Updated: May 21, 2015
Planning a Golf Vacation in Scotland:When planning a trip to Scotland to play golf you need to first start with what golf courses you want to play. I recently planned a trip for 6 golfers in April 2010 and got involved in booking accommodations, getting tee times at all the great courses, securing flights from the US to the UK, and choosing restaurants and pubs that we would be eating at while in Scotland. We knew that we wanted to play the Old Course in St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, and Turnberry. Those were the guaranteed 4 that we wanted to test our skills on and it ended up that we needed to add a 5th course since you have to play a 2nd course when playing the Old Course (part of the booking process through the St. Andrews Links). I started the planning process back in September 2009 since that is the month in which you can submit your application to play the Old Course. Once you have that secured you can then proceed to book and get tee times at the other courses. Down below we have links to all our recommendations on getting tee times at all the courses with hints and tips on securing times and days that you need. There are Scotland golf tours that will do all the work for you, but they charge quite a premium and should only be used if no one in your golf party is willing to do a little legwork. I took on the responsibility of planning the majority of the trip for 6 golfers - I had to collect from my friends for things like prepaid advanced tee times, hotels, rental cars, etc.
After you have chosen the courses you want to try and play while in Scotland, the next thing you need to do is figure out a time of year to play. April is the month we went for as that is the shoulder season and rates were very reasonable at most of the courses for this time of year. Some courses require a mat to be used while in the fairways during the true winter months and we wanted to avoid that at all costs. The Old Course application took about 2 weeks to process - it's an old fashioned procedure where you email them, then they send a form in the mail, you fill out the form, send it back, then they send you a packet in the mail with the secured times and days. It's not always what you want, but you can work around it. The summer months are extremely busy in Scotland for US golfers so avoid this if you can. September and October are also shoulder months and a good option if springtime doesn't work out for everyone. When we played Carnoustie in April 2010, they said that they were totally booked for tee times in late June, all of July, and August. If you don't book early, then you are probably not going to get what you want and most likely be disappointed. That is part of the reason we started booking our trip almost 8 months in advance. Things do fall together once you get the time at St. Andrews and flights cost us about $1200/each from Portland, Oregon to Edinburgh, Scotland. We flew direct to Amsterdam and then took a commuter plane over to Edinburgh (EDI - airport code).
Scotland Golf Tours:There are several leading organizations that plan and book your entire Scottish golfing experience. Perhaps the most well known is Hidden Links, they will do England, Scotland or Ireland. They are highly recommended and take away the hassle of all the legwork involved. Essentially you show up at the airport, fly to Scotland, they pick you up in a large van, shuttle you back and forth from courses and to hotels. They offer self driving options for those that don't need a hired driver for the week. The Scotland golf tours offered by agencies like these are first rate and most customers are completely satisfied with their services. My only issue was the extreme cost to have all these services provided when I knew I could do most of them myself. In the long run, I wanted control of dates, courses, times, flights, etc. so I took on the project of planning everything and decided not to go with a touring company. You are looking at a minimum of $2500 (not incluing airfare) to play 4 courses, have 5 nights accommodations, and a rental car (that you drive). We were able to book the trip ourselves (with airfare included) for around $3700 and that included food and the extra course at St. Andrews. We split the rental car which helped out and food was very reasonable at pubs. It's not easy, but you can plan your own golf vacation to Scotland and save $1000's for your entire group.
Golf Vacations Scotland:Taking a golf vacation to Scotland is an amazing experience and one I will not soon forget. If you have fellow golfers you can trust in terms of paying you back, then definitely go for planning your own trip over there. I was able to get most of the initial booking done without too much trouble. The Old Course is the hardest to book in my eyes - too much back and forth - but it did work out just fine. Airfare is something everyone can do separately. Hotels are easy to book and reserve in advance - split the fees. You can save a few bucks if those traveling are willing to share a room (get 2 twins or queen beds). The other issue was driving a rental car in Scotland. I had previously been to Scotland twice and had driven there before. Driving on the other side of the car (yes, the steering wheel is on the right hand side) and other side of the road (yes, you drive on the left over there) can be a bit confusing to some and not everyone is willing to do this. I was very comfortable and most people can do this. The roads in Scotland are easy to navigate (except for places like downtown Edinburgh). I bought a good UK road atlas and found the directions to most courses to be easy to follow.