Travel tips: How to save money on a Scotland golf vacation
Scotland can be an expensive golf destination - expensive enough that some golfers can only afford to experience the thrills of St. Andrews or the whiskies of the Highlands once in their lifetime.
But travel golfers who book and play Scotland's golf courses wisely can make it back again and again. Here's a few tips on how to save enough cash on your vacation that you'll be able to return.
Scotland golf vacation: Money-saving tips
Go during the shoulder season: Consider traveling during April and October. The weather can be a little spottier and a little chillier, but practically every month in the British Isles is a crapshoot. You can save about 25-35 percent during these shoulder months, and enjoy less crowded hotels and golf courses. There's also enough daylight these months to play 36 if you're up to it as well.
Off-season golf is even cheaper, often discounted more than 50 percent, although you're more likely to get bad weather for several days in a row and daylight is sparse.
Drive yourself around Scotland: If you have four or less golfers in your group, self-driving can save you big bucks (or pounds sterling). Otherwise, most golf packagers agree you're better off pooling your money and hiring a coach.
Keep an eye out for last-minute deals: A few years ago, it was practically unheard of to book a golf vacation to Scotland or Ireland just a few weeks out. But in recent years, demand has slowed a little, and if you're willing to be flexible with dates, you can score some great last-minute deals (normally reserved for travelers coming from Great Britain or continental Europe).
Open competitions: Most clubs in Scotland have "open" competitions, where the entry fee is almost laughably less than the usual visitor's fee. These are competitions held by the club that welcome both members and visitors and take place in a variety of formats, depending on the club and competition.
While the competitions are often very cheap, many require signing up the fall or winter prior to the competition, because they're extremely popular. Royal Dornoch Golf Club's Carnegie Shield is one of the most popular competitions, and it sells out almost instantly. WeeYellowBook.com offers the best compilation of amateur open dates in the U.K.
Don't play all Open Championship courses: You're probably going to want to play a couple of Open venues when you're in Scotland, like the Old Course at St. Andrews or Carnoustie. But because they're so famous, they can charge a great deal more than the neighboring golf links, which, in many cases, aren't all that inferior. No Open rota course's green fee is less than £130 in peak season. That's more than double what a lot of great golf links will charge, and they will certainly leave you satisfied in their own way.
Centralize your golf: Scotland looks small enough on a map, but if you try and see the whole country, you're going to burn a lot of fuel. The Highlands are beautiful, but the courses are scattered far apart and are even further from Glasgow and Edinburgh, the two airports your group is likely to fly into. The two regions that will require very little driving, yet are rich in golf, are both near Edinburgh: St. Andrews and East Lothian. You can do a week or more of golfing here and not ever run on empty.
Package deals at the new resorts: The older clubs generally don't do golf packages with participating hotels, like they do in Myrtle Beach or Spain. But the newer five-star golf resorts like the Old Course Hotel and Fairmont St. Andrews offer package deals where golf and lodging come at a discount when booked together.
November 9, 2009