What nobody ever tells you about golf vacations in the UK and Ireland

Do you remember your first golf trip "across the pond?"

Do you also remember "discovering" some things you wish you would have known in advance?

I certainly do, and to this day, I'm convinced my buddies purposely left out these small but important details...

Jet Lag
During your overnight flight, you're going to get little sleep but lots of alcohol, so when you step off the plane early the next morning, your every instinct will be to put your head in a bed.

Advice I'd give a first timer: Don't do it. Instead, take the latest flight you can and do whatever possible to sleep on the plane. But even if you can't, just land then go play golf. The faster you get on local time, the better.

Rental Cars
Again, while sleep deprived and bleary eyed, you'll be expected to drive a stick-shift vehicle on the opposite side of the road (while sitting on the right-hand side and operating the stick with your left hand). Oh, and if you're head isn't mixed up enough, you'll immediately come to a traffic circle, or "roundabout."

Advice I'd give a first timer: Request an automatic transmission. And, get a mini van or pack light. The rental cars tend to be quite small for groups with golf clubs.

Practice Facilities
OK, so you're less than alert and ready for golf, but it's nothing a few range balls can't fix. Well, that's a problem, too. While there are a few exceptions, you're generally not going to find a practice range (or a conveniently located one) at the great, classic links courses in the UK and Ireland.

Advice I'd give a first timer: Do some light stretching before you tee off and concentrate on just keeping your ball out of trouble for the first few holes.

Halfway Houses
Likewise, most of these great golf courses were designed to play nine holes out (away from the clubhouse), nine holes in and assumed all nourishment could be carried in a flask.

Advice I'd give a first timer: If you're going to want anything to eat or drink while on the golf course, put it in your golf bag before you tee off.

Golf Carts
You've probably heard that golf carts aren't widely used over there, but you may not realize just how hard they are to come by. Most golf courses will only provide a golf cart if you have a doctor's note stating you need one for medical reasons. Some courses, like Ballybunion's Old course, do not allow carts for any reason. Most locals simply carry their own bags, or pull/push them on a "trolley."

Advice I'd give a first timer: Take caddies, but also take note: you must often arrange for them in advance. It's not like here where you can just show up and say, "I'd like a caddie." Over there, you're often playing at private clubs and the caddies are usually members who need some lead time.

Weather
This is another one we've all heard about, but it's probably not emphasized enough.

Advice I'd give a first timer: You really do need to be prepared for all kinds of weather -- wind, rain, and cold -- at almost any time of year. While it cuts against "packing light," bringing two pairs of waterproof golf shoes might be the smartest move you'll ever make. Also, leave the umbrella at home -- it won't do you much good and will just tie up your hands. Again, in addition to offering tons of local knowledge and colorful stories, this (helping out in bad weather) is where caddies can be invaluable.

Those are some things I had to learn the hard way.

What about you?

If you had a friend who was taking their first golf trip to the UK or Ireland, what advice would you give them?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying 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, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
31 Comments
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Bill Woods

Walker Merriman is dead wrong about how to secure EUROS when u land.

Rors

As a Brit reading this I can't help but chuckle.... The disparity between both sides of the Atlantic approach to how golf should be played. Still the rather austere view of golf without comfort was best illustrated when I went to Uist with my father. A holiday of fishing and golf on an old Tommy Morris course sounded spectacular. My father's only concern was the lack of trolleys not carts,given the size of his cart bag! Nonsense I declared, this is a course designed by the famous Tommy Morris so there will bound to be a club house,in fact we may even struggle to get on. Result: we pitch up. No club house and no trolleys just an honesty box for the £6 green fee. I'd like to think it was my supreme golf that beat my father that day but given the colour of his face on the 10th hole after lugging his huge bag over the uneven terrain of the first 9 I am inclined to think otherwise. It still remains my only victory over him. We always google the course beforehand to make sure there are trolleys at least which is a shame I think!

Butch Taylor

In anticpation of the howling winds and driving rains, I took every piece of wool clothing that I own to Ireland. In nine days it never got below 80 degrees and hardly a breath of wind! I roasted! You never know what you will get. Most of the rooms we rented did not have airconditioning either - it was terribly hot. Be prepared. If you rent a car, parking is usually a problem near your pub or hotel. Even thought it may be bucket trip, a day off from golf is nice. Finding a place to smoke a cigar off the golf course is not easy. Courses are difficult, take lots of balls. Have fun! I did not intend to sound so negative, just trying to be helpful!

Jim Geisling

Only had one trip to Ireland, did nothing to prepare, but luckily I did just about everything that was recommended. Biggest one is getting off the plan and getting onto the course, The adrenaline will keep you going and you will sleep like a baby that night. Also did not get a stick shift. Wise decision

Lew Haines

Read the comments and some good and some bad advise - my 2 cents - started Ireland/Scotland/England/Wales/adventure after age 65 and as a lone golfer most of the trip for a total of 16 trips - and am going this summer at age 85 - don't be a wimp - rent a car with shift as it's half the fun of the trip (only precaution - start your morning driving on the left and everything will be fine) - a single can play any known golf course constructed prior to 2010 by just walking on and talking nicely to pro/starter or secretary except Muirfield - and that includes St. Andrews. If you are over 75 you will have trouble renting car in Ireland but rent in UK and take ferry or rent in Belfast. If you are playing a less known course and if you are lucky enough to join a member/local be sure and buy the first beer and your day will be complete. Have fun.

jim mossop

I just got back from playing 9 of the best courses in Scotland. My impression is that people do it to complete the bucket list. In reality the weather is often bad, the courses not that great and very expensive. You have to book the courses months ahead and there are huge cancellation penalties. I would spend you thousands of dollars playing Carmel, Arizona , Florida or Maui.

Linda

can anyone tell me at which courses caddies are essential in Ireland.
We are two couples coming from New Zealand, and will be playing The Island,
Lahinch, Doonbeg, Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville amongst others.

David Moe

Just got home from 16 days in England. Have been to Ireland and Scotland 3 times each. First time in England and the golf is very good. Very understated but the best courses are available to everyone. Lots of driving on the twisted and narrow roads. Golf around London is quite expensive but very good. Smaller coastal courses in England and Wales are better value. Breakfasts included at B&B's and lunch is cheap. Dinner is the only extra. No place like the Dunvegan Hotel in St. Andrews. Play all you can as tomorrow is promised to no one. It is great fun to talk to other golfers and see where they have been and where they have played.

Mike

After well over 200 trips to Scotland, I can say I agree with everything except the jet lag. But in truth everyone's body responds differently. This is what works for me. If you are on an overnight trip, try to get to sleep as soon as you can. Then when you arrive at your final destination, shut it down for an hour. You will be rewarded not only when you wake up but also at 10pm at the pub when the rest of your mates are starting to fall asleep.

Another recommendation I would make is this; forget driving. Hire a driver. One drink, one exhausting round or one roundabout might make you do something that you will regret. In many parts of Scotland where there is density of golf, taxis will do the trick. In Ireland, you need a driver.

My last recommendation is related to clothing. Any one day can serve you up an abundance of different weather. Wear layers and peel off or put on as conditions dictate. 2 pairs of waterproof (not resistant) shoes are a must as are rain gloves.

Steve Pearson

Putting on a pair of shorts and your rain pants every day saves a lot of room in your luggage and a lot of hassle on the golf course. Play match play and don't worry about your score.Hire a driver.Take your cap off in the clubhouse.

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What nobody ever tells you about golf vacations in the UK and Ireland
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