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Golf carts are rare on Scotland courses. If you don't want to walk it, be sure to check with the club beforehand.
Golf carts are rare on Scotland courses. If you don't want to walk it, be sure to check with the club beforehand. (GolfPublisher.com)

FAQ: Scotland golf courses and vacation planning

By GolfPublisher Staff,
Staff Report

How expensive are Scotland's golf courses?

If you're on a golf vacation to Scotland, chances are you want to play the best courses. Among the most expensive are Kingsbarns (£150), Turnberry (£135), Muirfield (£135) and the Old Course (£125). Highlands courses like Royal Dornoch are much cheaper due to their relatively remote location (£75).

In the off-season (October-March) green fees are often reduced by half; some course hotels also offer discounts. To name just one mouth-watering example, you can stay at the Carnoustie Hotel and play all three of the famed club's courses for a little more than a high-season round at the Championship course.

How can I get on the Old Course in St. Andrews?

Getting on the Old Course is easier than you might think. There are a variety of options, from writing the club up to a year in advance to entering the daily lottery. For more information, check out this Sweet Spots podcast.

What are "golf tours"?

A variety of travel operators offer golf tours in Scotland. This is a good option if you want to leave detail work like course and hotel bookings to others, or don't want to drive. Several tours offer guaranteed Old Course tee times. These tours are more expensive than booking a trip yourself, but they can be very convenient.

Click here for a list of reputable packagers who book Scotland golf tours.

Are Scottish golf clubs exclusive and formal?

Clubs run the gamut in terms of formality but you'd be surprised at how casual some are, especially the courses at St. Andrews and in the Highlands. Royal Troon and Muirfield have somewhat high-falutin' reps, but many of the Scotland's best-loved and most historic courses, including Royal Dornoch and Prestwick, are exceedingly open and welcoming. Just about every club however does expect you to take your cap off when you're in the clubhouse.

Where should I stay in Scotland?

Check out GolfEurope.com's Scotland lodging recommendations. Each of these hotels have been stayed in and reviewed by one of our writers and have been approved for golf travelers.

Can I ride a cart in Scotland?

Many of Scotland's newer clubs, such as the Duke's course at St. Andrews and Spey Valley in Aviemore, are starting to offer golf carts. Other clubs only offer carts to golfers with disabilities who can provide a doctor's note, and many have none at all. Check cart policy with the individual course ahead of time. Carts are often very expensive, upwards of £40 per round.

How do I get a caddie?

Caddies are available to the public at most of the high-profile clubs. In the high season, most courses have caddies on hand and reserving one ahead of time, while encouraged, isn't required. In the off-season some clubs don't staff caddies or require you to reserve in advance, so be sure to call ahead if you're interested. Caddie fees for 18 holes usually range from £40 to £55; the standard gratuity is £5 to £10.

How different is golfing on links compared to inland courses in America and Europe?

Quite different. The sandy soil on the Scottish coast is often fast and firm. Greens are usually very quick and very large (in the case of the Old Course at St. Andrews, massive). If you watch the pros on TV in Scotland, you'll see they seldom use backspin. You have to run shots up from 20 to 30 years in front of the green. Wind can also significantly affect your putts, so be cautious.

On this Sweet Spots podcast, TravelGolf.com staff writer Kiel Christianson offers his tips on golfing abroad.

How is Scottish cuisine?

Scottish food has come a long way, though traditional battered fish and chips still reigns on every block in every pub. Trendier restaurants offering a multitude of world flavors sprung up all over the country in recent years. Dinners are still usually on the heavy side.

Can I golf year-round in Scotland?

Pretty much, although the winter months can be dicey. The Highlands can get quite cold, and fierce coastal winds make for tough play in the Aberdeen area. Green fees are quite cheap this time of year, but sunlight also runs out by about 4 p.m., so your window for 18 is small. Certain areas of Scotland usually receive several snowfalls during the winter, but on calm, sunny days winter golf here can be quite pleasant.

I'm looking for good nightlife as well as golf. Where should I stay?

St. Andrews was a college town long before it became the world's most famous golf retreat; accordingly, it has a slew of fun bars that stay open relatively late. There are also lots of golf-themed bars near the Old Course that draw locals as well as tourists. Aberdeen is another university town, on a bigger scale. And Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, pulses with great nightspots, from low-key traditional pubs to trendy new cocktail bars.

What currency does Scotland use?

Scotland uses the British pound, which at this writing is very strong against the U.S. dollar. The exchange rate as of November 2006 was about $1.89 to the pound. The euro exchange was 1.48 to the pound.

Is it difficult for tourists to drive there?

If you are used to driving in the United States, Canada or continental Europe, driving in the United Kingdom can be a bit challenging at first. Of course, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and you drive on the left side of the road. On highways and two-lane roads (motorways and dual carriageways, in Brit-speak), keep to the left and pass on the right, or you'll get some angry motorists behind you.

Roundabouts, a frequently used an alternative to traffic lights at intersections, also take some getting used to. After a couple days, though, you should fit right in.

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