Scotland: Plan yourself or through a tour company?


#1

My Dad and I are planning a Scotland trip for 2019, hoping to travel sometime between May and June. I requested a quote and itinerary from Golf Scotland and was a little surprised by the price. We are looking at a 10 day trip and would like to play at least 10 courses. The only requirement is a stop at St. Andrews. As its the trip of a lifetime I am not opposed to spending the money, but I also have plenty of airline and hotel points I am looking to unload.

Anyone have experience with both methods of travel? Also with a 10 day trip, would hoping around the country be advisable?


#2

I’m from the UK so I’ve never done the tour operator thing but thought I would give you some info to get you started.

There are essentially 3 golfing hubs in Scotland that you’ll want to look at.

The first is, obviously, The Auld Toon, St Andrews. Other than the Old course, there are several others, including the New, Jubilee, Eden, Castle, Kittocks and, just down the road, Kingsbarns. Carnousite is just up the road and easily drivable.

The second is Lothian, which run along the coast east of Edinburgh. This has perhaps the biggest concentration of world class links courses, from Muirfield, North Berwick and Gullane, as well as newer course like Doak’s Renaissance.

The third is Ayrshire, which runs south west away from Glasgow on the west coast and includes Turnberry, Troon, Dundonald, Prestwick and tracks like Western Gailes.

Any one of these regions is worth a full 10 day trip on it’s own, but as you’re looking to do the whole lot you can drive from one to the other in 2 - 4 hours, depending on traffic. It would be possible to base yourselves at just one hotel for each of these 3 locations, so you’re only base jumping twice. You can fly into either Edinburgh or Glasgow and get a rental car, with either of the 3 locations only a couple of hours away. Do the car rental in the US before you leave though, as its much cheaper.

As for hotels, you’d need to do some research. I don’t think any of these regions are spectacularly well served by the big chains (IHG, Hilton, Marriott etc), though you could choose to stay in Edinburgh for the Lothian segment and you’d have every hotel there. It would just mean a 1-2 hour drive each day to the course. There is a Fairmont just outside St Andrews (the Kittocks course belongs to them) but I don’t know if there are any other big chain hotels in the town. Booking hotels is pretty straightforwards though.

The biggest issue is the cost of playing and whether a company can get you better deals. Most courses have websites so just look it up and cost it out. It could be worth an email to see if they could do you a deal but don’t expect it in high season. Compared to the US most UK courses, even the Open venues, are pretty reasonable. You’ll need to work around Muirfield as they only allow visitors on certain days but other than that they are mostly accessible. Also, book the Old Course, but if you want to spend another day or two there you can get a 3 course pass for about $200 and play on 3 courses which are chosen at random by ballot each day.

Outside of those three areas there are some spectacular courses that are more isolated. Royal Dornoch is one such example, but it’s near Inverness, which is a 5 -6 hour drive from St Andrews. Also up there is Castle Stuart but that’s about it (funnily enough Mike Keiser is trying to get permission to build another mega complex right by Dornoch, which, if it happens, would turn that whole area into a major golf destination). There is Trump International near Aberdeen, if you don’t mind giving your money to the orange faced fella. Machrihanish and Machrihanish Dunes (designed by David McLay Kidd) are worth a trip but it’s a seriously out of the way spot hours from anywhere.

Also, just so you know, there is a ferry terminal at Cairnryan which is about 30 mins from Turnberry. From there a ferry to Belfast is only a couple of hours and both Royal County Down and Royal Portrush (which will hold the Open next year) are about an hour away. Might be worth considering as a little bonus for a day or two.


#3

Never done it myself but had this conversation very recently with a fellow I play golf with a few times a year who does a golf trip once or twice a year.

He used to use a travel company exclusively, but the more trips he did the more he started enjoying doing it himself. He did find he paid a premium using a travel company (he is an accountant, so he does actually track this), however he got guaranteed tee times, which he felt was worth it depending on where he is going. Like you, he went to Scotland to play the old course, so he used a travel company to guarantee the tee time. So in your case, if you can guarantee the tee times I would use it and then you are going over with little to no stress.

Same as you, he has points to burn, so the trips where he is burning through them he books on his own and then he chooses a more generic place to go which chain hotels, easy flights, etc.

I believe he uses this company (not 100% sure), which he says are great and he found was very competitive in pricing. http://www.athlonegolftours.com/


#4

Great advice thus far. As the Cad says, it’s probably worth contacting the clubs directly to get a feel for availability and pricing at your chosen time. Then you can build a picture of flights and accommodation around that. If you’re focusing on Ayrshire, St.Andrews and Lothian then a car is ideal. That’s all easily drivable with Glasgow and Edinburgh airports close at hand.

I live in Prestwick so would strongly recommend a few days in Ayrshire - some wonderful courses on the west coast. Happy to help if you’re needing any local knowledge.


#5

Buy this book. It will answer all your questions and save you a chunk of cash compared to using a tour operator. And no, I’m not the author.

https://www.amazon.com/Golf-Scotland-Travel-Planning-Profiles-Courses/dp/0971032653/ref=dp_ob_title_bk


#6

Almost no reason to use a tour company for only two people. You will overpay significantly. If you feel comfortable driving in the UK, rent a car and you will be able to cover an entire region. I just got back from Scotland in May and did it very cheap on hotel and airline points. Greens fees and food were our largest expense by far.


#7
  • just a follow up.

I mentioned above that Keiser was trying to get planning permission for a resort at a place near Dornoch called Coul Links. He just got it this week. Coore & Crenshaw are booked to design the first course. It’s going to be epic and change that whole area for golf. Watch this space.