How to play eight Top-100 golf courses on a single golf vacation

If you like playing the world's best golf courses, you're going to love today's tip.

That's because it explains how you can play no fewer than eight of golf's greats in a single, efficient trip.

Sure, playing these courses together was possible in the past, but a new logistical twist has make it a heck of a lot faster and easier.

The "twist" is that the Kintyre Express ferry ( has added a new route between Bonnycastle, Northern Ireland and Campbeltown, Scotland.

This means you can easily combine a trip that includes Northern Ireland's links masterpieces -- Royal County Down and Royal Portrush -- with rounds on Machrihanish and Machrihanish Dunes, which in the past were often overlooked because there was no easy way to reach them.

The crossing takes 90 minutes and will be offered twice a day Friday through Monday from May 27 through September 26 (a third crossing will operate when demand warrants and private charters are available, too). It costs £30 per person one way and £55 round trip.

The Kintyre Express, a fleet of fully cabined, 36-foot, 12-passenger boats, can also connect golfers to Machrihanish via its original, Troon-to-Campbeltown route. This service is available every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from April through September. The 75-minute journey costs £50 per person one way and £80 round trip.

So, theoretically, you can now create a golf vacation itinerary that includes Turnberry, Troon, Prestwick and Western Gailes on one end, and Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, and Portstewart on the other (with a round on historic Machrihanish in between). That's four world top-100s and four GB & Ireland top-100s in a single trip!

The only potential hitch is that service is on demand -- ferries may not run if fewer than four passengers have booked passage. Therefore, tickets must be purchased in advance.

Have you played any of these great courses on your golf vacations? Ever take the Kintyre Express? Please share your comments below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine,, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Commented on

We just got back from doing the Scottish East Cost. Previously, I have done N. Ireland which included Portrush, Port Stewart, and Royal County Down. Will be watching and paying attention to see if logistics improve. We will do the West Coast next trip and will attempt to pick up RCD and Portrush if it can be managed.

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It is only an hour from Troon to Loch lomond and another hour to Gleneagles and 40mins from there to St Andrews and another 40mins to carnoustie so you can do them all in Scotland in one week uf you bring your wet weather gear!

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The Aryshire Coast is worth it. Great golf and then hit the Kintyre Peninsula. Machrihanish is one of the best and the new Dunes course is a McKlay Kidd course. There is also Dunaverty down there. Neat little spot.

And then also try Barrassie at Kilmarnock and Bogside at Irvine. And if you really have the time stop at the Ilse of Arran and play the 12 holer, Shiskine. What a treat. Then you cross over to Royal County Down and Royals of Portrush and Stewart. All in Ireland. These are all true links courses-fun to play and memorable. The Island Club and Ardglass are not far from RCD and worth the time and effort to play. It is all good.

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I have played them all except Machrihanish, and that will be on next year's trip. I plan on using the Kintyre Express. There is also a second course called Machrihanish Dunes that recently opened. Western Gailes is a real gem. In my opinion, much better value for money that Turnberry.

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My group of Pilgrims has played all the courses you mention in this piece, and they are all outstanding. We have tried to incorporate the ferry service from Northern Ireland to Campbeltown into our trip planning but the service is passengers only (not autos) so you have to have other transportation on each end. That is not such a problem in Campbeltown because both Machrihanish and Machcrihanish Dunes are both close by; but in Northern Ireland Ballycastle (not Bonnycastle) is quite remote. Since we drive ourselves (four guys to each 9-passenger minivan; Arnold Clark is a great source for these) we have not been able to make the logistics work very well. We played Mach. and Mach Dunes last summer and also Machrie on the Isle of Islay. Machrie is a must if in the area -- ferry service to Islay leaves from Kennacraig, 32 miles north of Campbeltown. Also played Askernish on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides -- for that you need the Loganair flight from Glasgow to Benbecula. And also Castletown Links on the Isle of Man -- flights from Glasgow or Manchester. So much golf -- so little time.

Commented on

Good tip.

We were at Turnberry and explored this option to Macharinish, but the rates shown were very relative to how many guys you had, if they did not have a full boat, no go, you had to charter private and that was very expensive and not worth the price

Great trip tho if they get the transport better. If you can, just take a chopper.

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Yes, the other courses are in the "Great Britain & Ireland top-100," not necessarily the "world top-100," as noted above.

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Actually, according to Golf Magazine, it's 5 top 100s: Turnberry Ailsa, Royal Troon Old, Machrihanish, Royal Portrush Dunluce & Royal County Down.

The Kintyre Express is excellent and quite affordable for an exclusive booking with a group of 8 to 12.

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