This is a website about golf communities, but many who have moved to golf communities travel to play golf. I have travelled to Scotland every May for the last three years, once with my wife, who doesn’t play golf, and the other times with friends. I have made all my own arrangements. Although package golf tours are attractive, they are not attractively priced. I have chosen to do my own research and book my own lodging, rounds of golf and transportation. (I gave up driving on the wrong side of the road two years ago.)

I have no quibbles with the level of service the major golf package operators provide; I have spoken with many of their satisfied customers. But I always assumed I was saving money by making my own arrangements. Until now, I never realized just how much. But after my latest trip, I decided to total up my costs and compare them to what a packaged golf vacation in the St. Andrews area would cost. Since I stayed within walking distance of the two excellent golf courses at the Crail Golfing Society, just 10 miles from St. Andrews, I based my calculation on greens fees at Crail and in the St. Andrews area, lodging costs in Crail, and transportation costs based on a discussion with the owners of St. Andrews Taxi Company who have taken me wherever I wanted to go the last two years.

When I totaled up all the costs, I was gobsmacked – good UK word -- by just how much money I saved by spending a couple of hours online making my own arrangements. The upcoming article in my newsletter Home On The Course is the longest and most detailed I’ve written, and it provides a road map – figuratively and literally – for how to save thousands of dollars on your golf vacation in Scotland. If you treat making those arrangements like a job, and figure in how much you save, you will be “earning” $1,000 an hour or more. You can sign up for the newsletter – it’s free – right here. Expect it in your inbox next week.

I first ventured to Scotland to play golf in 2008. My son Tim and I were lucky enough to hit the lottery on that trip – the one that gets you onto The Old Course at St. Andrews. (The lottery is known at St Andrews as a “ballot.”) It cost me less than £100 each for our round in 2008, and I thought it was a bargain; today the rack rate is £320, or a little over $400. Not sure it is still a bargain.

On my recent trip to Scotland, I relived for free the highlight (and a couple of lowlights) of that first round 16 years ago. On a Sunday, I joined hundreds of citizens of St. Andrews, their many dogs and plenty of visitors for a stroll on the Old Course, which is closed for play on Sundays when there isn’t an Open Championship in town.
DoubleWide1stfairwayOldCourseThe light green is the first fairway at The Old Course and the darker green is the 18th fairway. Together, they are 129 yards wide, the widest fairway in golf. In 2008, from the first tee beyond the right edge of the photo, I hit my drive almost to the fence in the distance on the left. This photo was taken on a recent Sunday; the Old Course is closed to play on Sundays but open to anyone -- and their dogs -- who would like to go for a stroll on the most famous turf in golf.

As I stepped onto the first tee box and looked out at the double-wide fairway before me, I felt a frisson of embarrassment. The fairway, which comprises both the first and 18th holes, is the widest in all of golf, 129 yards from the fence guarding the right side of the 1st hole to the fence guarding the left on #18. Most pulled tee shots by right-handed golfers might make it to the midway line on the 18th fairway but you would almost have to be aiming 45 degrees away from the first green to get it to the fence that guards the road that runs behind the green on the famous Road Hole (#17).

But the enormity and anxiety of the moment in 2008, when I stood on the first tee of a golf course I had dreamed of playing for more than 40 years, pulled my hands as quickly to the left as a Hank Aaron home run swing. As I watched in horror and embarrassment, my ball rolled to within 10 feet of the fence guarding the road. (Note: In 1995, golf pro and then former Open champion Ian Baker Finch pulled his tee shot farther left than mine and out of bounds. His round and, not long after, his professional career – he shot a 92 in the 1997 Open Championship at Royal Troon -- were doomed. Yet I was left with a surprisingly routine approach shot over the Swilken Burn to the first green. I wound up making bogey and was delighted after my pitiful drive.)

The next lowlight recollection on my Sunday walk was on the fourth tee box. Tim and I had teed off on #1 in considerable sunshine with the temperature about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But as is the case in most of Scotland, you see the weather before it gets to you; and that menacing black cloud to the west had rolled toward us from our first tee shots. By the time we got to the 4th, it was over us, and all around was a howling wind and sideways sleet. I had prepared by purchasing a St. Andrews logoed rain jacket before the round, but it wasn’t big enough to protect my face, my pants and my feet. I thought about quitting, but it was a good-sized walk to shelter, the two caddies (students at St. Andrews University) were paid for and this was the only time on our trip that my son and I would get to play the most famous golf course in the world. I’m glad we hung in there because, after putting out on the 4th green, the sleet passed, the sunshine returned as quickly as it had departed, and we were mostly dry by the end of the fifth hole.
OldCourse17thteeshotThe professionals will aim their tee shots on the 17th Road Hole over the higher portion of the hotel that blocks the fairway from view. In 2008, I took the safe route, just to the left of the low hotel annex.
It is hard to get through 18 holes without at least one memorable positive moment, but my time was running out as I stood on the 17th tee at the famous Road Hole. The pros think nothing of skying a drive over the highest corner of the hotel in front of them, but I chickened out and took a safe route just to the left of the low part of the hotel annex and into the rough on the far side of the dogleg right fairway. I had a good lie in the cropped rough and hit my purest shot of the day, a five iron that bounced at the front left of the green, kicked a bit right and wound up six feet from the hole. I won’t belabor the story; I made the putt. A birdie on the Road Hole. As a true Scotsman would say, "I was chuffed."
Approach to Road Hole green
RoadHoleGreenTop, about where my tee shot in 2008 ended up in the rough on the Road Hole, about a five iron away. Bottom, the green at the #17 Road Hole, which looks unremarkable except for the stone wall just a few yards beyond it. I sank my six foot putt for birdie and was "chuffed."

Ask me how I did on the 18th hole, and I cannot begin to recall a thing. One or two good shots can make you forget the bad that came before; it is one of the reasons golf is the greatest sport of all. I could never presume to hit a high hard one in baseball or crash through the defensive line in football or run a four-minute mile. But in golf, if you are good and lucky, you can make a shot that produces as good a score as any pro has ever made. (What is better than a hole in one, eh?) And you could also birdie the Road Hole at The Old Course which, in the final round of The Open Championship, any professional would be glad to enter on his scorecard.