When is the best time to start planning a golf tour to Scotland?
I think the universal response to this question is as soon as possible. The pressure on availability on the key Open Championship rota courses has never been so great and prospective visitors are now recognising the fact that even starting arrangements a year in advance maybe too late to secure all their course priorities.
When do reservations become available?
First off the starting blocks of the major “must play” courses is Muirfield which opened its tee sheets for 2020 reservations in March 2019. Muirfield only allocates tee times to Visitors on Tuesdays and Thursdays so their summer season availability sells out within a matter of months.
The staggered nature of when Golf Clubs make advance tee times available does generate an element of risk. For example Muirfield require Golfers to pay the full green fee within a short time frame of booking and this is non-refundable and non-transferable. That means you have to make a firm financial commitment before discovering whether you have acquired tee times elsewhere on your itinerary.
Be flexible, prioritise your itinerary
The greatest change which has taken place in recent years which has dictated the need for Golfers to commit earlier than every before is the decision by St Andrews Links Trust to release all their commercial tee times in June for the year ahead. A consequence of this is that many Tour Operators are encouraging their customers to pre-order their guaranteed Old Course packages and the rest of the itinerary is being built around what Old Course tee time is allocated. Being as flexible as possible in the timeframe that you can travel can greatly assist your Tour Operator and maximise your chances of obtaining the “Holy Grail” of tee times.
This seismic shift in early allocation of times has meant that other key courses such as Royal Troon, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns have followed suit and are now taking bookings earlier than historically was the case.
The pressure on early planning is not only driven by the limited number of Championship tee times but also the shortage of 4 / 5 star accommodation availability in St Andrews. The town runs at almost 100% occupancy levels throughout the summer months and at certain times such as University Graduation in late June can be fully booked up to 9 months out.
Later booking is still certainly a viable option as openings inevitably arise through cancellations, etc, but to many international visitors a golf tour to Scotland is a trip of a life time and such a pilgrimage merits early planning to secure the ultimate experience.