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Fantasy trip: A month in Scotland UPDATED: DAILY ITINERARY ADDED


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Let's just say I'm still working remotely next year and I can convince my wife this is a good idea. Let's assume I can take one full week off work, and for the rest of the month I would work M-F, 9-5 ET, which would be 2-10 Scotland time, and maybe I could eke out an extra day off here or there. What would that dream itinerary look like? I was first thinking I'd rent an apartment for the month in St. Andrews, although maybe it's better to bounce from  region to region a bit. Some other details: I'd be traveling alone, so flexibility is maximized. It would be my first trip to Scotland, so I'd have some acclimating to do. I prefer to fly in and out of EDI since there are direct flights from my local airport to there.

 

Off the top of my head ...

Week 1: St. Andrews - arrive on the weekend to get acclimated. Get the SA package and play each morning before work, maybe get lucky on the Old once or twice. Getting off by 8 would give me plenty of time to play 18. On the weekend when I have more time, zip out to hit Crail, Elie, etc.

Week 2: Highlands - Hit Royal Dornoch, Castle Stewart, Brora. Haven't done enough homework to figure out how hard travel would be and if this would need to be my vacation week to allow for more driving and exploring. Stop in Northeast on the way back spend a night for Cruden Bay, maybe one more.

Weeks3-4: Back to St. Andrews, get back to the places I liked most, explore the outskirts more, hit Carnoustie as a test of how a month worth of golf affects my game, and wrap it up with a few days in East Lothian, playing North Berwick, Gullane, Glen and some of the lesser known.

 

My thought would to use my vacation week in the Highlands, since St. Andrews and East Lothian seem so much more contained. Maybe the better plan would be to rent a single place in St. Andrews for the month and make a couple short 2-3 day weekend trips out to tick off the big ones I want, like Royal Dornoch, Brora, Cruden Bay.

 

Of course this is very hypothetical at the moment, but what else is GolfWRX for, if it's not to crowdsource the golf trip of my dreams? What do you guys think? More than anything, I think I'd love by the end to feel like I got a real taste of the St. Andrews lifestyle/experience, more than trying to make a mad dash all around the country.

 

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Very surprising email today. St Andrews was able to move my May tee time into October. Originally they said only next spring, so it was a really nice email to get since that was really the only thing

As of now I still see direct flights to London. I think that’s my plan. Get to London and train to Scotland. But I think my trip’s odds went from 95% a month ago to 75% two weeks ago to 50% this week

In Fife the courses I go back paying full fare are:   St Andrews New The Old Course Elie St Andrews Eden Crail   I haven't played Dunmbarnie and likely won't. K

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The dream trip.

Most would agree that there are 5 main centres of golf in Scotland - Fife/St Andrews, East Lothian/Muirfield, Ayr/Prestwick, Aberdeen and Inverness/Dornoch. Spending 4 weeks to get the best out of it is the question.

Personally, I would do 3/4 days in the Muirfield/North Berwick/Musselburgh area, then 5 days in St Andrews to play the Old/New/ KIngsbarns/Elie etc, move to Aberdeen playing Carnoustie en route then 4 days RA/Cruden Bay/Fraserburgh. Up to Dornoch for RD/Brora/Nairn/Castle Stuart. A lovely trip back through the highlands playing Boat of Garten enroute then to Prestwick where you can play Turnberry/Troon/Gailes and co. A good suggestion is to play all the bucket list courses you want but make sure you always play one or two of the lesser known local courses in each area. Try to find a B&B which is central to each course, and you will have fun.

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21 minutes ago, Chanceman said:

The dream trip.

Most would agree that there are 5 main centres of golf in Scotland - Fife/St Andrews, East Lothian/Muirfield, Ayr/Prestwick, Aberdeen and Inverness/Dornoch. Spending 4 weeks to get the best out of it is the question.

Personally, I would do 3/4 days in the Muirfield/North Berwick/Musselburgh area, then 5 days in St Andrews to play the Old/New/ KIngsbarns/Elie etc, move to Aberdeen playing Carnoustie en route then 4 days RA/Cruden Bay/Fraserburgh. Up to Dornoch for RD/Brora/Nairn/Castle Stuart. A lovely trip back through the highlands playing Boat of Garten enroute then to Prestwick where you can play Turnberry/Troon/Gailes and co. A good suggestion is to play all the bucket list courses you want but make sure you always play one or two of the lesser known local courses in each area. Try to find a B&B which is central to each course, and you will have fun.

Definitely agree about playing some of the lesser known courses and especially boat of garten, id never heard of this course and just chanced upon it, one of the best courses ive played in scotland and ive played quite a few, its worth it just for the views

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So as crazy as it sounds, I think I've gotten the green light at work, with a few caveats. I'd need to work 2 out of the 4 weeks and use PTO on the others. Obviously with weekends and whatnot, I'd get a ton of golf and exploring into the trip, but it also means I'll need to spend 8 hours a day on the computer, which might have implications on lodging (not sure how comfortable I'll be working in an 8x5 single B&B room for several weeks, for instance).

 

The other caveat is what if I still need to quarantine for the first two weeks? Obviously this makes it easier to fulfill the work requirement, because I can just spend the first two holed up in a hotel or apartment eating takeout and working, I suppose. Looking at the Scotland restrictions, I'm not sure a B&B would even count as self-isolation, so I need to do more homework. Anyone in Scotland with a sense? That obviously changes everything, but might make a much stronger case for renting a flat in St. Andrews for the month, and then make some last-minute trips based on the state of the world at that point. 

 

Let's imagine those restrictions are in place, here's what I'm thinking, since I have to plan in the dark quarantine-wise. Unfortunately, it's now basically a 2-week golf trip, which is still amazing, but slightly different than a month-long tour of Scotland, so I need to focus my attention. With that being the case, I think the answer is that I plan SA, East Lothian and either Dornoch OR Aberdeen. If I get lucky and the quarantine ends, then I could also plan to use a weekend for a 2-3 day trip to an area I can't really plan for now. As for playing the courses a bit off the beaten path, that's absolutely my plan. It's one reason I'd rather spend a little more time in fewer places than trying to race around looking for every bucket list spot. And obviously if the quarantine lifts, I'll suddenly have a lot more time to explore.

 

Weeks 1-2: lodging in St. Andrews and work under self-isolation. If the quarantine lifts, I can spend the mornings playing and be online by 2 to work, which would be a bonus.

Day 15 (quarantine lifts) - Old Course lottery, just thinking of how painful it would be to spend 2 weeks surrounded by golf, I'd need to get out. If I can't get on the Old, then hit up 36 holes one the others.

Days 16, 17, 18, 19: Desperate to escape after the 2 week isolation, make the drive and play Royal Dornoch and others as suggested and get a change of setting, as I'm sure I'll be tired of the four walls I'd been staring at for two weeks. Downside is likely paying for lodging in both SA and Dornoch but that's hopefully offset by getting a better price on a month-long rental than I would have daily (yet to do any homework on that yet).

Days 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 - Return to SA, my existing Old Course tee time is likely going to fall into this window. Focus on my original list of SA courses, plus Elie, Crail, Ansthruter, etc.

Days 27, 28, 29, 30 - East Lothian for North Berwick, Glen, Gullane, etc. 

Day 31 - Depart for home, depressed that it's over.

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1 hour ago, Chanceman said:

For your initial 14 day quarantine, why not go to some completely out of the way place (say the Isle of Skye) where golf does not impose itself on your brain like St Andrews would? Then head to Dornoch, St Andrews and East Lothian for a few days in each.

Ohh I kind of love this idea. I guess the argument against it would be that if the quarantine drops, then I’d miss two weeks in SA but I suppose I could always scramble to change plans.


Is that where Tom Coyne ended up, in South Uist? I think he raves about Askernish, but god only knows how to get up there lol

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I tend to travel deep - not wide so I like the idea of one Month in SA.  I have lived in the area off and on over the years and you could have a great time based out of SA and spend the month really soaking up what the area offers and feel a bit less like a tourist. As a single you will have no issue getting on the OC if you give it a few attempts, the New Course and Jubilee are every bit as good, just not historic (; and  you can take the bus to Kingsbarns a few times. The other SA courses are fun to play and easy to walk on. You can even go play the Castle Course since you have plenty of time. It is not worth playing (IMHO) if you have a short trip, but on a long trip you should check it out.

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1 hour ago, philsRHman said:

Ohh I kind of love this idea. I guess the argument against it would be that if the quarantine drops, then I’d miss two weeks in SA but I suppose I could always scramble to change plans.


Is that where Tom Coyne ended up, in South Uist? I think he raves about Askernish, but god only knows how to get up there lol

Yes Askernish is out there in the Hebrides as is the excellent Isle of Harris 9 holer. So you could spend a few days after your quarantine/lockdown doing that. I am assuming you will have a car so its not that hard to get to, just a few ferries. From Skye you just drive along Loch Ness to Inverness and from there to Dornoch - its a beautiful trip. I think Glasgow to Skye is about a 4/5 hour drive and from there 2/3 hours to Inverness.

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17 hours ago, 2bGood said:

I tend to travel deep - not wide so I like the idea of one Month in SA.  I have lived in the area off and on over the years and you could have a great time based out of SA and spend the month really soaking up what the area offers and feel a bit less like a tourist. As a single you will have no issue getting on the OC if you give it a few attempts, the New Course and Jubilee are every bit as good, just not historic (; and  you can take the bus to Kingsbarns a few times. The other SA courses are fun to play and easy to walk on. You can even go play the Castle Course since you have plenty of time. It is not worth playing (IMHO) if you have a short trip, but on a long trip you should check it out.

 

 

Definitely have to cut in their and protest that the Castle is a must, definitely top uk 100 after the remodel (greens are still too severe imo). The new and jubilee are fine but there are a ton of uk links equally as good or better, the castle is unique 

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2 hours ago, milesgiles said:

 

 

Definitely have to cut in their and protest that the Castle is a must, definitely top uk 100 after the remodel (greens are still too severe imo). The new and jubilee are fine but there are a ton of uk links equally as good or better, the castle is unique 

Yes the castle is 'unique' I can agree with that. ? I found the greens beyond silly. I had a good caddie with me that helped keep me out of trouble the last time I played - on my own I would have lost my mind. 

 

I still would say that if you are trying to pack in golf and have little time, it should be passed up. 

 

 

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Starting to do a little more digging and I think I have at least one option in SA for a multi-week flat that's bigger than a B&B room but still in the same general ballpark. I'm finding that AirBNB has very few options, which surprised me in a college town, I'd have expected to find quite a number of one-room studio apartments for rent. Anyone have another site in mind that I could try?

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On 9/26/2020 at 4:06 AM, philsRHman said:

Ohh I kind of love this idea. I guess the argument against it would be that if the quarantine drops, then I’d miss two weeks in SA but I suppose I could always scramble to change plans.


Is that where Tom Coyne ended up, in South Uist? I think he raves about Askernish, but god only knows how to get up there lol

 

I'm going to North and South Uist in 10 days time! Not to play golf, unfortunately. It's not that difficult to get to once you're deep into the Highlands. I'm lucky that it's not a once in a lifetime trip as I live in England and visit the Highlands 5-10 times a year. 

 

CalMac ferries depart Uig on Skye on a daily basis to Lochmaddy, and the ferry takes around 1h40. It's relatively inexpensive, even with a car. Then it's just a case of driving down to Askernish, which shouldn't take much time at all. Or you can travel from Mallaig or Oban to South Uist. It just depends on where on the west coast you'd be as to the departure port.

 

https://www.calmac.co.uk/destinations/southuist

 

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On 9/27/2020 at 4:14 AM, philsRHman said:

One truth when it comes to every conversation about St Andrews... at the first mention of Castle, a disagree will follow lol

Don’t forget that the Castle has by far the best views, looking out over all of SA. I didn’t find the greens silly, the breaks and steps are obvious enough for you plan out your approach shots.

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On 9/26/2020 at 12:42 AM, Chanceman said:

Yes Askernish is out there in the Hebrides as is the excellent Isle of Harris 9 holer. So you could spend a few days after your quarantine/lockdown doing that. I am assuming you will have a car so its not that hard to get to, just a few ferries. From Skye you just drive along Loch Ness to Inverness and from there to Dornoch - its a beautiful trip. I think Glasgow to Skye is about a 4/5 hour drive and from there 2/3 hours to Inverness.

My wife took me to Scotland in 2018 for my birthday.  It was a golf/sightseeing/Open championship trip.

 

We flew into Glasgow, went up through Loch Lomond park to stay in Interlochy.  Then we went to Isle of Skye.   Took lots o pictures.   Then went to Inverness and stayed there for five nights.  Played Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch, then Nairn.  Did some sightseeing.  Left Inverness and went to SA.  Sightseeing along the way, Balmoral and Stirling castles.  Stayed in SA five nights, played the OC, and Jubilee.  Then went to the Open in Carnoustie on Saturday and Sunday.  Flew home on Monday.  

 

The wife and I have been talking about something similar to what you are looking at.  Going up and staying in St. Andrews for a month plus next summer if corona is still bad and we are both still working from home.  We have also discussed Ireland for a month+, but that becomes rougher as the golf is much more spread out in Ireland than in Scotland.

 

One thing that really jumped out at me was the amount of single lane roads on the way to Skye and while there.  Also the drive from Inverness to SA we took because we went to Balmoral and Stirling castles was really remote and one laney in some places.  That and the general smallness of the roads

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Good luck and I hope it works out especially during covid.

I was lucky enough to have travelled for one month back in 2011. Travelled single and played 28 rounds in 28 days. The way I looked at it when organizing my trip was either 1. Visit all the 'Open' rota and 'big name' courses or 2. Pick an area and play everything around it. Either way you can't lose.

I ended up picking option 1. Drove roughly 1000 KM from East Lothian, up to the Highlands, back down to Ayrshire and finished in Fife. My only regret was that I played a couple of the 'big/major' courses just once and I don't remember the courses anymore. I was luck to have played the others several times and those I can still see every hole as I was playing them.

So my advice for what it's worth, play a course more than once (either replay after initial round or play it again the next day) and you will appreciate it more.

Have a great time, your post has me thinking about planning my return trip!!!!

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Here are a few pictures from Uist. Some of Askernish Golf Club and a couple of personal pictures just to give you another dimension to a trip to Uist/Outer Hebrides. The beaches are incredible, although water temp is around 10C (50F) so the wetsuit was a necessity! You could easily be fooled for a beach in the Caribbean!

 

 

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Here’s what I truly love about this community...

Me: I have this insane, outlandish idea...

GolfWRX: that’s not insane or outlandish, it’s awesome!

GolfWRX: In fact, let’s help you think it through!

GolfWRX: I already did that that insane, outlandish thing... and now I want to do it again!


Really appreciate the responses. I especially like the note about playing more than once. This is very important to me and I plan to do everything I can to play TOC and North Berwick at least 2x if not 3x. I know that’ll be tough on the budget but I can make other adjustments.

 

I feel like every time I start down the path, we get more bad covid news, so haven’t pulled the trigger on anything yet. So far I’ve found one place thst would be really good but he wants 30% non refundable and I’m not real comfortable with that at the moment.
 

However I did sketch out a plan that has me renting a studio apt for 3 weeks in St Andrews. If I have to quarantine, then the first two are just working and relaxing (all the B&Bs I’ve been talking to say it wouldn’t be good to quarantine there because of all the common space and cramped quarters). Then I’ll spend 1.5 weeks in SA and my last 3-4 days in North Berwick. I considered the long term potential quarantine in NB, but I the quarantine lifts, I could never afford playing North Berwick 7-8 times over the course of the non-quarantine-but-working period and hard to tell how easily I could get around the Glen and others and still be back in time for work by 1-2 pm. 
 

If no quarantine, my options expand big time!
 

I will still work the first two weeks, playing as often as possible right in SA, using the weekend for little drives on the outskirts that may be tough if I need to be working by early afternoon. Then I would take a 3-4 day mini trip to Dornoch and another course or two up there, or maybe use all of week 3 for Dornoch, Cruden Bay. Then back to finish up the trip in North Berwick. 
 

One caveat is that currently my tee time at at TOC is on Tuesday of Week 3, which is perfect if I am just coming out of quarantine but complicated if my plan was to head north that week. I suppose I could Use the first half of week 3 to finish up in SA, then go to Highlands, then skip past SA and finish in East Lothian. (As I type that out it starts to make the most sense).

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Great thread, I'll be following this one closely. I'm booked to fly to Edinburgh on May 29th and return on June 12th. 

 

I'm playing the Castle Course on June 3rd and the Old Course on June 4th. Haven't really decided how long I want to stay in St Andrews, at least the first week, maybe longer. This will be a golf and work trip so I'm thinking 10 days in St Andrews and a few days in the surrounding areas is probably going to be about right. 

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Biggest issue at the moment is things are obviously getting worse than better. I’m afraid to tempt fate. I had amazing luck rescheduling and avoiding any cancellation fees or lost deposits at the start of covid. I fear it will get more difficult if I have to do the same next year, given I’ll have booked during a pandemic. 

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When are you looking to go? The reason I ask is that Scotland is currently running it's restrictions internally in a regional way. Each region is given a 'Tier' and if the tier is above a 2 then you cannot travel to another region. So while there is still the 2 week isolation requirement (which to my knowledge is essentially not enforced at all, at worst it's a phone call to ask where you are), your bigger issue may be that there are travel restrictions between the region you are in and where you want to play. 

 

For what it's worth, as a Scot (living in the US now), Brora and Dornoch are great and I'd highly recommend a couple days in Aviemore and play Boat of Garten and Speyside Valley if you are heading North. I was underwhelmed with the Old Course at St A, if not for the history I would say avoid. Carnoustie is brilliant, probably my favourite in the country. Another East Lothian course to check out would be Dunbar.

 

Whatever happens, I hope you have a great trip and get some good and bad breaks with the weather....you do need to experience some true Scottish links golf in horizontal rain after all

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Uh-oh.  Saw "avoid" The Old Course so I can't let that pass without a dissent.  I absolutely loved The Old Course! Played The New Course the day before and really enjoyed it, and yes, the history on The Old Course can't be understated and yes, it's the experience as well, but I loved the course and loved working my way around it with my caddie.  Unfortunately it was the last course on our trip a couple of year ago, I really started to get a much better feel for links golf in terms of execution those last couple of days. But do not avoid! And in the area, Crail has a lot of history and is a great links experience as well.  Having said that, first round of the trip when in the up north part was Royal Dornoch and we played Brora twice - great courses.

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1 hour ago, Hawkeye77 said:

Uh-oh.  Saw "avoid" The Old Course so I can't let that pass without a dissent.  I absolutely loved The Old Course! Played The New Course the day before and really enjoyed it, and yes, the history on The Old Course can't be understated and yes, it's the experience as well, but I loved the course and loved working my way around it with my caddie.  Unfortunately it was the last course on our trip a couple of year ago, I really started to get a much better feel for links golf in terms of execution those last couple of days. But do not avoid! And in the area, Crail has a lot of history and is a great links experience as well.  Having said that, first round of the trip when in the up north part was Royal Dornoch and we played Brora twice - great courses.

No worries, it’s more likely I find a way to play TOC four times than zero times. 
 

I am re-reading Tom Coyne’s A Course Called Scotland and just got to the section he arrived in East Lothian and then St Andrews. I saw this week that the UK is piloting a program to quarantine for 5 days with testing, instead of 14. I think with that development I’m going to start booking. My wife’s been balking at a full month so maybe three weeks will seem more palatable. 

 

In that case, I’m looking at:

week 1 (m-f): St. Andrews area, either golf/work or quarantine/work. 
week 2 (sat-wednesday): St. Andrews area golf, TOC tee time Tuesday 

Week 2 (Thursday-Sunday): quick trip north, either Cruden Bay or Dornoch

Week 3 (monday-sunday): East Lothian, several rounds at NB
 

If it gets closer and that first week is all quarantine then I would adjust on the fly and likely skip the trip north. I assume as a single in May that I could keep quite flexible. 

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Was about to say it looks like quarantine days should drop real soon with tests to 5 days. Here's hoping.

 

St Andrews is one amazing place; on a normal year. just love the atmosphere and everyone is so happy there! some good bakers there, I so miss British baking!

 

When are you thinking of heading over? May but from the start? I am planning two 1 month trips back to golf right now, was supposed to do that this year but fail.

 

Cruden Bay to Dornoch is one long trip, not if you are used to driving around America though. I keep trying to get folk to head to Dornoch but no one will travel!

 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, scott_Donald said:

Was about to say it looks like quarantine days should drop real soon with tests to 5 days. Here's hoping.

 

St Andrews is one amazing place; on a normal year. just love the atmosphere and everyone is so happy there! some good bakers there, I so miss British baking!

 

When are you thinking of heading over? May but from the start? I am planning two 1 month trips back to golf right now, was supposed to do that this year but fail.

 

Cruden Bay to Dornoch is one long trip, not if you are used to driving around America though. I keep trying to get folk to head to Dornoch but no one will travel!

 

 

 

 

I’m looking at arriving around May 10, leaving May 30 (I get an extra day to acclimate home since it’s Memorial Day weekend).  
 

I wasn’t thinking both Dornoch and Cruden Bay, one or the other. The consensus seems to be that Dornoch/Brora is a better 3-day jaunt, but there’s something about Cruden Bay drawing me up that direction. Ru from the Scottish Podcast raves about it as his home course, and Coyne lists it No 1. But I see so many raves for Dornoch too. 

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7 minutes ago, philsRHman said:

I’m looking at arriving around May 10, leaving May 30 (I get an extra day to acclimate home since it’s Memorial Day weekend).  
 

I wasn’t thinking both Dornoch and Cruden Bay, one or the other. The consensus seems to be that Dornoch/Brora is a better 3-day jaunt, but there’s something about Cruden Bay drawing me up that direction. Ru from the Scottish Podcast raves about it as his home course, and Coyne lists it No 1. But I see so many raves for Dornoch too. 

 

I have never played Dornoch and really want to. Definitely would have played it this summer if I had made it to Scotland. 

 

Cruden Bay to me is a fun course, just really hate three of the holes! but I have played it a lot(dad is a member) its cool as from the tees you hit lots of different shots - 1st 2 iron, 2nd 5 iron, 3rd 4 iron, 4th, 6/7 iron, 5th Driver, 6th what ever you want because unless you play there regularly than you will be laying up!

 

If you do Cruden Bay then you could do Trump and Royal Aberdeen then that to me those 3 comfortably beat the two further north. 

 

Edit - why does this have to be moderated????

Edited by scott_Donald
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Another great course that’s a little closer to Brora/Dornoch than Cruden Bay is Nairn Dunbar if you’re looking to fit another course in up that way. Castle Stuart also is just outside Inverness

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On 11/30/2020 at 7:37 PM, Hawkeye77 said:

Uh-oh.  Saw "avoid" The Old Course so I can't let that pass without a dissent.  I absolutely loved The Old Course! Played The New Course the day before and really enjoyed it, and yes, the history on The Old Course can't be understated and yes, it's the experience as well, but I loved the course and loved working my way around it with my caddie.  Unfortunately it was the last course on our trip a couple of year ago, I really started to get a much better feel for links golf in terms of execution those last couple of days. But do not avoid! And in the area, Crail has a lot of history and is a great links experience as well.  Having said that, first round of the trip when in the up north part was Royal Dornoch and we played Brora twice - great courses.

Avoid was probably the wrong choice of word and like I said, given the history you have to play it if you have the chance. I just feel at the price point, there are better courses in Scotland and a lot better value. Beauty of golf though is that everyone will have their own opinions on courses! 100% agree with you on Dornoch and Brora though

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22 minutes ago, smcnaughton4 said:

Another great course that’s a little closer to Brora/Dornoch than Cruden Bay is Nairn Dunbar if you’re looking to fit another course in up that way. Castle Stuart also is just outside Inverness

 

Nairn is a much better course than Nairn Dunbar, its a Walker Cup venue and a great traditional Course. Castle Stewart is good the first time then average the second time, its made to get folk round it(not tradiitional at all) and for the amazing panoramic views but a very average course. 

 

20 minutes ago, smcnaughton4 said:

Avoid was probably the wrong choice of word and like I said, given the history you have to play it if you have the chance. I just feel at the price point, there are better courses in Scotland and a lot better value. Beauty of golf though is that everyone will have their own opinions on courses! 100% agree with you on Dornoch and Brora though

 

The Old Course is amazing value, the cost is so low since they make too much money as it is every year. Old Course in America would be over 500 dollars.

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11 hours ago, scott_Donald said:

 

Nairn is a much better course than Nairn Dunbar, its a Walker Cup venue and a great traditional Course. 

 

An even better option is to buy the Nairn Ticket and play both courses for just a little bit more than the cost of playing Nairn alone.  

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  • philsRHman changed the title to Fantasy trip: A month in Scotland UPDATED: DAILY ITINERARY ADDED

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