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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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.
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.
–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 email@example.com
I am scared off by airfares. Any tips for a good deal?
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!
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, so feel free to shoot any other questions there. Thanks!
I am planning a trip for the Open and golf this summer and need advice on a solid tour company. Any you’d recommend?
Hi Darren, I will follow up with you this evening on the email you provided! Happy to offer up an opinion.
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!
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.
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.
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 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!
Love the website and all the advice. Can you confirm that Pioneer Golf out of Austin Texas is a reputable agency to deal with?
PS If there is an agency you recommend I would appreciate the name and number.
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!
This is great advice. Looking to plan a trip to the Open this year ar Carnoustie and make a stop at St. Andrews. Playing old course would be great, but not requirement. Any tips?
Hi Rob, my biggest tip is to get on planning ASAP – things are getting pretty booked up around the Open this coming summer! Outside of that, my main piece of advice would be to give yourself a couple of days to enter the Old Course ballot. On the days you aren’t successful, plan to play the New or Jubilee Courses. Main thing is to not rush and soak it all in.
Is it too late to plan a trip for the first week of August? St. Andrews/Turnberry? I guess a tour group is the only way to guarantee the old course at this point. Do you feel that there is enough for nongolfing spouses to do?
Hi Susan – to answer your questions in order: I think you’ll have a really tough time finding tee times and accommodation for August at this point. That’s the height of the season, so things get booked up fast! That said, spend some time feeling out availability. Depending on where you want to play and stay there could be room. You are correct that a tour company is the only way to get a guaranteed tee time at this point, and even then, most are sold out.
There is plenty of non-golfing spouses – especially if your spouse enjoys the outdoors!
I would like to start planning a Scotland/Ireland golf trip for next summer. I think six weeks would be good, staying in each of the four Scottish regions for 6-7 nights and then two Irish regions. Hopefully we can catch some good weather in six weeks. I worry about coming for a short time and getting very bad weather for the whole period. I watched your video and your approach makes a lot of sense to me.
Let’s start a dialogue about how you would help my wife and I make hotel reservations and tee times. Would flexible tee times be possible? I am a four handicap, 72 years old, and I can play a daily schedule of 36 holes, 18 holes, 36 holes, 18 holes, etc. My wife is a 69 years old, a 30 handicap and would only be able to play 18 holes per day. Perhaps you have another client that would like to join us for several of the golf rounds. We are from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
I’d be happy to help you guys out! Go ahead and send me an email to email@example.com and we can continue a dialogue there.
I certainly like your strategy of spending plenty of time and not rushing around!
Looking forward to speaking, Graylyn
Great website. I’ve spent the past few days looking through all the resources. Quite extensive, and thank you. I am planning a 2 week trip next June for 10-12 golfers to celebrate my 50th birthday. I have already secured two large homes, one near St. Andrews for the first week, and the other in Ayr. We plan to use these as a hub and play all the courses around it. Assuming decent weather, I expect many days of 36 holes. We are definitely golf junkies.
My question is about transportation. Many of the golf tour companies will only arrange transportation if you are purchasing their package plans. My plan is to rent one self drive vehicle (for those who may not want to play a second round or want to do a different activity that day) and then to arrange transportation to and from the course in a large vehicle. Do you have any recommendations for a company that might provide this service?
Thanks again for providing all your valuable insight.
Hi John! What a great way to spend your 50th – enjoy! To answer your question, St Andrews Executive Travel is the company that comes to mind. I’ve recommended them before and spoken to happy groups. I’ve ridden in their vehicles and it’s always been a good experience. When I’ve asked for quotes before it’s never been cheap, but I think they’re going to be your best bet. As you spotted, nearly all other major golf transportation options are tied to tour companies. Hope that helps!
I am planning a golf trip to Scotland in 2019 that would include a total of three golfers. It will be a short trip: total 5 days. Three courses, just to get the feel of what it’s like to play golf in Scotland. Cooler conditions would be fine. Would also need to have hotel accommodations, airfare, transportation, meals and club rental included in package. Would probably fly out of JFK. So…which tour package and which part of Scotland would be best for us, taking into consideration cost, time of year and getting the feel of the country? Any information to simplify what seems like an unusually difficult task would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Hi Stan, lots of questions to unpack there! It sounds like you’re leaning toward booking through a tour group instead of planning and booking the trip yourself? If so, I’d be happy to make a recommendation. In all cases I suggest that you get multiple quotes to compare prices, but shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to have a more specific conversation. Let me know a general sense of your budget as that changes based on tour company and where you’d like to go. For a short golf trip, St Andrews is always one of the best places to go. Shoot me an email and we can go from there.
I am trying to put together a trip to surprise my father with for Father’s Day. The trip will be for me and I to go golf at the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarn. Understanding how things work with the Old Course, I am leaning towards the Castle course as my second St Andrew’s location. It’ll be a summer trip somewhere between late June and mid-August, but just for 7-8 days. Trying to decide whether to with a tour company or not. I have been reaching out to some and getting the pricing in place. Some have me stating at Cleveden while others are providing me with hotel options on/around St Andrews. Am I going about this the right way by going through a tour company? I am going there to golf the Old Course more than anything else, so I want a guarantee that I can get a tee time there before anything else.
Those are all good questions. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to go about planning a trip over there. For some who don’t have the time or inclination, a tour operator is a no-brainer. For others who love the DIY work, they want to plan a trip themselves. Generally speaking, I would try to balance your budget with those quotes from the tour operators. If those two don’t align, you may want to consider booking yourself.
As for where you’re playing – those are some excellent spots. The Castle Course is gorgeous, but I recommend you guys take caddies if you play it. It’s worth the money to have those guys show you around.
I hope that helps!
I am looking to book a trip to Scotland for my father and I for early June of next year. I was wondering how far ahead of time you would typically need to book tee times during this time on some of the premier courses? I am hoping to base the trip around St. Andrews, but I’m not sure when they will release the busy dates for 2020 and don’t want to get locked into dates that won’t work. Thank you!!
Logan – great question. I would suggest starting to book things around a year in advance to ensure that you have plenty of choice and aren’t wedged into anything due to lack of availability. The busy dates for 2020 should be out soon, and I expect they’ll largely mirror what you see in 2019 in terms of events.
Further in advance is always better, so don’t let it go too long. You’re smart for thinking about it now!
Hi Graylyn (great name!)-
8 of us are going to make the pilgrimage for 40 birthdays next April-May 2020..
Dreaming about this trip for 20 years
Started planning 5 years ago
Booked Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers last month!!
I’m am shooting for advanced tee times at The Old Course this August . Once I find out around October I plan on booking the rest of trip. Do you believe I will have a hard time getting hotel reservations and tee times 6 months out for these courses:
– The West Link at North Berwick Golf Club
-Royal Troon Old
-Trump Turnberry Ailsa Course
-Gleneagles King Course
The original plan was to hire a booking company but after several quotes I decided to use the money I would give them (around $1000 per person) on a couple nights at Gleneagles. Little more work but I enjoy the process..
My question for you is where do you recommend we stay? Arriving in Edinburgh around April 28, 2020 then Ayr only for a night to knock out Royal Troon and Trump Turnberry overnight at Turnberry. Then up to Loch Lomond for a round before 2 nights at Gleneagles. Then onto St . Andrews before returning to edinburgh for departure May 8th.
Really appreciate your help!!
First off thanks for the great website! Tremendous info and valuable knowledge. With a group of six or seven guys I’ve already noted the value of renting a home with shuttles.
Not trying to be lazy but what months are the best to plan since it’s a trip of a lifetime and just want to play no more than 4 days not in a bad weather season. St.Andrews is a must for all. Been to the UK before and love the small community pub environment. Locals are always the very best. Love to hear all the stories.
Any response would be much appreciated. Coming from the middle of the U.S.
Hi Bob, Good questions! Long story short, there is really no time of year where you’re guaranteed good weather, but the best times are June, July, and August. Based on what you said, you’ll love St Andrews! Tons of that local feel and flavor. Similarly, look at North Berwick and the golf in East Lothian – lots of that feel as well and world-class golf.
Thanks for the tips. I know you probably don’t feel comfortable giving out specific names for housing in that area but how about a good website for housing. We use VRBO in the states but wasn’t sure if that was my best go. Thank you again for the advice, you’re a gem.