St. Andrews On A Budget

June 22, 2010

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Being the golf fan that I am, I just returned from my second trip across the pond. I organized a golf trip for a group of my buddies to the Home Of Golf. St. Andrews Scotland.

St. Andrews is the friendliest place I have ever visited, and I have been to quite a few places. The people are great, the town just breathes history, and if you are a golf fan, it is a trip that must be taken at least once.

But today, I am going to tell you how you can go twice for less than you would typically spend if you book a trip through one of the over-priced tour operators that make a living taking your money and socking it to you.

Yes, just like last time, I planned the entire trip for the group using nothing other than the internet and email.

If you are going to play the Old Course, the best way to get a tee time is to get up at O dark thirty the first Wednesday in September and send a completed ballot form via email to the St. Andrews Links Trust requesting a tee time. You have to also request times on two other courses. My preferences are the New Course (which was designed by Tom Morris in 1890’s) and the Castle Course, which is a David McKlay Kidd design (of Bandon Dunes in Oregon fame). The Castle Course is on the other side of St Andrews and has some spectacular views and spectacular holes.

We continued our golf by going to Cruden Bay, which is up the Northeast coast about 2 and a half hours from St Andrews. We also played North Berwick and Crail, two more classic seaside courses. Crail was established in 1786, funny to think they were playing golf on a course a year before our constitution was officially ratified!

You can contact all of the other courses directly and get your tee times once you have the St Andrews times locked in. You will receive your St Andrews times via the mail typically the first week of October.

Then it is time to line up a place to stay. Avoid the hotels, stay in one or two spots! There are a ton of Bed and Breakfast Operations as well as what we use, self letting. Basically we rent an apartment or you could also rent a house for a week. The advantage is the cost goes down substantially per person, it feels more like home with the amenities, and truth be told you are not going to be in your room much anyway … unless you stay where we do.

I almost hate to divulge my secret but we stay in a second floor apartment overlooking the 18th green on the Old Course. It is the very last building on the right side of the 18th fairway when you are watching the Open Championship coverage next month. Cost per person for the week … about $300. Cost to stay one night at the Old Course Hotel with a view of the course? The same amount.

The other smart decision is to hire a van service to drive you around. They will do airport transfers, take you from your door to the golf course and back (and usually stop off at some nice sightseeing or local pubs along the way back home after golf) and it avoids a lot of hassle – driving on the other side of the road, getting lost – plus you can have a pint on board and enjoy the views. The cost is about the same as if you had to rent vans yourself and then you would have the pain of driving still. We use a Rowan Travel. They are a small but five star outfit. Our driver Tom is the best, I would recommend them to anyone.

Cost for the trip with airfare, all golf, place to stay, van service, money for food and drink ran about $3500 a person, and in our case airfare from the Midwest was just over $1500 of that this time. Of course if you are going to load up on souvenirs, bring more money. The SAME itinerary through one of the travel sites, the only difference being you are staying in a high dollar hotel … hope you are sitting down … $8700.

So after watching the Open this year, if you get the itch, drop Johnny G a line, I would love to help out if you are planning your own trip to the Home of Golf!

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