Avid readers of this site have read dozens of tips and pieces of advice for planning a Scottish golf trip. After years of speaking to readers and helping them plan their trips, I’ve realized more and more that a different set of advice is required for large groups.
What comprises a large group? I consider any more than a four golfers to be a large group. I chose that number because any more than four requires 2+ tee time, a larger block of rooms, and perhaps most importantly, a well-planned ground transportation strategy.
In this article I’ll address each of those points and more that will help you in planning a golf trip for a large group.
Tour Operator or Plan Yourself?
Large groups are one of the times I often recommend taking a tour operator. The amount of work to self plan a large group trip to Scotland is exponentially more than planning for a small group. Everything from securing the tee times to booking the hotels is much more difficult and tour operators can often leverage their relationships to get large groups onto courses and generally make things easier.
Further, ground transportation with a large group limits you to large vans or buses. Not only are those vans very difficult to drive on Scottish roads, but they’re also very difficult to park (especially in places like St Andrews). Tour operators often have their own vehicles or partnerships with ground transportation companies and fleets of drivers.
Appoint a Leader
Rule by committee doesn’t work with large golf trip groups. Everyone has different ideas, preferences, and tendencies and while the leader should take those opinions into account, there needs to be one person who makes the final choice and manages everything.
This point about a leader holds especially true if your group chooses to use a tour operator. There needs to be a single point of contact to communicate with the tour company, gather payments from the group, and ensure there’s a clear message sent to the tour operator.
Start Planning Much Further in Advance
Because of the need to secure a potentially large block of tee times or hotel rooms, your options will remain much wider if you start booking your trip well in advance. I recently worked with a group of 12 planning their trip two years in advance. Because of that lead time they had options like Muirfield on the table that almost certainly wouldn’t have been possible if planning 10-12 months out.
Regardless of whether you’re planning yourself or working with a tour operator, this lead time is key for the success of your large group.
Make a Money Plan
No matter if you’re using a tour operator or planning your own trip for the group, you need to have a plan for gathering payments. Deposits need to be paid (either to the tour operator or to the courses, hotels, and ground transportation company) that often require thousands of dollars at a time.
I’ve spoken to numerous trip leaders who were put in uncomfortable situations when they had to put trip deposits down for the group using their personal funds and then had difficulty, or experienced large delays, in gathering payments from members. It takes a lot of time to gather those payments from all 8, 12, 16, or more members of a group. Make a plan and ensure that all group members are on the same page and expect to make payments on time. Members of the group will be much happier if they know when to expect invoices and don’t have surprise bills for thousands popping ahead of the trip!
I hope these tips help you if you’re planning a trip for a large group. If you’re interested in getting a quote for your trip from a tour operator and want some advice about who to ask, leave a comment at the bottom of this article and we’ll strike up a conversation!
Heading this April 18 and I am the trip leader. I am using Graylyn as a consultant and really excited for the pilgrimage. There will be between 7-13 of us starting at Gleneagles for 3 nights then Turnberry for 3 nights then St Andres for 3 nights then East Lothian for 3 nights. Everything is booked accept the old course which we will have to ballot.
I was going to use a tour company to book book the trip but its so hard for me to justify their markup. Little more pressure on your leader but I have enjoyed the process so far. Might be singing a different tune when we get there :)
Going back to The Highlands of Scotland this Summer. This will be the 9th Ireland/Scotland trip that I have been “Captain”. This all started in the year 2000. I am getting pretty good at it by now. The trip sizes have ranged from 4 to 12; with the last trip being 4 men/golfers with wives, who do not play golf, in St. Andrews. St. Andrews is a great place for a married couples trip. So much to do and see besides being such an easy place to play and meet your wife for drinks and dinner after golf! I have had good luck with my groups of 4, 8 or 12 because this is how we play at home. I make the Friday and Saturday tee times every week and on Tuesday I have each man responsible for getting their name on the tee sheet. Our group loves golf and we do not take it too seriously anymore!
I have one parting question for the group. Does anyone have an inside angle on getting on Augusta national? I know this is a pipe dream but I never let a lead go by without asking. You just never know!
Graylyn, good luck with your new endeavor!
I was the leader of 8 men on a trip last June. I used a lot of Graylyn’s advice from his blog and podcasts. We built the trip around 2 tee time secured at the Old Course in the lottery the year before. I was able to get tee times at other courses fairly easily, although Carnoustie was only able to get the last two times of the day. I was worried about accommodations in St A due to graduation week but fortunately secured 8 rooms at Greyfriars for 4 nights. We also spent 3 nights in N. Berwick in a self catering large house on the sea. I made all of these arrangements through emails after research on the web. I only had to make a couple of phone calls. I had two cash calls to pay for deposits and such and my guys were prompt in payment. All in all a successful trip. The only thing I might change in future is transportation. We rented two large vans which were challenging to drive and park as Graylyn says. I may trip a chauffeured service next time.