What experiences on a Scottish golf trip may be different from home?

You're excited. It's your first golf trip to Scotland. But what might be different about being in Scotland - both on and off the course - from what you are used to at home?

Here's a few pointers on what to be prepared for on your golf trip.

Are you playing links golf?

Links in the UK are a unique set up due to the terrain. The classic links have often been copied but rarely matched. Most older Scottish links have very little artificial manicuring, bunkers may be deep and fairways peppered with bumps and hollows – hazards that take your ball any which way they want. There may even be a fair few blind shots. Fairways can be tight, rough can be penal.

You'll find the value of the bump and run approach to the green as high chip shots don't tend to work in strong winds.

That's what you came to play. Enjoy it.

The 8th hole of Cruden Bay golf course

Non-golfers on golf courses

Golf courses, even private members' clubs, are generally not closed off to the public. Links especially will have pathways used by walkers and dog walkers, often as a route to a nearby beach or coastal walk. Walkers are supposed to be mindful of golfers, but equally, golfers need to be mindful of them. The walkers might not always be locals and familiar with the direction of golf play.

There is a road that runs right across the 1st and 18th of the Old Course in St Andrews and unbelievable as it may seem many visitors to St Andrews appear oblivious to the fact golfers might be on an actual golf course.

Local norms and rules

Please be aware of local rules. It may be you are requested not to change shoes, or clothing, in the club car park. Clubs generally request members and visitors not to wear hats in the clubhouse. There may not be a spike bar and you need to change out of your golf shoes.

Most courses clearly publish their preferences, on their website, on the scorecard, or in the clubhouse. You'll get a far friendlier welcome if you respect their requests.

Golfers normally walk in Scotland

Don't expect ride on golf buggies at every course. Many high profile courses have very limited buggies and only make them available to golfers with a disability or medical certificate.

Links are not natural buggy terrain and Scottish courses weren't built with buggy paths. For example, the two older Gleneagles courses, the King's and the Queen's don't permit buggies. Only the newer PGA Centenary course offers buggy hire. If you are not used to walking then factor this in to your itinerary. Don't plan 36 holes a day of walking championship standard courses every day for a week if you rarely walk on the course at home.

The 16th hole on the Gleneagles King's course

Buggies are becoming more common than they were but make sure you know if they are available where you want to play. If you need one, request it when you make your booking.

Golfers play in the rain in Scotland

Which means, if it rains, you do too. There are no 'rain checks' in Scotland. Even with heavy rain it is normally just rain, thunder and lightning is rare. If the powers that be deem the course playable, then you play. Standing water tends to affect links courses, with their sandy base, far less than inland courses.

Accommodation may be 'compact'

If you are staying in small bed and breakfast properties, or smaller hotels, rooms may not be generously sized. They probably won't have a lift (elevator) and there is very likely at least one flight of stairs to your room. You will have to carry your luggage and find space for it all in the room.

A few properties may offer bag storage, or even request you do not take your golf bags to your room. If any of this is an issue, check with the accommodation what their arrangements are before you book.

Bathrooms in older properties might be on the petite side and snuck into small spaces. If you must have a shower; must have a bath; don't want a shower over the bath; check with the accommodation what they offer when you book. Ask at the beginning and you won't be upset by the facilities in your room when you arrive.

If spacious rooms are a must look for deluxe bed and breakfast properties, larger hotels or even chain hotels.

And all accommodation in Scotland is non-smoking.

Fuelling up at the start of the day

A Scottish breakfast will generally set you up for the day. A full Scottish breakfast could include porridge, kippers, eggs, or a plate of sausage, eggs, bacon, tomato with perhaps a mix of some or all of black pudding, haggis, baked beans and fried potatoes. Along with toast, juice and maybe some fruit plus tea or coffee.

Bed and breakfast properties, and most hotels, include breakfast in the overnight rate. It is not a supplementary charge. At budget hotels, such as Premier Inn, breakfast is an extra.

Most accommodation will also offer lighter options, including cereal, fruit and pastries, which is often called a 'continental' breakfast.

Evening dining

If you are visiting small towns in high season there are probably limited dining options. In larger towns the most popular restaurants may get booked up well ahead. To be sure of eating where you want, when you want, book ahead. Covers may be limited with relatively small numbers of tables.

Very importantly, if you do book ahead, please don't just not turn up, don't cancel at the last minute and please don't book multiple venues for the same night - blocking options for everyone else. Let the restaurant know well ahead that you have changed your plans so they can use the space you would have taken, rather than them losing valuable business that is very unlikely to replaced by walk-in custom.

Refunds – an additional word of caution

When a UK business or service provider says deposits, or other payments, are non-refundable, they absolutely and definitively mean non-refundable. Have travel insurance to cover for the unknown that might happen between when you book and when you are meant to travel.

Finally, have a great trip and make the most of your golfing experience in Scotland.

Further information:

Published: 24 March 2022