Best Value Courses in Scotland
Scotland is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many golfers, and even they are the lucky ones. But savvy golfers, especially from around the U.K. and Europe, manage to find ways to return again and again. The trick to saving money in Scotland is to first, avoid the Open Championship courses that charge a premium to walk in the footsteps of historic champions. Links courses, rare as they are, charge a premium (anything under $100 is a pretty good bargain), so don’t be afraid to visit a few heathland or parkland courses to find some of the best value courses in Scotland.
Green fees are low at these excellent links courses, but getting there may be tricky. The first example is Machrihanish (Old) and Machrihanish Dunes. The drive down to the Mull of Kintyre can take about four hours, but when you arrive, the links are charming and sparsely played. Both courses offer competitive green fees for those who make the journey. You can add a third course that is an even deeper bargain, Dunaverty, which on certain days operates on an “honor box” basis.
Also on the west side of Scotland is one of the better parkland bargains. Doug Carrick is well known by Canadians as one of the country’s best golf course architects, but he’s a lesser-known name when compared to Old Tom Morris and James Braid. So his design at Loch Lomond, The Carrick Course (image above), punches well above its green fee with wonderful mountain and loch views.
The Kingdom of Fife is well known for St. Andrews of course, but there are so many golf courses that a player can literally name their price for a round of golf. Perhaps the best value course in Scotland is Crail Golfing Society, which has two links courses that are wonderfully scenic. It’s also a rare opportunity to play not only one of the oldest links courses in the U.K., the Balcomie Links, but also one of Gil Hanse’s earlier solo designs, the Craighead.
The two links at Fairmont St. Andrews are also worth mentioning. They are both very scenic and stay-and-play packages that include a room at this luxury hotels can sometimes run as low as $150 per person. Many Fairmonts in the U.S. charge well over $300 for a room alone. The St. Andrews Links Trust has a 3- and 7-day Links Ticket that affords unlimited golf on six of their seven courses (excluding the Old).
East Lothian is a prime area for some of the best value courses in Scotland. Craigielaw Golf Club and Kilspindie are neighbors and reward golfers looking to add on a couple rounds after playing its more heralded neighbors like Muirfield or North Berwick. Gullane’s three courses are led by the No. 1, which is a Scottish Open host, but Nos. 2 and 3 are shorter but a deeper bargain.
Gullane isn’t the only historic club with multiple courses. Royal Troon (Portland Course) and Carnoustie (Burnside and Buddon links) are examples of Open Championship venues that have additional links that can be enjoyed for less.
There are a few other ways you can save in Scotland: Look for day tickets instead of 18-hole rounds, so you can get more golf for your buck. Visitors green fees at many clubs can be more expensive on weekends (also with fewer times available) versus midweek. Caddies are great but pricy, so stick to a push cart instead. Lodging can be more affordable in the off-peak months like April, so even if the golf courses start to charge summer prices, your room may be more affordable. Some courses also offer last-minute specials and twilight rates. Keep in mind that the summer months have plenty of sunshine and you can still get in 18 holes teeing off at 6 p.m.
There are plenty more value courses in Scotland you have likely never heard of that can be played for a fraction of the top links courses. Our advice for your next trip is to save a day or two and take a chance on one. Even if it’s quirky, you may really enjoy the unique experience.