Scotland: Still the top choice

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January 28, 2011
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, click here.

It shouldn't be surprising to learn that the country that gave birth to the game of golf more than six centuries ago, sits at the very top of practically every golfer's wish list of places they want to visit, at least once in their lifetime. If you are one who has promised yourself a pilgrimage, Across the Pond, "someday", but someday has yet to come, why not make this the year, the year to make it happen? The sooner you take that very first trip, the sooner you'll discover the unique wonders of Scottish golf and learn that one trip can only provide a small taste of all this amazing country has to offer.

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St Andrews Old Course --The opportunity to play it is a dream come true.
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Wherever you find golf in Scotland a whisky distillery or two will never be far away.
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Turnberry's Ailsa Course - a frequent British Open host is ranked as Britain's very best.
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North Berwick's fabled Redan Hole - the most copied hole in golf.
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Kingsbarns Links is a contemporary masterpiece likely to be a future Open venue.
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Cruden Bay - the way links golf was intended and whisky distilleries are close at hand.
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Castle Stuart Links is a fresh Scots classic just announced as the new venue for The Scottish Open.
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Glamis Castle is just one of many historic Scottish sites that can easily fit into a golf trip.
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It would take a dozen trips to play all of the courses that demand to be played, then another dozen to play them all just one more time -- and you would still be missing the wealth of hidden gems, each with its own character and a very special experience to offer.

In the world of sports, golf is unique, encouraging an active involvement of its devotees like no other. Only golf offers the amateur player of even modest skills, the chance to walk in the footsteps of the greatest names the game has ever known, playing the very same arenas that have challenged the best. The opportunity to play the very same, world renowned golf courses that have hosted The British Open, The Ryder Cup and other professional tournaments, is exclusive to golf and for every golfer, a compelling attraction of the game.

Nowhere are these fabled golf courses to be found in such profusion as in Scotland, the undisputed Temple of Golf, where the ancient town of St. Andrews and its revered Old Course have stood for centuries as the High Altar.

Scotland is blessed with almost 600 golf courses, almost half of them seaside links, created by Mother Nature over the centuries. Plentiful in the British Isles, especially around Scotland's dramatic coastline, but rare in other parts of the world, these links courses hold a special attraction to golfers from around the globe. From famous names to hidden gems, it's the magical allure of Scotland's links that you too will find irresistible.

Planning a first-time golf trip to Scotland can be a bewildering proposition, with a dizzying array of choices to be made. From picking which courses you will play, to selecting the best located hotels and mapping out the most convenient itinerary, this is a job for the pros.

Rather than going through the frustration of trying to plan this trip on your own and coordinating the myriad of details involved, seek out the expert assistance of a reputable professional golf travel company. Golf International is one of the best and after more than 20 years specialized in customizing Scottish golf trips, they can plan the perfect golf trip for you, taking care of every last detail - it'll save you a lot of headaches and aggravation.

But even the most experienced golf travelers can benefit from a number of do's, don'ts and Scottish golf travel hints from the experts. Here are a few from Golf International:

The early bird catches the worm. Scotland receives more golf visitors than any other country in the world and they come from across the globe, usually intent on playing the most famous courses -- probably the same layouts you hope to play. Experienced golf travelers know that demand for Scotland's top ranked courses far exceeds the number of available visitor times, and in a first come -- first served world, booking a full year ahead of your planned trip is not too early.

Don't drive yourself crazy. Valuable vacation time can easily be wasted, driving from one side of the country to the other, checking into and out of countless hotels, all in pursuit of playing your wish-list of courses. Careful planning and selection of golf courses can avoid much of this perhaps needless driving. Scotland may appear small on the map, but driving times are often far longer than the inexperienced traveler may anticipate. A well planned trip will keep driving to an absolute minimum, allowing as much time for golf as possible.

Practically all of Scotland's links courses, from the most famous names to less familiar gems, are very conveniently located in 5 main links clusters, scattered across the country. From the Southwest, to Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Aberdeen and all the way north to the Highlands, each of these clusters has more than enough top-ranked courses, together with an impressive selection of hidden gems, to keep the most avid golfer busy for a week or two. Limit a one week trip to no more than 2 clusters, spending 3 or 4 nights in each and you will be getting the most out of your available time.

A quick glance at a sample selection of courses in each links cluster, shows just how evenly Scotland's golf riches are spread across the country.

The Southwest Links Cluster: extends a brief 40 miles along the Ayrshire coastline, from Turnberry in the south, to just a few miles north of the resort town of Troon and includes some of Scotland's most prized layouts. Topping the list are British Open venues -- Turnberry, Royal Troon and Prestwick, together with one of Britain's most under-rated, championship links courses, Western Gailes. Those looking for a very special treat will be delighted with the relatively new links at Dundonald or any of the 20 other courses in the area.

The Edinburgh Links Cluster is just as compact and sits a brief, half hour's drive (or train ride) from the heart of Scotland's handsome capital. The star attraction here is Muirfield, a 15 time British Open host and home to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the oldest golf club in existence. There are another 20 courses surrounding Muirfield, including more than a few must plays. North Berwick is an historic jewel that attracts golf architects from around the world, who marvel at its amazing, centuries old design. There are three stunning links layouts at Gullane and a very special historic links treat at Dunbar.

The St. Andrews Links Cluster offers another 25 superb links courses, all within a 30 minute or so drive of the center of town and some just a short stroll. There are no less than 7 courses operated by the town, including the famous Old Course and a much newer addition, the stunning Castle Course. Just down the road is Kingsbarns, which together with the Old Course and Carnoustie, hosts The Dunhill Links Championship each year. Carnoustie, famed as the toughest of all The British Open venues, is only 40 minutes to the other side of St. Andrews. For a change of pace, tackle the feisty Balcomie Links at Crail, or, just a 20 minute drive beyond Carnoustie, play another slice of golf history, the windswept links at Montrose.

The Aberdeen Links Cluster offers a selection of links masterpieces, all located with a 20 mile radius or so of the city of Aberdeen, gateway to the castles and whisky distilleries of the Highlands. Royal Aberdeen is a wondrous links layout that has hosted the Senior British Open and immediately next door, sharing the same sand dunes and wind gusting in from the North Sea, Murcar, is yet another links course for the memory book. Don't miss Cruden Bay, overlooked by Slain Castle, the inspiration for Dracula. Cruden Bay is a one-of-a-kind links that's as tough as nails and will give the best, a run for their money. Wander a little further up the coast and a small bevy of enticing but relatively unknown links courses beckon, led by Fraserburgh, a 100 year old gem.

The Highlands Links Cluster has always held a very special appeal to visitors, aided no doubt by the dramatic scenery, the preponderance of whisky distilleries and trail of ancient castles. Golf in the Highlands is also very alluring, with Royal Dornoch, ranked among the world's top-ten courses leading the small, but high quality grouping of quality links courses. Nairn's Championship Course is also a major attraction for links connoisseurs, along with a charming collection of lesser known links, such as Brora, Tain, Golspie, Moray and Fortrose & Rosemarkie. Now there's one more world-class, Highlands links course to add to the menu, the spectacular, Castle Stuart Links.

Only two years old, Castle Stuart is an outstanding layout from the same American who developed the amazing Kingsbarns Links, near St. Andrews. If you thought Scotland's best links are all centenarians, Castle Stuart will make you think again. How good is this newcomer? Good enough for the European PGA Tour to take the Scottish Open Championship away from Loch Lomond this year and award this important tournament to Castle Stuart Links until at least 2013.

There's good reason why Scotland sits high atop every golfer's travel wish-list and if you have not yet taken your first trip, it's time to stop procrastinating and discover the wonderful golf experiences you've been missing.

For more ideas and suggestions on how to get the most out of your trip to golf's homeland, contact the Scottish experts at Golf International by calling toll free, 1 (800) 833-1389, or click here.

©2011 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.

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