look into April. April will be warmer and pretty much every course will be off its winter program.

      With either month, I would suggest that you go ahead and book things now. Those aren’t the busy months, so you should be able to book things just fine! My email address is graylyn@graylynloomis.com, so feel free to shoot any other questions there. Thanks!

  2. Hello,

    We are planning a trip for either September (09/17-09/23) or October (10/09-10/15) and playing on the East Coast. If we choose September, we cannot play Muirfield…if we choose October, we can play Muirfield. I know that the two options are only 3 week apart but do you think the weather would be substantially worse if we chose October? Enough to warrant skipping Muirfield and choosing September for our trip? Also, if we allow three days to try and get drawn for the ballot for the Old Course, do you like our chances of getting chosen during that time of year?
    Thanks in advance for any help!

    1. Hi WV, I don’t think you’ll see drastic differences in the weather between those two sets of dates. However, the most important thing to consider will be the “busy dates” at the courses on the east coast. In that time of year in St Andrews, you have to consider the Dunhill Links Championship, as well as the R&A Autumn Meeting. Check out the link below, but right off the bat you’ll see that Old Course is closed September 16 and 18-22. That alone would make move me to October if I was in your position. Three days entering the ballot at that time of year will ive you pretty darn good chances! Long answer short, I’d go October.

      https://www.standrews.com/play/busy-dates

  3. Hi Grayln

    I just left you and email, I hope this was also a good way to communicate with you, but just in case here where my questions.

    Hello Gralyn

    I enjoyed your video, but still had a couple of questions, what is considered the off season, I want to travel to Scotland, but I want the best chance to play St Andrews?

    Is it worth staying at the Fairmont Hotel or are there other more reasonable, but nice hotels to stay in?

    What are your other favorite golf courses ?

    Still want to know the best month to go to Scotland, I know you said that the weather is iffy, but what are your thoughts on the traveling month

    Thank You

    Laura

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thank you for writing! I’ll respond to your email here so that others can see my answers.

      High season in Scotland is May-August. Shoulder seasons are March-April and September-October. The off season is November to February.

      The link below is to an article I’ve written about accommodation in St Andrews. I hope it is helpful, but to answer your question briefly, I would suggest staying in the town itself unless you specifically want to stay at the Fairmont, which is about 10 minutes driving outside of St Andrews: http://www.graylynloomis.com/where-to-stay-in-st-andrews/

      The link here is about where to play in St Andrews and it includes my favorites: http://www.graylynloomis.com/where-to-play-golf-in-st-andrews/

      Simply put, there is no “best” month to visit Scotland. I went in June and July this year, but the driest month has been May. Other years, May is the wettest month of the year. For the best chances with weather, go in the high season. For the best rates, but riskier weather and temperatures, go with the shoulder seasons. For my money, you’ll always find me in Scotland in April!

  4. Hi Graylyn,
    Love the website and all the advice. Can you confirm that Pioneer Golf out of Austin Texas is a reputable agency to deal with?
    Thanks,
    Matt Marshall
    PS If there is an agency you recommend I would appreciate the name and number.

    1. Hi Matt, I’m glad you’ve found the website helpful! I’ve never dealt with Pioneer Golf before, but the fact that they are a St Andrews Links Authorized Provider means they are reputable and have guaranteed Old Course tee times. That’s a very good sign.

      If you’re going the tour company route, I would suggest getting quotes from at least two companies. Two other providers to consider that I’ve personally experienced are PerryGolf and Haversham & Baker. With those three quotes you’ll get a good sense of the market!

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