Planning a vacation golf trip
Links to the links: As golf grows as a vacation activitiy, tour operators, cruise lines and regional tourism offices are adding golf courses to their lists of travel possibilities. For travel packages, surf the Internet at sites such as GolfOdyssey.com, GolfVacationInsider.com, FairwayGolf.com, PerryGolf.com, GoGolfandTravel.com, TravelGolf.com and GolfHolidays.com.
England: The area near Liverpool, less than 3 hours by train from London, is England's Golf Coast. It is home to one the highest concentration of championship courses in the world, including three Royal courses, all available to travelers. The top courses cost $200-$300 to play, including lunch, but dozens of other courses are available for public play with rates as low as $70. For a bargain, look for Siloth-on-Solway.
On the Internet, click on EnglandsGolfCoast for a guide and video. You can book tee times and accommodations, including the clubhouse at Lytham, where the weekday package of about $330 includes golf, three meals and accommodations in the Course and Dormy House. Some courses are adding motorized carts to appeal to the American market. As an added attraction, Liverpool, home of the Beatles, is nearby.
Scotland: Most golfers head first to the delightful city of St. Andrews.
"If you come here for a week and can't get on the Old Course, either you have incredibly bad luck or you're not trying," said Mike Taylor, a St. Andrews resident and guide for tours to local fishing villages, hiking paths and ancient ruins. Your chances improve in bad weather, he said, especially between October and April.
The Old Course is closed on Sundays for picnics and such. Check the St. Andrews web site for NB or "no ballot" dates when there is no public play.
If you're not playing golf, you can watch the action from the St. Andrews clubhouse, a modern building open to the public. It overlooks the 17th hole of the Old Course and the 1st tee of the New Course, built in 1895. You can sit at the picture windows upstairs, observe golfers flailing away at the notorious Road Hole, and have a bowl of soup.
"Some people come to play all the name courses," said Gary Slatter, director of golf at the Fairmont Resort's challenging Torrance and Devlin courses, which sit on a bluff above the medieval city of St. Andrews. The medieval town of St. Andrews is the backdrop for the Torrence links course, right.
"It can be more fun -- and economical -- to play each course twice. Most courses have a second play for 5-10 pounds, so you can play 36 holes for about 100 pounds (or about $200)," said Slatter. "If you wanted, you could play 54 holes a day."
The Fairmont has equipped its Devlin headlands course with motorized buggies. The Torrance links course, with views of the city's new Castle Course and downtown St. Andrews, is only for walking.
For other courses in and around St. Andrews, click on StAndrewsGolf and GolfScotland. May through September is the busiest season for travelers to St. Andrews, but golfers come all year, as the coast seldom gets a serious frost. St. Andrews is the warmest part of Scotland. The ground, with a sand and shell base, drains well, which is a good thing because there is no lack of water in the air.
For some courses, including England's Royals, you will need a statement indicating your official handicap. Some require a maximum of 21, others 26. Golfers without a club membership can purchase a handicap certificate after listing scores on the Internet at Global Golf Handicap.
-- By David G. Molyneaux, editor, The Travel Mavens