Before you even begin to reach for a keyboard or telephone to contact us, there are several essential things that you need to ask yourself about your golf vacation to Ireland or Scotland. These will include, but are not exclusive to the following – our ‘A to G’ of golf vacation planning:
a)…is for Absence!
How long can you afford to be away from home or your business for this golf trip? You’ll need to consider whether you want to golf on the day of arrival, to squeeze in that extra round. Or perhaps you’ll just ease yourselves in gently to get over the jetlag. If you are going on a ‘bucket list’ golf trip for 7-10 days, you might consider adding an extension. There may be an opportunity for a partner to fly out to join you afterward for some vacation time? Or you may be able to include some business meetings. The sky is the limit.
b)…is for Buddies
Who will be traveling with you? How many times have we sat with the guy who is first to say “I’m in” but when the chips are down, and deposits are sought, is nowhere to be found? Yep, we all know who you are! If you are ‘Group Captain,’ and are taking responsibility for deposits and payments, this is vital to understand early in the process of putting your golf vacation together. It will allow us to provide you with the most accurate quote we can. But more importantly, we can then make a start at securing your tee times and bedrooms. Some of the courses in the UK & Ireland will literally sell out every single visitor tee time. Royal County Down, Muirfield and The Old Course in St. Andrews are prime examples. That’s every, single, tee time. So your potential travellers need to be aware that when you are requesting their credit cards, it’s for a good reason! Delay and your ideal golf trip may not happen for another year!
Of all of the decisions you need to make when planning your golf vacation (trust me!), this should be the easiest. Whether a first-time visitor or a veteran of the fairways, we highly recommend that you avail of chauffeur-driven transportation, irrespective of what size your group is. The perils of Irish and Scottish roads have taken on mythical proportions over the years. While not just as bad as many would like to make out, there are some horror stories every year.
Choosing a chauffeur driven vehicle, allows you first and foremost to relax, sit back and enjoy the scenery between your hotel and golf course. It allows you time to chat with your fellow travelers without wondering if your ‘Group Captain’ is on the right side or the road or not. Most of all, you can enjoy those post-round libations safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to face that road-side breathalyser test!
It is true that some roads in the UK & Ireland are that narrow that they require one vehicle to pull aside to allow another to pass. It is also true that on others you’ll encounter more sheep than humans. However, the road network across the UK has dramatically improved in the last 20 years. Irrespective, we strongly recommend that you choose a chauffeured driven vehicle and we will be happy to advise on the vehicle that is best suited to your group.
One of the first decisions in your golf vacation planning process is where do you choose to play first? The obvious answer to that question is, of course, St. Andrews, the Home of Golf, the holy grail, where the game first began.
Or is it?
There is no doubt that The Old Course and the town of St. Andrews itself have something genuinely spiritual about it. However, it can also be the most challenging course at which to secure a tee time over anywhere else in the world. You have likely heard about the “Ballot” system that the Links Trust operates. Drawn two days ahead of play (except Sundays and tournament days), it is the Links Trusts way of ensuring that every golfer has at least the opportunity or chance to play The Old Course. Entries are accepted online, by phone or in person, and it closes at 2pm two days before play. The tee sheet will be available by 4.30pm the day before play. The more flexible you can be when you enter, concerning day/time, the better your chances.
It can sound complicated and potentially frustrating and expensive to commit to three to four nights’ accommodation in St. Andrews, enter the ballot each day, and still not get pulled out. But such is the demand for the Old Course tee times at peak periods of the year. There are other ways, however, to secure tee times at The Old Course in St. Andrews.
Each year the Links Trust opens up “Private Advance Tee Times” between a set of fixed dates from mid-August to early September. A random computerized ballot is then drawn within four particular categories, high, low and shoulder seasons as well as single golfers. The Old Course then notifies applicants in mid-October. This process is always massively oversubscribed, but it is still worth an application. If successful in the PATT, we can help you to arrange everything else around your tee time.
During the season you can also put yourself forward as a “single” golfer on any given day. The staff will allocate singles where gaps exist to make up a foursome, and while there is no obligation on the three-ball to accept a single, it is common for singles to be welcomed. The only downside to the process is that it is a first-come basis. It is not uncommon for golfers to wait in line like expectant fathers in a maternity ward in the hope of getting their name in the mix. Many will set up camp (literally) at the starter hut from 2am or 3am in an attempt to secure a tee time. It may get you one, but it isn’t much fun if you are a group of twelve and only two of you get the top prize!
Finally, and of course the easiest option, is to come to The Consummate Pro to secure you a guaranteed tee time. A much more accessible and straightforward process!
Perhaps after considering the above, you might think about easing yourself up to The Old Course and decide instead to go to Ireland. You’ve heard that Royal County Down (RCD) is ranked the number one course in the world by many, so that’s undoubtedly worth playing right?
Yes, it most certainly is.
But, then you discover that a tee time at Royal County Down is quite often more highly sought after and more challenging to acquire than even The Old Course itself! That you need to be planning at least twelve months in advance, and then be prepared to pay a substantial deposit up front. Once you have figured all that out and are on time with your credit card in hand, you discover that they are hosting a tournament on the exact dates that you want to travel, next year!
As you can tell, there is a good reason why The Consummate Pro exists. We help you navigate your way through these, ‘minor’ obstacles. Our golf vacation planning process produces customized golf vacations to the most beautiful destinations in the world.
Whether you and your buddies, friends or partners are on a first-time golf trip or have been a dozen times, you still have a lot to consider. Undertaking a golf trip to Ireland, Scotland or for that matter any other part of the world, is not just all about the golf. It is about embracing the history, culture and above all the people of these regions that create lifelong memories and unique experiences. For that reason, we at The Consummate Pro feel it’s crucial for you to consider some or all of the following when golf vacation planning:
– Is this trip going to be the “Bucket List” trip? Or do you see yourselves returning year after year to gradually explore each golf destination to the fullest before moving on to the next?
– Are you links golf course ‘trophy hunters’? In other words, are you only interested in tournament (host) courses, the Old Course, the Royal County Down’s and Royal Portrush’s of this world, or, are you willing to go off the beaten track to explore real links courses, the history of the game, its origins? Would your group appreciate the opportunity to play some great parkland courses that have hosted Ryder Cup and other major tournaments such as the K-Club, Druid’s Glen or Gleneagles?
– Do you want to play every day? If so, would you even go so far as to consider 36 holes on some days? Some fabulous courses can offer that without moving at all; Rosapenna and Ballyliffin in the north of Ireland, Turnberry and Gullane in Scotland for example. Or perhaps you would prefer to incorporate a down day to enjoy some sightseeing, culture, and heritage, maybe a whisk(e)y distillery or two perhaps?
– Then there are accommodations. What style, rating and amenities does it need to have? What room type does your group prefer, i.e. single rooms, or do you prefer to double up on trips. Perhaps yours is a couple’s trip, where non-golfer needs are to be taken into consideration. Are you looking for convenience, or are you after a luxurious castle slightly off the beaten track? A private home with the Lord and Lady of the Manor perhaps or a small family run B&B? We will explore all of these options and more.
f)…is for Flights.
The days of golf tour operators organizing flights on behalf of clients ended roughly at the same time as the invention of color television! And there are several excellent reasons why we don’t book flights any longer, many of which you will be all too familiar with.
Airlines work very much online these days, and in fact, if you’ve tried to speak to a human at an airline service center in the last ten years, and survived the wait, you will appreciate where we are coming from. Many of our clients have some degree of status with an airline these days and as a result, will quite often use air miles to upgrade or acquire seat preferences. It is also very rare that everyone in a group will choose or arrive on the same flight. This is something to consider when thinking about airport transfers, and also whether arrival day golf is a feasible option.
g)…is for Gamut.
Finally, when you agree all of the above, you’ll discover there is a sheer gamut of additional decisions to make. We will discuss these in “When we Talk”, and don’t worry, this is after all why you are here. It’s why we are in the golf vacation planning business – doing what we love.
When you have considered all of these elements you may wish to put your thoughts down in the MyConsummatePro tool and send them to us, this is a fantastic way to get the conversation started. We promise to revert within 48 hours with our suggestions and recommendations, and we will take it from there.