Recently, when we saw the Instagram posts of one of our Local Golf Advisors, we knew I had to learn more.
Brandon Webb, on the cusp of 200 golf courses reviewed at Golf Advisor, just returned from an epic 10-day, 13-round trip to Scotland. He resides in Alabama but recently had the chance to go to make the trip overseas with his family.
Webb's father entrusted Brandon with planning the trip. He chose not to use a tour operator and instead planned it alone. Fortunately, he began the process a year in advance. We reached out to Brandon and he shared some valuable tips and lessons learned from planning his trip:
Webb's Scotland golf itinerary
- Day 1: Arrived in Edinburgh at 7:30am. Impromptu nine-hole loop at Musselburgh on the way to a 3:15pm tee time at North Berwick. Then drove to St. Andrews and checked in.
- Day 2: Kingsbarns
- Day 3: St. Andrews - Old Course
- Day 4: New Course was full; played Crail Balcomie Links instead
- Day 5: Carnoustie, then drove north to Invergordon in Highlands
- Day 6: Royal Dornoch, then Brora
- Day 7: Castle Stuart
- Day 8: Royal Troon, then Western Gailes
- Day 9: Turnberry Ailsa Course
- Day 10: Prestwick
We interviewed Brandon about his grand tour of golf in Scotland. Here's what he had to say (Note: light edits for clarity):
Golf Advisor: Tell me about the inspiration for your trip.
Brandon Webb: This was my first trip going to the U.K. to play golf. The trip was for my son, who graduated high school. It was a gift from my father, and he let me tag along. My father gave us the option to play wherever we wanted, and we felt that taking a trip to the Home of Golf was the way to go.
I started planning roughly a year in advance. I made a list of all the courses we wanted to play, from Turnberry to Royal Dornoch. I sent emails to the club secretaries, and started getting responses asking which dates I was interested in. I was told they would be in touch with me when their booking diaries had opened. I took a large dry erase board and created a workable itinerary. Doing so was super helpful.
I rented a Peugot SUV through Arnold Clark (get used to driving on the opposite side of the car and road, it's a big adjustment), and the last thing I did was book our flights, roughly three months in advance.
As the itinerary shaped up I became intrigued - again through exhaustive research - with second-tier courses like Brora, Musselburgh, Crail, Elie, Panmure and Western Gailes. I began penciling in possible second rounds of the day at some of these places. I didn’t book them, however, because I wasn’t sure if we’d be up for it.
I was warned during my research not to try to hit all of the golf regions in Scotland. Pick one or two and explore them. I took that into consideration but felt there was no way I wasn’t going to experience Dornoch. And I didn’t want to miss Ayrshire. We made our itinerary work because of a couple things:
1. With just the three of us we were lean and agile.
2. Planning was done well enough to give plenty of time to get between places. The only close call was teeing off at Carnoustie at 3 pm, finishing around 6:30pm then driving almost four hours to the Highlands and our flat rental in Invergordon. We arrived so late that everything was closed and we settled on potato chips and microwave chicken sandwiches from a gas station for dinner that night! I wanted to see as much of Scotland as I could in the 12 days we were there and my two accomplices were just as game as I was. My only regret is that I could not find a way to get to Cruden Bay and Aberdeen.
When we played golf in the evenings at Brora and Western Gailes, we carried our own bags and pretty much had the course to ourselves. We didn't have any caddies, no competition, nothing. It was just us, and it was some of the best golf we played on the trip.
I believe that courses like Crail, Brora and Western Gailes are the glue that holds Scottish links itineraries together.
What was your favorite course in Scotland?
Royal Dornoch was everything I was told it would be. While I didn't play so great, I still enjoyed every step of the course. (Read Brandon's full review of Royal Dornoch).
What was your favorite 19th hole?
There is a debate about where to go celebrate after a round on the Old Course. My advice is go sit on the patio at the Jigger Inn because it is fun to watch other players come through 17 and rehash the day’s round. From there, move to the Dunvegan, which is the best pub in town ... and maybe the planet!
How did you secure your Old Course tee time?
We did not win the advanced ballot. I had left two open days while staying in St. Andrews in hopes of winning the 48-hour daily ballot. We struck out on those as well. So on Wednesday night after dinner and drinks at the Dunvegan, we decided we would line up at the pavilion and hope to secure a slot the hard way. All of my research said if you were in line by 3:30am you should get out. At 11pm my son walked over to see if anyone was there yet and there were two people in line. We arrived at 3am and were numbers 22 and 23 in the queue. I was disheartened and didn’t think we would be in position, especially since we viewed that day’s ballot and saw only 12 spots. We decided to stay anyway. We talked with others in line and got to know their story and that helped pass the time. Everyone in that queue is optimistic!
When the Links Trust staff arrived at 6am, the starter gathered those of us there in a semicircle and said he had some good news for us: several fourballs had canceled and he had 24 spots to offer. We were stunned and elated. It looked like we would get out, but since we were at the end of the pecking order we had agreed that we would play as singles if necessary. Unbelievably, when it was our turn at the desk, the starter had one 2-ball slot available. We would be playing together at 2:30pm. We high-fived all the way back to the flat and got some sleep in anticipation of that afternoon. That day was one of the best of my life.
What was the most memorable moment of the trip?
Playing 17 and 18 into the Auld Grey Toon on the Old Course with my son. The sun was setting on us; it was amazing. The memories I have after I parred 17 and 18, as well as standing on the Swilcan Bridge, will never get old.
What are some tips or key takeaways you learned from your first golf trip to Scotland?
When I first was looking at hotels, they didn't have rooms with two double beds. It was either one queen bed or two twin beds. I suggest you stay in an apartment or home through VRBO or Airbnb. They are more economical, and you'll get a real feel for what it's like to live there.
Reach out early to the golf courses. Since I inquired about my stay so far in advance, we received every booking on the date we asked about.
Next, hire a caddie if you can afford one. With their knowledge and experience on the course, they can point you in the right direction at every turn. They can save you some energy too by carrying your clubs, and it's always a good time spending the round with them by your side.
When you fly into Edinburgh, overnight arrivals usually land early in the morning, so an afternoon tee time becomes doable after a quick power nap or two.
I was warned that you shouldn't try to hit all of the golf regions in Scotland, but it's not true. It's possible, as long as you're efficient and organized with your planning.
Be sure to ask for VAT forms when you buy souvenirs from the pro shops. There's a 20 percent VAT tax that is built into the price of souvenirs, but there's an opportunity to save some money. Ask for the VAT receipt, fill it out, and turn it in at the airport, and doing so can reimburse you roughly 10 percent of the taxes you've paid.
Finally, don't forget to bring extra golf balls! Put them in a carry-on so you don't add weight to your suitcases or golf bag.
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