To my own (and my wife’s) detriment, I’m always the guy who tries a task myself. Buy a dining table? I can make one. Faucet won’t work? Don’t call the plumber.
I’ve always been the same way with my golf trips and this website is an extension of that. I’ve dedicated hundreds of hours to content about courses and how to a trip plan yourself. I’ve spent hundreds more corresponding with golfers helping them map out their dream journeys. However, some people don’t necessarily enjoy or want to plan and book a trip themselves. Others don’t have the time! In those cases, golf tour companies come to the rescue.
This post will help you determine how to choose a tour company, and equally important, help you decide whether you need one. In all cases, I’d love to hear about your experiences and recommendations for a tour company. Please leave a comment at the end of the article!
One of the most valuable services a tour company provides is saving you considerable time. Although much can be done online, planning a great trip on your own requires major effort and research.
With most tour companies, there is an initial discussion about where you want to go and play, but once you’ve confirmed a quoted itinerary, you just sit back while they do the work. They book your accommodation, golf, transportation, and even some extras (or any combination of those). You don’t always have much input in the planning process, but many consumers don’t need or want it. As a friend of mine recently said, “I just want to cut a check and show up at the airport.”
This point is especially true for larger groups. When dealing with more than four golfers, the logistics of a trip become significantly more complex – especially when it comes to transportation (see more below). Tour companies can deal with these larger groups with ease and can save major headaches.
The time savings can be worth the cost of using a tour company for some travelers. For others, they may have the time, but don’t find enjoyment in the trip planning process. Tour companies meet that need very well.
Ease of Use
Along the same lines as the “Time” section above, it’s very easy to cut a single check and have your whole trip planned and booked. For the golf traveler who doesn’t know much about Scotland and doesn’t necessarily want to do the research, there is also a level of security/comfort in knowing that a knowledgeable tour company is planning your trip. There’s no second-guessing and no wondering if you made the right or wrong choices.
In the case of larger tour companies like PerryGolf, they often have their own fleet of vans and buses to transport golfers. This can be especially useful for larger groups where a rental car doesn’t make sense. Using the tour companies “in-house” transportation can also result in cost savings over contracting with a separate transportation company.
The tour company drivers are also often helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. I’ve heard a few horror stories, but I’ve heard far more great reviews of helpful drivers who provide recommendations and useful tips.
Do note that those who plan trips on their own can contract with independent transportation companies.
You do have to pay for all of the work you’re saving yourself. The cost of a trip varies with demand, where you want to play, and where you want to stay, but I’ve seen tour companies quote a price that is double the actual costs. I’ve seen other tour companies add a much smaller percentage.
Things to Watch For
Keep in mind that tour companies have relationships with certain courses and hotels where they get preferred rates.
I’ve received emails in the past where a client presented a tour company with a general outline for their desired trip. The quote they received back was very different than their desired trip. For instance, instead of staying in B&Bs like they requested, they were quoted 4-star hotels. Instead of certain courses, others were swapped into the quote. This goes back to those preferred rates that tour operators receive. Some (not all) companies will steer your trip toward places they receive preferential rates and therefore have higher margins. If you’re dead set on a trip, hold fast to where you want to play. If the tour company has swapped in a different place, ask them why. It could be for a good reason, but find out their thought process and make the choice yourself.
How to Choose (Get Quotes!)
In all cases, get multiple quotes from multiple tour companies. Compare their costs and be a smart consumer – check out tee time and accommodation prices yourself. Which company best listened to your desired trip and delivered in their quote?
I’ve worked with and spoken to many happy clients from PerryGolf, Haversham & Baker, Bonnie Wee Golf Tours, Carr Golf, Connoisseur Golf, and others.
The key is to get a handful of quotes! Figure out what you’re happy to spend and try to communicate your needs to the tour companies.
The Pro at my golf club in Canada takes a group of between 8-12 members to Ireland or Scotland every September. My group went to the South West of Ireland in 2012 and all of the accommodations and transportation were handled by a tour operator. The main advantage was being driven for the entirety of the trip since there were several multi-hour drives as we migrated from one destination to another. While it was nice to not have to worry about getting from Point A to Point B, we didn’t have a lot of time to soak in the Irish hospitality (at least post-round) as we generally had to get back into the bus as soon as our rounds were over to head to the next stop. This past summer 8 of us visited Scotland and I did all of the booking with the intent of staying in no more than two places during the trip. We rented an apartment near the Old course and stayed there for 6 nights. Our furthest drive was to Carnoustie. In the latter part of the trip, we moved down to East Lothian and stayed at the MacDonald Marine Hotel and Spa adjacent to the North Berwick West Links and played our last few rounds in that area before heading home. Booking through an operator can be advantageous but with the amount of things you can book online I think any future trips that we take will be done without a tour operator
Thank you for the comment, Paul! Your experience is similar to what I hear from quite a few readers. Often they’ll take a first trip with a tour company and realize what they like / don’t like before planning a later trip on their own. It sounds like your St Andrews and East Lothian trip was a good one – I think those two regions make for a perfect pairing. It maximizes your time in each place and doesn’t mean too much time on the road.
Really good feedback – thanks again for sharing!
Going on 3rd trip to Ireland/Scotland using 3rd different tour operator. Group of 16 who wants each Trip to be memorable. This year 13 nights and 19 rounds. Island, RCD 2x, Ardglass, PortStewart, Portrush Dunluce, Turnberry Alisa and Bruce, Royal Dornoch 36, Castle Stuart, Cruden, Trump Intl, Carnoustie, Muirfield 36, Archerfield Fidra and Direlton, Kingsbarns, and Castle. Hopefully add Old Course via daily ballot. Accommodations include Turnberry MacLeod and Archerfield Mansion House plus solid others. 22 passenger bus with drivers. $8800 pp. hands on planning with tour operator and then let them run with getting details in place.
Hi Rob, thanks for adding to the conversation! The logistics behind planning a trip for 16 would be pretty darn tough to plan. What a list of courses, too – have a great trip!
Planning a trip to southwest Ireland in 2019. Has anyone used Ireland Golf as their tour operator, and if so what was your experience?
Hi Mike, I don’t have any experience with them, so can’t offer any advice or a recommendation there. What I will say is, consider getting at least two quotes for your trip if you haven’t already. It’s amazing how much price can vary between companies, so just do your due diligence.
I’m so glad that I found your website! I am planning a trip for four to Ireland/Northern Ireland in spring of 2020. I priced everything myself using 2019 rates found on the web, and then received four quotes from tour operators using the same itinerary. I was shocked at the difference in cost — from 50% to 100% higher than the “a la carte” costs I’d come up with. I’ve traveled and driven in Ireland and feel pretty confident booking everything myself but I have one very important question: will an outfitter be able to book tee times that I would not have access to? I hate the thought of planning the entire trip only to find that our group can’t get on Royal Portrush because the tee sheet is full, and I’m wondering if using an operator would prevent a scenario like that. I actually wrote to each of the clubs we hope to play and asked them how far in advance they’d allow me to book — even offered to pre-pay for our foursome — but haven’t heard back yet.
You will be able to book Royal Portrush in advance by using their website.
Hi Gray. Planing for 2019 august trip to st andrews .1st time there. Looking for reliable ground operators to get us around. Can help? We intend to play old course, carnoustie, kingsbarn, n one more..
Hi Alex, many of the transportation options are available through tour operators, but there area a handful of independent companies you can contact for quotes. One is St Andrews Executive Travel and the other is Woods of Tillicoultry. Google both of those and they’ll be a good starting point for you!
Hi Graylyn! We’re planning a trip to St Andrews in July of 2020 and was just wondering if you’re familiar with the tour operator, St Andrews Golf Travel. Just wanted to make sure they are legitimate.
Thank you for your help!
Everything I know about them is positive! I’ve had friends use them in the past and they’ve been repeat clients. I can’t speak from personal experience, but all signs point to legit on my end. I hope that helps!
Hi Graylyn, There are 6 to 8 couples who want to visit the St Andrews area to play golf in mid April, 2020. After reading your comments about groups larger than four, I have come to the conclusion that a tour company is the way to go for our first trip. None of the wives will want to play so we are looking at 6 to 8 golfers. I have contacted the Perry Group, which was recommended by Southern California Golf Association, but would like to speak to some other companies before I meet with the golfing group. Since we are only playing in the St Andrews area only there might be some local companies I should talk to rather than those companies that arrange trips all over the world.
Hi Gordon, That’s a great question. As you read, getting multiple quotes is definitely best practices here, especially with a large group. I would suggest you speak to Links Golf St Andrews, Bonnie Wee Golf Tours, and St Andrews Golf Travel (all three have websites you’ll find in Google). Between those three you’ll have a good feel of smaller companies that are focused on Scotland. That said, Perry has tons of experience and you were smart to get a quote from them. I hope you guys have a great trip!
Hi Graylyn. We have done some tour research and are quite interested in Bonnie Wee golf and David Harris. There aren’t too many reviews to be found, but the ones we have uncovered are very positive. We like the smaller wholesome feel and believe we will get a great trip if we go through them. We will either be a group of 8 or 4. Just wondering what your experience has been with Bonnie Wee and whether you would recommend using them. Thanks
Hi Pam, I have worked with Bonnie Wee Golf Tours in the past and they are a great group of people. I have nothing but good things to say.
I every case, I recommend getting a few quotes for trips and I wouldn’t hesitate to go with Bonnie Wee Golf Tours if their quote was best.
Thanks Graylyn. Yes we did get three quotes and they were by far the best price. Their reviews are excellent. Thanks so much for getting back to me. Your opinion is valued. I will let you know how it goes.
Thinking of heading over for a week or so of golf…St Andrews and maybe Dornoch.
But…going alone. Should I just get a room near the old course, or look another place?
Really don’t like driving. Can I get around by train or other ways?
Getting a room near the Old Course is a great strategy – it means there is a ton of golf within walking distance of where you’d be staying. As for transportation, trains and buses are definitely do-able if you want to avoid driving. I’d use the Stagecoach bus website along with the National Rail train website to plan the trip from that angle.
I have received quotes from 9 different tour companies. Any thoughts of the following companies:
– Pioneer Golf
– Golf Scotland
– Hidden Links
There proposals are very competitive and can supply me with what I need. Any reason why I shouldn’t save some money and go with one of these tour companies over some others that may or may not have been mentioned by you previously?
Brian, firstly, well done getting quotes from that many companies – it’s a smart move. If the courses and accommodation are similar across those quotes, I don’t see any reason to not go with the less expensive options – I don’t know of any reasons not to if the quotes are similar. I admittedly don’t have experience with any of those four companies you named, but I’ve heard positive reviews of Hidden Links. I hope that helps!
My wife is going to play in the British Women’s Senior Amateur at Royal St. David’s in Wales. We want to go over a week or so ahead of that and travel and play in Wales. Do any tour operators specialize in Wales? Many thanks for your help!
Great question – and kudos to your wife for playing in the British Women’s Senior – she must be quite the player! There are a handful of tour operators that could help with your trip and in all cases, I recommend getting multiple quotes from different tour operators. I’d think about Perry Golf, Haversham and Baker, Bonnie Wee Golf Tours, and others. I hope that helps!
Hi Graylyn, great website!
This is probably a crazy question but if me and a friend were to head to Scotland in late Sept/early Oct what would our chances be of getting on the Old Course, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch (3 out of 4 would be great as long as one is the Old Course). Probably a pipe dream but curious if we can pull it off or need to try and plan for 2020 instead. And if we used a travel company would that up our chances? We’re definitely willing to pay more for the increased odds at these courses.
Hi Mike, to put it simply, that would definitely be a challenge. Those dates fall right during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which means that depending on your days, the Old Course and Carnoustie will be closed for the tournament (see the actual dates the Old Course is closed here: https://www.standrews.com/play/busy-dates). Muirfield also publishes available tee times on its website and appears to be fully booked through the end of October. Dornoch may be open, but that doesn’t hit your 3 out of 4!
I would suggest going for 2020. If you have questions, shoot another reply here and we’ll brainstorm!
Have you heard of a company called Adventures in Golf. They are based out of New Hampshire. I got a proposal from them for a trip to Southwest Ireland and it looks well thought out and the price is in line with other quotes. However, I can’t find any reviews of them.
I’m organizing a weeklong trip in early June of 2020. We have eight golfers traveling and have already booked teetimes on 6 of the 7 days. One of the logistics I’m struggling with is the rental vehicle. We were hoping to rent a large van/minibus but aren’t having luck finding anything big enough. Seems like a Mercedes Sprinter van would do with its 12 seats (8 golfers,8 sets of clubs, 8 suitcases etc), but I can’t find one to rent. Do you know of a company that would have something large enough for us? Or might you suggest us splitting in to two vehicles (not ideal)?
Hi David, You’ve found one of the main difficulties of taking a larger group over to Scotland! Frankly, I don’t know of many good rental options for the larger vehicles. Splitting into two vehicles definitely isn’t the optimal choice, but it may be your best in this scenario. Keep digging and try to find that large van. No matter what you choose, get a larger vehicle than you think you’ll need. Wish I could be more of a help!