The tip you are about to read dispels one of the commonly held misconceptions about UK and Ireland golf vacations.
You see, in addition to the historic qualities and purity of UK and Ireland golf courses, we Americans are often lured across the pond by the romantic notion that overcrowded courses and slow play are never an issue over there.
While that’s true, for the most part, at the UK and Ireland’s “private” golf courses (where you get a member-for-a-day experience, much like our “semi-private” clubs), we often find that the experience at UK and Ireland golf resorts is often disappointingly similar to that of certain, popular public courses here in the States.
Why is this? While limited, unaccompanied guest play is a great source of income for the private clubs (think Ballybunion, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, etc.), their mission is primarily to serve their membership. As such, not only are tee times usually limited to a couple “windows” a day, but one often needs a minimum handicap to set foot on the first tee.
Contrast that with the mission of the “resorts,” which are looking to fill their tee sheets (and hotel rooms) from dawn until dusk. They often rely on large, group outings and, as we know from home, anyone can play in a scramble, just not too quickly.
A good example is illustrated by our recent visit to the Fairmont St. Andrews in Scotland, where the pace at the resort’s Devlin Course was glacial — five hours and 20 minutes — and there were no rangers/marshals on hand to help move things along. In fact, there wasn’t even a starter, the colorful characters typically found at UK and Ireland golf courses whose strict, pace-preserving rules you can’t ignore, and whose personalities you can’t forget.
While the Devlin course is one of the few in the area that permits the use of motorized golf carts (another “American” feature of many UK and Ireland golf resorts) its GPS system wasn’t functioning the day we played. Nor was there a yardage guide or simple pin sheet showing hole locations for the day, standard fare for any self-respecting golf course, irrespective of locale.
So, should you consider playing at the large resorts when on a UK or Ireland golf vacation? In the most general sense, we find the golf experience suffers a bit, but there are some not-to-be-missed golf courses at golf resorts, such as Turnberry, so choose wisely. Also, either play early in the day (before the course has a chance to get backed up) or very late in the day (in summer, it stays light well into the night) allowing the crowds to thin. Not only is it beautiful to play as the sun is setting over the dunes, but the green fees go down, too. That’s one aspect of UK and Ireland golf resorts that we’re happy mirrors some here in the USA.
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