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9 tips to plan the perfect golf vacation to the UK and Ireland

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Having organized countless golf trips in the past for both customers and friends, I can safely say we’ve gained considerable experience at Golfbreaks.com in putting together tours of the British Isles… and it’s about time that we passed some of this knowledge on to you. GolfWRX asked us for our “tips for tour,” so we put pen to paper. Being blessed with incredible courses on this side of the pond, it’s always a pleasure to share the advice.

Here are 9 tips to plan the perfect golf vacation to the UK and Ireland.

Plan Your Dates in Advance

Ardglass County Down (Northern Ireland)

Ardglass County Down (Northern Ireland)

When you consider our famously unpredictable weather, it’s key to get the dates of your trip right, particularly if your vacation is to Ireland or the West Coast of Britain. The best conditions are usually between mid-May and mid-September, although April and October have also been known to also deliver the perfect setting for golf.

If you were to come in the Spring or Fall, the main advantage would be the big savings on green fees and accommodation, but there is always the chance of being caught out in a strong coastal breeze.

Choose Your Group (…wisely)

If you’re considering the possibility of taking a vacation across the pond, you’ll probably have a core group of buddies who are interested in coming along for the ride. With some perhaps undecided or maybe on the periphery, it’s a priority to ensure that you get a guaranteed commitment from them, as anyone dropping out can cause logistical nightmares and lose you money from advance payments. Therefore, always aim to get a deposit from your potential group members, which will in turn tie them to the trip.

We’d also recommend that you choose your group wisely. Are these the kind of guys and gals you would be willing to spend all day and night with over an extended period? Remember, you’ve got to put up with their on-course quirks and ensure that they won’t fall off the planet after their sixth pint of Guinness! This is a dream trip, one you’ve been putting together over months, so you want to bring your first team along.

Set Your Budget (…and stick to it)

st-andrews-old-fife-scotlandsilcan-bridge-copy

The Swilken Bridge at the Old Course at St. Andrews (Scotland).

Before you start planning which courses you want to play, it’s always wise to agree a budget with the group beforehand, which makes decision making and planning easier. The more prestigious venues are typically more expensive — and you will be tempted to blow your budget — so make sure you set and stick to your limit in advance, which will simplify the process of deciding which courses to play.

If you’ve set a tighter budget, we suggest that you play one or two of the biggest names (such as Carnoustie or Turnberry in Scotland), but then compliment your trip with some more of the lesser known courses, which are often just as good (if not better). Base your vacation around those must-play classics you’ve identified, and the rest can then be selected through some research, which Golfbreaks.com can help with if you’re unsure.

Additionally, it’s worth remembering that your budget also helps to define what accommodation you can afford. Choosing a modest 2-3-star hotel will allow you to spend more on the golf itself. The key, as always, is making sure that everyone in the group is in agreement on the budget and subsequently where you play and sleep!

Consider the Standard of Your Group

As you’re going through which courses to play, do be mindful of how the layouts match the standard of your group. Links golf and championship-length inland courses can play extremely difficult (especially the former) if you’re not used to bump-and-run golf and the wind is up. Unless you’re a single-digit handicapper, or have a penchant for self-torture, then try to include a few sub-6,500 yarders. After all, golf is supposed to be fun.

And don’t think that by choosing shorter you’re playing lesser courses or compromising on quality. Scotland and Ireland feature an abundance of wonderful designs from golfing royalty such as James Braid, Old Tom Morris and Willie Park Jr., which are thrilling and inspirational to play. (Courses just didn’t need to be so long in those days!)

Book in Advance

No. 18 at Kingsbarns Fife

No. 18 at Kingsbarns (Fife, Scotland)

Be ahead of the game when booking your vacation, as big-name courses are quickly snapped up in the peak months. Availability at hotels rooms in popular towns like St. Andrews and Killarney can also be hard to find nearer the time, so we recommend that you complete your booking at least three months in advance of your travel date. Do the same for your flights, as prices are prone to escalate rapidly nearer the time. (Flight booking data indicates that long-haul flights are typically at their lowest 4-6 months from departure).

Don’t panic, however, if you do suddenly have a gap in your program and plan an impulsive trip to the British Isles. You can still easily find suitable accommodations and excellent courses to play if you’re flexible with your schedule.

Contact a Tour Operator

OK, so it’s no surprise that we’d suggest this, but golf tour operators typically do have in-depth knowledge of the regions and can recommend an itinerary that’s perfectly suited to your budget and requirements; which may include some of those lesser-known courses that we mentioned earlier.

Taking advantage of that expertise could also save you hours of research and booking time, not to mention the seemingly endless time spent in front of accommodation and transport booking sites. Google research has shown that people on average visit more than 30 websites when putting together a regular vacation (…and that’s not even a golf vacation). If you believe that time is money, then using an operator is a worthwhile saving.

You might be suspicious that tour operators charge a premium for their services, but at Golfbreaks.com we actually aim to save you money compared to packaging a trip yourself. How, you may ask? We can do this due to our strong relationships with hotels and courses, and based on the volume of business that we have brought them over the past 18 years we are able to secure excellent rates that are passed onto our customers.

See the Sights!

Château du Loch Ness Urquhart Castle

Château du Loch Ness Urquhart Castle (near Inverness, Scotland)

Although golf is the main attraction, there’s more than just incredible courses in the UK and Ireland. We have a rich culture and history to celebrate, so do try and make some time to see the sights (including medieval castles, distilleries, museums, and maybe even the Loch Ness Monster), in addition to sampling the local brews, cuisine and nightlife. We’d also suggest to take a tourist day in Edinburgh or Dublin when you arrive, or even taking a day off from hacking around a links course to explore the area, relax and re-charge those batteries. This can often be the best day of the vacation… depending on how well you’re playing.

Outline Your Daily Itinerary (…and factor in some slack)

Distances in the UK and Ireland may seem small compared to North American standards, but be mindful of the fact that routes to the courses are often single-track, so the likelihood is that it will take longer to get where you’re going than you may have anticipated.Try to factor in some extra time when planning your daily itinerary. This will ensure that you won’t miss any tee times and will reduce any stress of traveling in an unusual location.

To Drive or Not to Drive?

hand and car key

Following on from the previous point, we do drive on the left-hand side of the road in the UK and Ireland; but don’t be intimidated by that, as you’ll quickly get the feel of it, and using Satnav will put to ease any concerns about getting lost. Renting a car is also the least expensive way for your group to get around, and it provides you with the freedom to chart your own course and be flexible. However, make sure that you rent a large enough vehicle to take you, your luggage and clubs. Hiring a large estate car, MPV or small van should be ideal.

If you are still put off by the idea of driving yourself, however, then why not get someone to do it for you? Chauffeur-driven minibuses are popular with visiting groups. They relieve you of the stress of having to remember which side of the road to drive on, and offer you the luxury of enjoying a few post-round drams. Your driver will no doubt be able to entertain you with some local stories and insights. You’ll have to pay a bit more for the service, but it’s certainly worth considering.

The last option is to book transfers and taxis to all your destinations, either in advance or during your trip. If you are sticking to one destination during the vacation (such as St. Andrews), this can work well, but if you are doing a lot of traveling then we would recommend against it.

So, there we are. Hopefully that’s now made the prospect of organizing a trip to the British Isles less daunting. Now, what’s stopping you?

If you do require some assistance, then we at Golfbreaks.com would be delighted to plan your trip and help to save you time and money. We can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed; the golf over here really is priceless!

Simply contact our Golf Vacation Specialists at usa.golfbreaks.com or call us at 844.676.4653 (toll free). Golfbreaks.com’s UK and Irish golf tours start from just $640 per person for 4 night and 4 rounds.

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Guy Proddow is a Director and Co-Founder of Golfbreaks.com, a recognized market leader in golf travel. The company was set up in 1998 with the specific goal of making golf travel both easy to organize and affordable to all golfers. With over 150 employees worldwide and offices in Charleston South Carolina, Windsor, UK and Copenhagen, Denmark, you'll benefit from 18 years of experience and an expert team passionate about golf travel. In 2015 more than 220,000 golfers booked their vacations with us. Golfbreaks.com genuinely cares, and always aims to give you the very best price for your vacations, as well as save you time. In fact, 98 percent of our customers have told us that they would book with us again

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Chris C.....

    Sep 26, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Just a quickie – here’s a 10th – “Golfers Guide to Ireland”. Contains details of every course in the Ireland, some 300 plus. It was my bible and I used it to realy great effect on a circumnavigation of the Emerald Isle, playing a dozen outstanding courses. Go to http://www.golfersguide.ie for details.

  2. Mat

    Sep 25, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Wow – missed a very big point on driving. Sure, you can rent a car and it’s not that hard to get it figured out… IF YOU HAVE AN AUTOMATIC! Many rentals are manuals, and often if you don’t specifically request it, you’ll get stuck with one at the airport. It’s disorienting enough to drive flipped, but shifting the normal pattern with your left hand is not a simple thing.

    So if you rent, reserve an automatic, and don’t assume that you’ll get one unless you ask!

    • Hold it, that lag

      Sep 26, 2016 at 2:07 am

      Is it really that hard? If anything I’d look at it as just another one of the many new experiences to savor while abroad. As long as I’m not trying to emulate Chris Harris I don’t imagine I’d have too many issues.

  3. DaveMac

    Sep 24, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    While the bucket list courses might be essential for those travelling for once in a life time trips, they are still over priced, simply a case of supply and demand.
    If you are up for a bit of advance planning and you have an official handicap you can play some fantastic courses of the medal tees, at a fraction of the standard green fee price, by entering some of the many open competitions (individual, tri-am, Texas scrambles) run throughout the season. If the group consists of over 55’s the choice of opens is larger with a senior open on somewhere every weekday of the season.

    Here is a link to Scotland’s opens database, obviously it is a bit sparse at this time of the season but it is fully populated by end of February.

    https://www.scottishgolf.org/event-manager-events/

  4. alan

    Sep 24, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    the only thing i would disagree on in contacting a tour operator. there is really no need to unless youre lazy, just want to spend extra money, cant type, cant read, or cant operate a telephone. we did a trip with 4 guys, sat around drank some whiskey and planned the thing in a couple hours. then over the next week we got our tee times, hotels and car rental. we are talking about 1st world countries that speak english. it isnt hard.

    some would argue tour operators are ruining golf in the UK, but thats another isssue.

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

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