A trip to Britain to play fabled courses like St. Andrews and Muirfield is on the bucket list of most serious American golfers. However, creating a memorable golf trip to England and Scotland requires a little more than just making plane and course reservations. To truly get the most out of your British golf vacation, it’s wise to do your homework and be prepared for the similarities AND the differences between American and British courses.
A British golf vacation can be a trip of a lifetime. Make sure that you get the most enjoyment possible out of your golfing vacation by familiarizing yourself with the way golf is played in Britain before you go, bringing the right clothes, having your golf clubs shipped directly to your hotel ahead of time, and being prepared to walk the course.
Know the differences between British and American golf rules
The rules and the strategies in golf are somewhat different in Britain than they are in the United States. For one thing, British courses aren’t the perfectly-manicured landscapes that you find in America. They are harsher, with high grass, rocks, quirky greens, and uneven spots that become part of the hazards and the strategy. The pace is also generally quicker. Although most golfers walk the course in Britain, they play more consistently and finish faster. Most British golfers consider carts to be an unnecessary distraction.
Respect the wind
Understanding the winds in Britain is another key factor in having a good round there. In general, you’ll want to keep your ball lower to the ground in Britain than you would back home since high winds can quickly change the trajectory of a high, lobbing tee shot. Lastly, golf is much more of a community sport in Britain than in the United States. Far from being the exclusive sport it is in the U.S., the everyday citizen is welcomed onto the majority of Britain’s most challenging and historic courses. Here, you’re just as likely to be playing behind the local shopkeeper as the head of the local bank.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather
The British reputation for cloudy, rainy weather is well earned, and the temperature can change quickly. Most courses stay open in all but the most severe storms, so it’s important to bring a water-repellant jacket and a warm sweater with you, so you won’t have to exit the course in the middle of a round because you’re not dressed appropriately.
Ship your golf clubs ahead
Perhaps the surest way to ruin a golf vacation is for your clubs not to arrive on time. Sure, you can rent clubs, but not only is it expensive, renting is just not the same as playing with your own set of clubs. Plus, you have to get used to a different set at each course. You can avoid this scenario by having your golf clubs shipped directly to your hotel ahead of your arrival. This way you can be ready to hit the links the minute you arrive. Shipping golf clubs to Britain is affordable, convenient, and easy. Companies like Luggage Forward will even guarantee delivery on a specific day.
Don’t try and play every course
Trying to play every course in England and/or Scotland is a fool’s game. There are simply too many great courses to play in just one vacation. A better plan would be to pick one region and play just a few courses there. And, of course, if you only have time for one course, most golf enthusiasts and experts would advise you to make reservations for the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. Not only is this one of the oldest golf courses in the world, but the Old Course at St. Andrews is one of the most challenging. St. Andrews is widely held to be the birthplace of golf, with play dating back to the early 1400s. This course has also hosted the Open Championship (also known as the British Open) 29 times.
Bring food and drink with you
Unlike most American golf courses, which have ample food and beverage facilities both on and off of the course, British courses usually have limited food facilities. Most courses only have food and beverage service away from the course, usually at the main clubhouse. If you’re the type of golfer who likes to nibble and drink while you play, you’ll need to bring your own supplies.
Don’t assume you’ll be able to get a cart on every course
Golf carts, called “buggies” in Britain, aren’t nearly as prevalent as they are in the United States. In fact, many courses don’t have them available at all. Golf is a walking game in Britain, so you either carry your clubs or hire a caddy. Caddies in Britain work independently from the course, so you’ll need to make arrangements in advance for someone to carry your clubs. You can’t just show up and expect to hire someone on the spot. Ask the course or your tour operator ahead of your arrival for a recommendation.
Ask about “all day play”
In Britain, many courses offer an “all day” rate that allows you to play the course a second time on the same day at a discount. Not only does this bring down the cost per round, but allows you a second chance at the course where you can apply what you learned during the first round.