A Trip to Scotland...?

At the risk of maybe covering a topic that has been posted several times....I am trying to start planning a golf trip to Scotland for next spring (March or April). I will be traveling with my dad who does not golf, I will be playing solo. Price is not a huge matter but one that does come into play. I am finishing up at Coastal Carolina Univ. and will have my PGA class A card by the fall so I will obv. have it for this trip next spring. I am not sure what the deal is with any type of discounts that they offer for PGA members in Scotland, but if anyone has info. its greatly appreciated.
The trip will likely cover a 2 week span involved with golf and sightseeing. I have been given the go ahead to play as much as I want but likely somewhere in the 7-10 rounds of golf (hopefully). My father does not want to really go into many cities except for Edinburgh so he wants more of the ocean and countryside areas. He is a history buff and when Im not golfing I would be looking for history and real scotland places if that makes sense.
The main areas in Scotland we would likely travel in order and am looking for help with golf course selection and sightseeing are:
1) Edinburgh : 2-3 rounds of golf.

2) St. Andrews: 2-3 rounds of golf
a) The Old Course
3) Kintyre Penisula:
a) Macrihanish (This will be the only course I play here) But from St. Andrews traveling to the Kintyre Pen. is a bit of a drive so any sights on the way or courses that you recommend are appreciated as well.
4) Irvine Area: 2-3 rounds of golf
5) Anywhere from Irvine back to the Edinburg area for sights and golf courses as well.
I have waited to go to Scotland a long time and want to make the most of it as most do. I do not need to play the most magnificent courses with the grandest clubhouses and what not. I want views, atmosphere, and obviously a good course layout and conditions. Anyway I really appreciate any help and I am sorry if this has been answered before. I tried to look up posts and what not. I am still learning....
Thanks
Pahks
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I live in Scotland, I play most of my golf in the North East and Highlands so probably not the best person to give you advise. Your Dad is on the right track, if you visit Edinburgh you could quite easily miss the other built up areas, that said I live in a rural bit so may be biased. St Andrews is a great town, full of tourists in summer :-). Last time I played golf in St Andrews I was convinced we were the only 4 ball in town not from America or Japan. I am going to say something that will be sacrilege to some of my fellow Scots. The old course is the most overrated golf course ever, its not even the best course in St Andrews. I think it is way overpriced personally and would spend the cash elsewhere but I understand the attraction.
In Fife, Leven Links, Lundin Links and Scotscraig are all worth a look. The New course in St Andrews is superb, Jubilee is good too but bloody tough if it is windy. If you head east of Edinburgh Gullane and North Berwick are worth a look.
If you really want some proper countryside for your Dad you need to come to the Highlands if you can tweak your plan. If that is an option send me a PM and I will give you the info I live up that way.
With your PGA card you may be a bit different as you can likely get free or discounted golf, but my usual advice for folks coming here to golf is stay off the big names places you see on the TV and play the courses that host Scottish PGA events and Open final qualifying, these courses are every bit as spectacular but often much better value. For example, instead of Carnousite you could play Panmure, Monifeith and Montrose medal for about the same amount of cash. All for 4 are superb but 3 are much cheaper, you get the idea. One thing your PGA card won't get you is on to Kingsbarns or Castle Stewart. My buddy who is a member of the Scottish PGA told me they have to pay like everybody else at those courses.
If I can help at all with any info be sure to send me a PM.
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I agree that the Old Course is over rated....for nostalgia its amazing, as a course not so great (I lived in St Andrews for 5 years).
The best course in my opinion in the St Andrews area is Kingsbarns....simply stunning course, you can see the ocean on every hole, see carnoustie in the distance, awesome course, tough but fair. I would recommend playing Kingsbarns over any other in the local area.
Jubilee is also a great course, as is the New Course, though i personally dislike the New. Not that its a bad course, just it has a lot of 210+ par 3's that are ALWAYS into wind
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Thanks for your great posts. I know the Old Course is considered overrated and what not. But it is some where I have to play once in my life. If anyone has advice on great bars and courses in the areas I had posted that would be fantastic.
Pahks
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I completely agree with your comments on the old course - not worth the money. However - Kingsbarns, Gullane and North Berwick are a must - don't forget to take your hat off in the club house!
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There have been many posts regarding trips to Scotland and Ireland. Here are a few of the most recent; you can probably search for more:
My suggestion is to save the hidden gems for the NEXT trip. Without debating whether St. Andrews is "overrated", I think you will likely regret, for several reasons, not playing the "name" courses (Open rota and a few others) the first time you are in Scotland. There is lots of general info about Scotish golf courses on the web (travel sites, golf magazine sites, etc.) and most of the clubs have their own websites. My assistant and I have simply arranged most of my golf trips to Scotland and Ireland by email, phone, Google, etc. On one of my first trips I used a golf travel agent, but in that particular case my friends and I just didn't have the time to make the arrangements-- but the convenience came at a high price. In my opinion, a golf travel agent is mostly worth the cost of he can get a tee time that you cannot or you are deathly afraid of driving on the left side of the road (if so, hire a driver). The calculus of time vs. money is your call. I've had trips involving 36-54 holes per day and driving to another city at night; and some (with spouses) where we took the time to "smell the roses" and sightsee. Again, your call.
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The Old Course Overrated?
It amazes me everytime I see that, golf course ratings are a combination of the design, THE HISTORY, conditions and aesthetics. The Old is not a difficult course nor does it have a Pebble Beach backdrop. The beauty of the Old is in the history, the shot making required and the routing. While at first glance Kingsbarns is a beautiful course to look at and can be quite resistant to scoring, its not even a true links course! Its faux-links, meant to look like a links course while having to play forced carries and approaches all in the air.
I'm not going to knock anyone for their opinion but I think those who feel cheated for paying the heafty $ to play the Old have yet to play any of America's Top courses. Pebble Beach, Spyglass, Cypress, Pasatiempo, Olympic Club and now Bandon Dunes are great golf courses but there not worth the money either.
I'd agree that any trip to Scotland is worth trying the Old but, getting about to try some others, Gullane, Western Gailes, Old Musselburgh and Nairn.
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The Old Course Overrated?
It amazes me everytime I see that, golf course ratings are a combination of the design, THE HISTORY, conditions and aesthetics. The Old is not a difficult course nor does it have a Pebble Beach backdrop. The beauty of the Old is in the history, the shot making required and the routing. While at first glance Kingsbarns is a beautiful course to look at and can be quite resistant to scoring, its not even a true links course! Its faux-links, meant to look like a links course while having to play forced carries and approaches all in the air.
I'm not going to knock anyone for their opinion but I think those who feel cheated for paying the heafty $ to play the Old have yet to play any of America's Top courses. Pebble Beach, Spyglass, Cypress, Pasatiempo, Olympic Club and now Bandon Dunes are great golf courses but there not worth the money either.
I'd agree that any trip to Scotland is worth trying the Old but, getting about to try some others, Gullane, Western Gailes, Old Musselburgh and Nairn.
I agree with what you say about Kingsbarns, but I grew up playing on likes and I don't think the old course would make my top 25. Add in the price and I would not rush back. That said plenty folk are desperate to hand over the cash and play it. Each to their own.
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Will find out myself this august.
Old course and jubilee
Kingsbarn
Muirfield.
a few others.
some courses are not about the quality of the course as much as the history or place.
Already taking a look at the distilleries for "samples"!!!
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I highly recommend spending part of your trip in the Highlands, whether you're playing golf or not. If your dad is into scenery, you're not going to beat the views of the bens and the coastal areas in the north of the country (and Skye if you have the time). There are also some great courses in the north part of the country. The only one I played was Royal Dornoch (which was outstanding), but there are several others that are also very highly rated.
Also, the Old Course is worth it, especially for your first trip. The feeling of walking onto that first tee looking over that hallowed ground is one you'll never forget, and it's just great to experience all of the history and the famous holes and bunkers as you play your way around the course. Hitting the tee shot on the Road Hole, walking on the Swilcan Bridge, and walking up the 18th fairway with the backdrop of the R&A Clubhouse (& that other building whose name escapes me) like you've seen a thousand times during the Open is a thrill for any serious golf fan/player. To skip it because some people say it's overrated (I disagree) would be denying yourself a great experience, IMO.
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anybody played kittocks or torrance in fife?
Playing them next week in the British College Championships
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Thanks for all the posts. Mainlinegolfer those links were great. When I go I will play the old course, it is something I have to do at least once, overrated or not. As far the countryside and what not. Im completely open. I would love to get to the north, but I had planned on trying to get west to Macrihanish which I really want to play. Where are you guys suggesting to go towards the north? Towns, Cities?
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If I were you I would definitely play the Old, many people play it once and think it's overrated, yes it has wide fairways, but there's far more to the course than that, read Darwin's view on the Old before accepting that it is overrated. If you skip the Old you'll miss some of the finest holes in golf. If you are a pro they will let you play off the medal tees, so you'll get far more of a test than playing the forward tees.
Personally I think kingsbarns is far more overrated, great for the views but the holes can't compete with the old, as has been mentioned it's not a traditional links.
If you are going to Edinburgh try to get on to Muirfield, very few people would call that overrated, every hole is amazing, and the do a great lunch.
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My .02$
If possible try the west coast of Scotland. Troon, Turnbery and Prestwick are quite good. For some local flavor try Western Gailes, the innkeeper was a member and treated us to a very nice lunch. A private club for the working class, a foreign concept for us in the States.
We played the Ladies course at Troon as an 8some @ 10PM it was a blast.
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I've done this trip three times since 1998. I have a few suggestions. I noticed that you're looking at the March/April time frame. I've done my trips in May and June and encourage you to push your trip into the latter part of April, if possible. Even in May, I've encountered some pretty cool weather. Also, the later you go, the more you can take advantage of the longer days--you'll easily get 15 hours of sunlight by the end of April and perhaps more the more north you go. The length of days changes quickly up there. Looking at a sunrise/sunset calendar for Glasgow, the day's sunlight increases from 14 to 15 hours in the last two weeks of April. The big advantage to trips before June is that most golf courses will not be overrun with tourist golfers, making it easier for you to get tee times.
Given the length of your trip, the amount of sunlight, and the reality that American golfers in Scotland are generally going to find the pace of play much faster (it's still not unusual to play 18 in three hours although I've noticed that the pace of play appears to be slowing), I think you can realistically play more than 10 rounds of golf and still have plenty of time for sightseeing. Most Scottish courses will allow nongolfers to walk the links with players, and your father might find the scenery breathtaking. My three trips have hardly been limited to golf only even when I was playing a course (and sometimes two) each day. If you get to the Highlands, you and your father might enjoy a tour of one of the many whisky distilleries. Edinburgh is a great town for sightseeing with a number of museums and historical sights. Reasonable people can disagree about the value of tourist sights, but I have very much enjoyed my two visits to Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. Walking around Edinburgh can be a treat in itself. When I was there in 2008, we stumbled upon an outdoor bagpipe performance and a martial arts exhibition, side by side.
I've done many of the highlight courses in Scotland and for a first trip, I would tend to agree you'll want to do those as well. But, when I went two years ago, I was with a friend who hadn't played golf for long and who would have ultimately found many of the courses way too hard. So I set up a number of rounds at what might be considered third-level links courses--places like Arbroath, the Moray New Course at Lossiemouth, the North Berwick Glen Course, and Brora. I enjoyed these courses as well.
Keep in mind that you're likely to play many courses only once so don't get frustrated about your score. For my 2008 trip, we started at North Berwick Glen. Because of a last minute decision to play the last day of the trip, we ended up back at the Glen. My friend and I both agreed that the course was a lot easier to play the second time around because we knew the layout of the course and knew where to hit the ball.
Although I enjoy them a lot, links courses are funky in design to American golfers. Many courses have a ton of blind shots, and lots of mounds and such create odd bounces that will confound you about picking out the right line for your shot. I played with a caddy once at Carnoustie, and he gave me a line that I swore would just take me off the fairway. I trusted his judgment, and of course, he was absolutely right because the mounds bounced the ball back into the center of the fairway. Had I tried to go straight down the center of the fairway, I'm sure I would have ended up off the fairway on the other side. Also, the ever present wind on links courses will definitely affect either the line or amount of distance of your shot, sometimes both.
In no particular order, I have played and enjoyed the Old Course, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Prestwick, Elie, Western Gailes, Machrihanish (by the way, the trip here can be spectacular but given the length of the trip and the relative lack of sightseeing to do once you're there, I'd definitely suggest playing several rounds), Murcar, Moray Old, Tain, Dunbar, Brora, Nairn, Nairn Dunbar (two separate courses in the same town of Nairn), Cruden Bay, Fraserburgh, Crail, and Arbroath. Even if there is disagreement about the merits of the Old Course, I have heard that the New and the Jubilee are well worth playing there. I have not played Royal Troon, Turnberry, Gullane No. 1, Royal Aberdeen, North Berwick West, or Muirfield, but some are obviously in the British Open rota and others are almost always warmly spoken of.
Speaking of Muirfield, getting on as a single is notoriously difficult (as is getting on in general). Muirfield is an exception in this regard because I've generally found it easy to get onto courses. You should contact them as far in advance as possible to make arrangements. I have tried twice and been rejected both times, with the reply that the club does not accept single players. Your status as a PGA pro may help in this regard, but I'd definitely check way in advance to be sure. The Old Course is somewhat hard to get on, but I've never had much of a wait when I showed up as a single and put my name in. There is a lottery for groups that's drawn the day before play to see which groups get tee times, but when I've been, singles weren't allowed to participate.
I'd also make sure that your status will help you at any course in regards to price. Few courses are much less than $75 per round now. Several courses (Troon and Turnberry for sure) are more expensive than the Old Course, which I think is somewhat underpriced at 130 pounds (just about $200). Pebble Beach ($450 when I played there last summer) and Pinehurst No. 2 (close to Pebble in price) are much more expensive given the relative equality of those three courses in the history of the game. Except at the lesser-known and third-level kinds of links, golf in Scotland can be a major expense.
Almost all of these courses have websites, and most of the websites have a link for "visitor information" that gives you days and times that visitors may book tee times and greens fees plus some information on nearby accommodations. I'd also highly recommend the book, "Blasted Heaths and Blessed Greens," by Jim Finegan. There are other books about Scottish golf, but Finegan's proven a good tour guide for me.
Enjoy your trip. I'm already making plans to go back in 2011 so that I can hit some of the courses I've missed and return to some favorites.
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I to am making the trip with 7 other buddies, probably once in a lifetime. Here's my line-up:
May 23 1 Round Gullane #2
May 24 2 Rounds Archerfield ( 1 at the Fiedra Course/ 1 at the Dirlton Course )
May 25 1 Round Muirfield
May 26 2 Rounds at North Berwick
May 27 1 Round Bamburgh Castle
May 28 Guided Tour Edinburgh / Free Day
May 29 1 Round Kingsbarns
May 30 1 Round Kingsbarns
May 31 1 Round Castle Course
June 1 1 Round St Andrews Old Course
June 2 1 Round Gleneagles Centenary Course
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This is helping so much...I would really like to push it back to may or even june to increase the chance of weather but its really not an option for me. I work as an assistant golf pro now so i will be trying to fit it in between the seasons at the golf course. I generally will be working an April to October season. And then a November to March or even April (You can see my dilemma). I guess in my case I would rather play in worse conditions than not get to go at all...Im not so familiar with the highlands area but a few of you have mentioned that I should defiantly consider it. I'll have to do research on where this is and what not...sry if thats a dumb statement. I could probably get in more than 7-10 rounds and I probably will as this is my chance. It will be very hard to pick and choose which places to go to...
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On the site seeing front make it up to Culloden battlefield, it was the last major battle between the English and Scots and is pretty cool. Do a little scenery around the river Spey and make sure to see Blair Castle. You have to visit a distillery or two, my favorite is Edradour the smallest one in Scotland. When I was there the guy shoveling peat literally stopped to give us a tour.
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If you are driving to Machrihanish which is a long drive on very windy roads after you leave Balloch, you could try and get a game at loch lomond which is amazing and the scenery is fantastic.
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Good ideas. Battle Sites are a definite good call.
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Lots of good information posted. I live over here and have played all couses menitoned and really you can't go wrong. Only potential issue could be weather at time suggested. Dollar exchange rate should help these days
There is a new course at Machrihanish Dunes which I played in November and is highly recommended
Suggest you contact Morton Golf Holidays based in Kinross and let Peter suggest some itineraries. He has many contacts both on the golfing side and in arranging non golfing activities. He should be able to use some contacts on PGA side.