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