2020 Scotland Golf Trip

With the approval from the wife, I am beginning the initial planning for a Scotland golf trip in 2020. I used all the bullets in my gun to persuade her, she agreed, so I am off and running. The trip will be for probably no more than 8 golfers, with varying ability. I know there are handicap restrictions at certain courses and we all meet those. We are planning on making the trip in April, with the understanding that this is the shoulder season over there. Weather “should” be ok but we aren’t paying premium prices or playing on overrun courses (someone tell me if I’m wrong). We’ll probably spend 6 days (+/- 1 day) and will only want to play 36 maybe 2 of those days. With that being said I am looking for places to stay, courses not to miss, etc.; here are the courses I am looking at playing, but can be persuaded to change if a vigorous argument is made.

  1. Old Course
  2. Another St. Andrews course (since you have to play one in order to get on Old Course, correct?)
  3. Muirfield
  4. Carnoustie
  5. North Berwick

I appreciate any info/help. I’m the one that always plans our stateside golf trips, but this is the BIG one and I want to get it right. Thanks!

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You might struggle to play 36 holes in a day in April due to the amount of light ,temps are still a bit cool at that time of year. Muirfield have certain time visitors can play and can be a bit stuffy about 4 balls playing

I could be talked into going in May if that helps/makes a difference?

Muirfield permits visitor play on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They allow fourballs in the morning and foursomes in the afternoon. They tend to book well in advance (a year+ ahead), as I learned when trying to get on next July or August. We ended up booking a full day (legendary lunch in between rounds) in mid-September. I just looked, and they have a few times available right now for April 2019, so I imagine you will be in good shape when you decide to book (for April 2020).

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Yeah, I already have a reminder in my phone to request tee times for 2020 when it opens up.

I think you can easily make a case to stay around St. Andrews and not bother with Muirfield and N. Berwick. Purely from a logistical point of view rather than a golfing one.

There are plenty of other courses in St. Andrews to play, as well as Kingsbarns, Crail, Ellie, and other courses on the Carnoustie links.

It is a long drive from St. Andrews to N. Berwick and while you could drive it in a day and return to Fife, probably if you were playing 2 courses down there, then a change in accommodation would be preferred.

Personally I absolutely love the town of St. Andrews and it is truly a pleasure to just spend an afternoon hopping from various pubs, cafes and shops. For me preferable to spending a few hours in the car.

Appreciate if you aren’t going to do another trip, you want to get Muirfield and N. Berwick in. But for me, Edinburgh and the courses east of Edinburgh is a whole other trip based around Gullane with a bit of sightseeing in Edinburgh built in.

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For St. Andrews courses (other than The Old Course), most will say the New Course is second best. I agree with this, but will add that I really enjoyed Jubilee and Eden also. It doesn’t sound like you will have time for all 4, but if you did, you could bring down your average cost per round on some pretty awesome courses. There is so much good golf in the regions you’ll be in, so you can’t go wrong, and you have definitely chosen the top courses. Changing or adding to your list would depend completely on how much time you want to spend on the road, vs. playing golf and hitting the pubs.

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Muirfield and the Old Course are kind of the untouchables, we have a Muir in our group so playing there is kind of a must. With that being said, I’m not opposed to have a change in accommodation, so would that be the better plan?

If you can get shoulder rates in May then go for it or try the last week in April it does make a difference , this year we had a cold spring so the courses were a good month behind growth wise.

For us Brits, I’d totally agree with you. We think a 30 min drive is forever. But spending a lot of time in the US I can say with some certainty that the Fife to Lothian drive is, literally, nothing to Americans.

My stepfather used to drive 16 hours from Idaho to San Jose every week and think nothing of it. Even sitting in what we call traffic round Edinburgh and over the bridge is child’s play to people used to 12 lane highways and state capitals 7 hours drive from their house.

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If you wanted to just focus on one spot, East Lothian is tough to beat. Less than an hour from EDI airport to N. Berwick, and then roughly 15 awesome courses within a 30 minute drive. Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane, Dunbar, Luffness, Kilspindie, et al. I rented a really nice house in the village of North Berwick, and it is costing less than $550 per man for a week (everyone has own bedroom). Happy to share all of my research, and I’ve got a ton of it. I love the golf trip planning process, so tend to get a little crazy. Of course, you could do something very similar in Fife, with St. Andrews as a home base.

As the Cad says, the drive is only a problem if you think it is.

If you were just doing Muirfield, then probably best to just do it one day and drive back to St. Andrews.

But if you were doing N. Berwick also then a change in accommodation will get you more time on the ground. I’d imagine you will have some nice accommodation options in N. Berwick.

It looks like they are wise to our plans:

Muirfield - no such thing as a shoulder season, it costs what it costs
St Andrews - 4/1 to 4/15 is shoulder
North Berwick - 3/1 to 3/31
Carnoustie - 4/1 to 4/15

It makes a couple hundreds $ difference not going in the shoulder season. So it looks like middleish of April is the play.

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Courses are getting wiser to it these days , we met a group of Swedish guys at Castle Stuart this year and thats the way the play in the shoulder season but courses are changing it ,shoulder season was always 1st October now its 1st November onwards.

It does make a big difference in cost i know i book our trips every year also very pound or dollar saved on golf is another pint of Stout or Gin in the bar

I know the golf courses can be up for debate, but what about places to stay and transportation?

On our golf trips in the states we have stayed at everything; hotels, villas, VRBO, so we are up for anything. Ideally looking for a good centrally located place to stay that won’t break the bank; i.e. the Old Course Hotel.

Transportation wise, is it better to rent a vehicle that can tote us all around? Hire a driver? Multiple vehicles?

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Try Airbnb we used it in inverness this year and was superb, depends on your budget but if it was me i’d hire 2 cars and drive myself

If you are on a budget, def look at caravans. Basically small cabins, they are actually pretty comfortable and you can prep some food to save on eating out for 3 meals per day.

There’s a few sites on the outskirts of St. Andrews and in fact all around Fife, Carnoustie and East Lothian.

April is a great time of year to go to Scotland, it wont be cold and if it can be lovely weather. We did Inverness in April and came back with sunburned noses. It gets dark at 8.30pm in mid April so 36 holes is easy…thats what we did.

Lots of good advice above, my tuppence-worth…you are ticking off all the big courses on the East Coast, is that what you really want to do? I played the Old Course for the first time this summer, and it was magical so def do try and do that. St Andrews agreed, its a lovely college town, you should def spend a couple of nights there. However, St Andrews isnt Scotland, and it isnt the be all and end all of Scottish golf either. If you want to see the country, I’d very much recommend driving up to Inverness and playing Dornoch, Nairn, Moray, Castle Stuart, Brora and so on…the drive up the A9 is spectacular, right up through Highland Perthshire…it’s 3hrs, you guys drive further than that for lunch.

Muirfield I’ve been lucky enough to play with a member, but I cant recommend it for a lads trip. They dont exactly go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome at that place, personally I’d rather spend a whole day at North Berwick where they even have a sign welcoming you as a Member for the Day. Every time I play the West Links at Berwick I want to go straight back out.

Lastly you guys should all stay in Edinburgh for a couple of nights. Its one of the great cities of Europe, where else can you find two UN World Heritage sites in one town?

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Courses
If the Old Course and Muirfield are non-negotiable, I think you’d be best served having two portions to your trip, one in St. Andrews and one based somewhere in East Lothian.

From St. Andrews it’s not far to Carnoustie, Crail, and Elie if you feel the need to play something other than a Links Trust course.

Wherever you decide to base yourself in East Lothian would allow you easy access to Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane, and many more options than it’s worth me typing out.

Either of those places would provide more than enough golf to fill six days without going to the other, but sometimes the group dictates where you go.

Transportation
I’m cheap (and a control freak when it comes to driving) and would say to rent and drive yourself, though with eight people, you’re looking at two or three large vehicles to be able to fit all the clubs and luggage, so it may be worth checking on the price of a bus (I really have no idea on those costs, but I would have to imagine it would be more expensive).

Lodging
Does everyone need to stay together? In a town like St. Andrews, the options are so wide ranging. If someone wants the experience of a room in The Old Course Hotel, let them. If someone wants to stay in a B&B located across the street from the Dunvegan and about 75 yards from the 18th green on TOC, I have a great recommendation.

-Seemed like every caddie I talked to said “Royal Dornoch is the greatest course in all of Scotland.” So it’s the one thing I would if I go back.
-Damn Kingsbarns was fun.
-Stayed at The Dunvegan Hotel and that was an absolute blast. The bar would close and at last call the bartender would pour 30 pints for us and put us in the side room to play cards as late as we wanted followed by camera-phone lit putting contests on the St. Andrews putting green.
-Feel free to post in the credit card points thread or PM me if you want help getting there. I got all of the air travel “for free” with points and miles.