Travelers planning a golf vacation at prestigious courses in the UK may need to act quickly.
Some of the UK’s top venues are selling out, not just this year, but for spots – or tee times – in 2023, in part due to growing confidence in international travel among wealthy Americans.
Travelers are drawn to the opportunity to play at venues played by some of the game’s best players, and the high-end courses in close proximity to each other make Scotland a particularly popular ticket.
Gordon Dalgleish, a Scotsman who has run US tour operator PerryGolf for nearly four decades, says he has never seen so much demand from Americans wanting to play high-end courses in Britain, such as the Old Course in the seaside town of St. Andrews and Muirfield, east of Edinburgh.
“These are the courses that are filling up much faster than what I’ve seen in 38 years. Some are already full,” he told CNBC via email.
PerryGolf has nearly sold 2,023 places to play the Old Course, which hopes to host Tiger Woods at the 150th Open Championship in July. The star said in a tweet that he had withdrawn from the US Open next week due to health issues, adding that he planned to be ready for the UK event.
Dalgleish said travelers are booking trips months earlier than usual, especially those who have hoarded money during the pandemic and are ready to spend.
“If you look at the typical type of American golfer population, maybe middle-aged to older, they have a lot more money and less time than they did two years ago,” he told CNBC. by telephone.
Now even well-known people with money to burn are being turned away, Dalgleish said. He said “list A businessmen” contacted him but “just didn’t understand that [bookings] are not available,” he said.
According to The R&A, which governs the rules of golf for most of the world.
The best courses in Scotland
Old St. Andrews Course
St. Andrews is home to seven courses, and the “Old Course” is where the sport of golf is said to have originated some 600 years ago. Jack Nicklaus won the open championship, or “Open”, there in 1970 and 1978, and is known for features such as the Swilcan, 700 year old Bridge and the 7 foot deep Hell Bunker sand trap.
The best way for overseas travelers to secure a place on the Old Course is through an approved provider. US companies PerryGolf and SGH Golf are on the list, along with others including Scottish company DP&L Golf.
Jack Nicklaus won the 1970 Open Championship held on the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland. The course remains one of the most popular with American visitors.
R&A Championships | R&A | Getty Images
However, if you’re willing to take a risk, the Old Course is holding a tee time ballot 48 hours before the game starts. With half of the places allocated in this way, the lottery system “enables golfers who are in the area to still have the opportunity to play”, according to its website.
Another option is to go solo. Solo golfers, who show up on game day, are sometimes grouped with two or three other players.
Ian Murphy, a Brit who lives in the south of England and says he takes three or four short golf holidays a year, recommends contacting hotels or tourist offices like Visit Scotland to see if they have opening hours. departure available. Alternatively, it is possible to soak up the atmosphere of the Old Course without playing it, he said.
What is a “links” course?
Links courses are the original style of golf course, originating in Scotland. The term ‘links’ comes from the Old English ‘hlinc’, which means ridge or rising ground, and refers to golf courses on the Scottish, Irish or English coast which are sandy and hilly. These courses tend to be difficult to play, as they are exposed to the elements and differ from well-maintained park courses, which often have trees and man-made features.
“You can actually just walk around the golf course, and it’s almost as good as playing there,” he said. “You can stay in a nice guest house in St. Andrews, spend half an hour watching people play on the Old Course [and] lunch at the clubhouse.”
Murphy – who has managed to play the Old Course three times in the past two years due to a lack of pandemic-related overseas bookings – also recommends booking off-season tee times. Also, he said, the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable, so going in the height of summer doesn’t guarantee sunshine.
Trump Turnberry, on the west coast of Scotland and the first course to host the Open in 1860, is a favorite of American club professional Kyle Phelps.
“It’s a layout that is challenging but allows you to be rewarded if you play well. The views are amazing and the fact that the halfway house is a beacon is absolutely spectacular,” he told CNBC. by email.
The course has tee times available this summer, although some weekend spots have sold out, according to the club’s website.
The lighthouse stands among the ruins of 13th-century Turnberry Castle, and Phelps, who is the Rhode Island Country Club’s chief golf professional, said part of the appeal of Scottish courses is that their topography is different from the well-groomed courses in the United States. .
The Ailsa Course Lighthouse at the Trump Turnberry Resort. The Trump Organization purchased the course in 2014.
David Canon | Getty Images
Courtyards may feature burns or streams, as well as large areas of heather plants, double greens — which have two holes to play instead of one — and pot bunkers, which are small and deep in contrast to shallower sand bunkers, Phelps said.
The Trump Organization has owned Turnberry since 2014 and claims to have spent 200 million pounds ($253 million) on its restoration. The ownership is not without controversy: days after the attacks on the US Capitol, the R&A, which organizes the Open, declared that it would not hold the championship at the club despite it being owned by the company of the ‘former president.
Dating back to 1744, Muirfield will host the Women’s Open Championship in August. Reports suggest tee times for summer 2023 are fully booked, but a rep told CNBC that while May through September are in “high demand,” there are still a few slots available during this time, as well. only in April and October of next year.
A woman plays golf in Muirfield, Scotland in 2019 as the club opened its doors to women for the first time. It will host the Women’s Open Championship in August.
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images
Play multiple courses in one trip
Perry Golf guests on a six-night visit can enjoy several top courses, such as the Royal Troon Golf Club, which is set to host the Open in 2024, Carnoustie Golf Links – where golfing legend Ben Hogan first played links golf in 1953 – and Kingsbarns Golf Links, where American swimmer Michael Phelps made a “monstrous” 153-foot putt in 2012.
Such a visit could cost around $12,000 per person, including airfare and expenses, Dalgleish said. “Our demographic is made up of people who are members of multiple clubs who spend a lot to join clubs…and it’s part of their way of life,” he explained.
US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links on October 5, 2012.
Ian McNichol | AFP | Getty Images
Kyle Phelps said being able to stay in a hotel and play at multiple venues is the best part of golf in the UK.
“On a long weekend you can play The Old Course, Carnoustie & Kingsbarns,” he said. “In the United States, that would be equivalent to playing Pine Valley, Merion and Pebble Beach on consecutive days.”
Another high-demand course is one of Murphy’s favorites: the Royal Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands in the northeast of the country. Being so far north, the sun sets about an hour later than in London, which provides “spectacular” views for longer, Murphy said.
Scotland’s Royal Dornoch golf course has seen “unprecedented demand” from those wishing to play in 2022, according to its website.
Lucinda Lee / Eyeem | Eye | Getty Images
“It’s just stunning in terms of the views over the Dornoch Firth and out to the North Sea, and the town itself is a beautiful Scottish Highland town with an old cathedral,” Murphy said. The course is “right in the center of the village as well, so it’s a central part of the community.”
But due to ‘unprecedented demand’, bookings for the club’s ‘championship course’ are closed this year, according to the club’s website, and golfers are urged to register online for future availability. .
Just outside Aberdeen in northeast Scotland is Murcar Links, a “hidden gem” with a “warm and friendly” environment, according to Murphy.
“It’s right on the coast, with views of oil rigs and wind turbines in the sea in the background,” he said, calling it “a nice quirky little golf course.”
It is nine miles from Aberdeen Airport and has bookings available for this summer which start at around 130 pounds.
Castle Stuart Golf
Near Inverness Airport is Castle Stuart, opened in 2009 and designed by the late developer Mark Parsinen and architect Gil Hanse, both Americans.
Sweden’s Alex Noren plays at the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links on July 8, 2016. He went on to win the tournament.
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images
Murphy likes the course for its service: “Everyone knows your name the moment you arrive… Everything is going so well between the arrival, the check-in, the meal at the clubhouse, the trip to the driving range, the visit to the first tee , the man serving you drinks half way… It’s more like American service, but on a personal level,” he said.
The course is currently promoting packages for October and November, and golfers are encouraged to email for availability.