European Golf Vacations

The Smart Way to Sidestep the “Weekend Problem” in the British Isles and Ireland


Where to play on the weekend is a common conundrum for golf vacationers in the UK and Ireland.

If you’ve ever planned a golf trip to the British Isles or Ireland, you’re familiar with the following problem:

Most of the top courses there are private clubs that permit non-member play, but this visitor access can be extremely limited on weekends…which is precisely when most of us are over there.

According to the editors of Golf Odyssey…

“Typically, prime — if not all — weekend tee times are the exclusive domain of members and/or local residents (and clubs frequently host club or local competitions). Hence, a phenomenon we call the ‘weekend conundrum.'”

The good news is, there are ways to sidestep this problem. Here’s what you can do:

1. Plan ahead. Advance tee times at iconic courses such as Muirfield can get snatched up months or even a year in advance. Yes, the weak economy has loosened things up or even created new opportunities at private clubs that previously rejected weekend visitor play, but it never hurts to be the early bird.

2. Use weekends for resort or daily-fee play. Yes, there are some top-notch “public” courses in the UK and Ireland (including the recent additions of Scotland’s Castle Stuart and Trump International Golf Links). That’s the good news. The bad news is, these weekend tee times tend to go very fast, too. See No. 1 above.

3. Avoid playing on weekends altogether. If you can, either schedule weekday trips or use the weekends for traveling between regions or sightseeing.

Have you ever experienced “the weekend conundrum” when planning a UK or Ireland golf trip? If so, how did you handle it?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Recommended for you


  1. Duncan

    November 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Most UK clubs hold members’ competitions every Saturday and visitors are excluded completely until all competitors have teed off. The good news is that from 2.30 or so in the afternoon tee times are generally available as most play is in the morning. Sunday afternoons are also fairly quiet times so plan travelling and non-golf activities for weekend mornings and play golf in the afternoon. This is only applicable from April to October however, as darkness falls early in the winter.

  2. Wendy

    November 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I haven’t found this to be a problem. I’ve just completed lining up all our tee times for a trip to Scotland next June. We’ll be playing Tain and Nairn on Saturday and Sunday. On our last trip we played Prestwick, North Berwick, and Dunbar on weekends, and the trip before that we played North Berwick and Gullane on the weekend. We make our tee times well in advance.

  3. Ted

    November 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    planned a trip for next year, last week in May. entered the Old Course lottery (and got it! 12:10 on a Friday) and for the rest of the courses just ponied up and paid in advance. Trip insurance of course, but we were able to get some great tracks: Turnberry, Prestwick, Kingsbarns, Troon, Old and New in SA.

    Am I just gloating? :-)

  4. Scott Martin

    November 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    In the summer, many clubs have ‘open’ competitions which anyone can enter. This can provide the opportunity to play a really superb course for a nominal fee. You need to book well ahead by calling the secretary at the club. These competitions are often based on handicap so there’s a chance to win some silverware. Plus you get to meet some locals or some visiting golfers. These ‘open’ competitions usually take place on weekends. You’ll have to count all your shots unless it’s a Stableford. I think there’s a magazine or website that lists these competitions.

    The competitions take different formats. Some are ‘Texas Scrambles’ and some are 5-club competitions where you can only take 5 clubs. I think every trip to Scotland should include entry into a competition–even if it’s a local’s course. It’s part of the experience.

  5. Mark

    November 7, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Don’t know if it is still the case, but a few years ago I stayed at the “Dormie House” at Lytham St. Anne’s which gave me weekend privledges. Also a great location to play all the Blackpool are courses. I just caled the the Club. The Dormie House is their facility beside the pro shop. Great rooms but shared bathrooms.

  6. John Farren (Ballyiffin GC)

    November 7, 2012 at 7:48 am

    The good news from Ballyliffin is that with two championship links we can always accommodate visitors every day of the week.Members competitions are alternated at weekends between The Old Links and Glashedy Links so one course is normally available each day for visitors.

  7. Fran

    November 7, 2012 at 8:33 am

    We planned our vacation to Ireland and Northern Ireland well in advance and didn’t have any problems with weekend play. We played Portstewart on Saturday afternoon and then played Royal Portrush 10:00 AM Sunday morning with hardly any other golfers in sight. So my advice would be to plan early.

  8. Randall Schwartz

    November 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    On our trips, we typically try to focus on the smaller off beat courses for weekends. We also are traveling with a touring side of 8 or 12. We often offer a friendly challenge to the Men’s club at the club and have mini-Ryder Cup matches. This often followed by drinking or a club dinner with the lads after the round. The local clubs love these matches.

  9. jeff

    November 21, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Very rarely play weekends at homes so no reason to do so on the road. Plus, love the twilight- rates are lower and no-one around.

    Only downside, and this is especially true in Europe, is the smaller clubs aren’t always busy so don’t stay open much past dark. Thus, hard to get a pint and food can be non-existent even at places around town. So plan ahead if you follow this track.

Share Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.