The plight of the single person in the world of travel has never been a great one. There’s little point in trying to sugar coat that. The principal reason as you might have suspected is profit. Put simply, unless you’re a specialist operator with a niche market, you won’t make as much money on a single booking as you will on a group booking of a dozen or more. The golf travel industry isn’t necessarily an exception to this either, and indeed has a couple attributes which we won’t go so far as to describe as discriminatory, but rather as limiting instead. At Faraway Fairways however we thought we’d explore the scope that single golfers have in trying to put together a substantive tour, as we always try for you but do so against an unfavourable backdrop.

There are three major components in a golf tour

  • Green Fees
  • Accommodation
  • Transport

Each of these creates unique challenges for the single golfer.

The problem we face with green fees is that many courses are reluctant to permit a single golfer to play solo. The only way you can normally secure this is through a very late booking of an unfilled tee-time that would otherwise be lost. This is far too speculative to plan anything around long-term however, and naturally the most sought-after courses don’t have such windows with many booking up months and even years in advance.

By definition therefore, single golfers are restricted into trying to join two or three balls, and this places them at the mercy of the club policy. Now in fairness this isn’t as bad as it sounds. Some of the commercial courses will make this a condition, and some of the private members clubs will also advise two and three ball groups that they should expect to be allocated a fourth player should one request a tee slot. We’re also lucky in golf in that there is a tradition of accepting strangers into a four ball and meeting new people etc The greater disruption we face is trusting that we can find an under sized group on any given day. We’re also more limited in our options for that day too given that we’re rarely in a position to pick and choose our tee time with the same freedom that a fourball might enjoy. A single golfer’s itinerary needs to be more flexible as a consequence as we seek dot them around into windows of opportunity as they present themselves. It wouldn’t be unheard of to require a ‘Plan C’ as well as Plan’s A and B. Basically an itinerary is more complicated to arrange, and we’ll usually need to consider more fall-back positions than usual.

No examination of the single golfer’s plight would be complete however without talking about the St Andrews Old Course ‘walk up rule’. This is specifically designed to accommodate single golfers. The premise is simple. A single golfer presents themselves to the starter and asks to be allocated to the next under sized group to make up a fourball. This operates on a first come, first served basis. Once the group presents themselves to the starter he will inform them that they have a solo player requesting that they join them. The group can refuse but in reality most will accept, it’s considered poor protocol not to do so. You then pay the starter the standard green fee, shake hands with your new companions, and off you go. You might be surprised by just how often single golfers are able to make this arrangement work, but there is a draw-back, and especially in the peak season. The first come first served model requires you lay something of a siege to the starters hut, and this can involve an uncomfortably early start, and an unproductive and frustrating wait

The St Andrews Old Course does give a single golfer decent chance

Let us now move onto the second consideration, that of accommodation, and it isn’t long before we encounter the dreaded ‘single person supplement’. If staying in top hotels the cost can quickly run away from you. Even in the best-case scenarios, single reservations rarely work out in the solo traveller’s favour. Even when you aren’t being charged double, they tend to work out at room and a half.

One advantage the single traveller does have potentially though is flexibility and the ability to hunt around smaller accommodation providers particularly bed & breakfast or guesthouse properties. For reasons of legislation and tax, these properties are categorised according to the number of rooms they have. Larger parties can often find themselves restricted by having more bodies than beds (so to speak!). This means that single travellers can often pick up the spare capacity. B&B’s also tend to be more equitable in their pricing of single rooms than hotels are as well

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that some budget chain hotels offer sufficiently competitive pricing and a comfortable double bed, that a single traveller can certainly entertain the idea of making a conventional double room booking without taking a noticeable hit in their budget. Although we’re reluctant to invoke ourselves as a recommendation, but its what we tend to do if accompanying a group.

A double bedroom at a Premier (St Andrews in this case) is a good option for a single. They’re comfortable, spacious, and don’t break your budget

As a general rule however, single golfers will probably have to reconcile themselves to compromising a bit on accommodation.

The final major component then is transport, and here planning pays. The first thing to perhaps recognise is that if you’re undertaking a conventional ‘point-to-point’ tour which involves luggage movement days and consequently ‘standing-time’ as part of your golf playing, then unless money really is no object, a chauffeur driven option is likely to prove prohibitively expensive. You might even find yourself being required to pay for driver overnight accommodation and sustenance too on a conventional touring route.

The only way that most of us could entertain a chauffeur driven option would be to adopt a ‘base-and-back’ approach. These means luggage is kept in your accommodation which removes the need to pay for vehicle standing time. It’s still tends to be a sub-optimal solution however, and usually limits you to a comparatively small golf playing radius. The only bases that have a sufficient quantity of top-quality golf courses around them which could be serviced by local taxis are the links of St Andrews (plus Kingsbarns), and Troon (Prestwick, Dundonald, and the Gailes Courses). You might be able to justify consideration for Carnoustie alongside Panmure, Monifieth, and Letham Grange, as you might to a lesser extent the parkland courses of Edinburgh. You would perhaps need to extend onto the Lothian coast to encompass Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane or the Renaissance Club however to really lend the capital city a sense of world class quality, and by then you’re beginning to eat into the budget again.

For the most part, self-drive is the most cost-effective solution and the single golfer enjoys a bit less price discrimination here so long as you’re using a small vehicle, but even then, the emphasis is on limiting the damage rather than being able to achieve a cost advantage. If you wanted a larger more luxurious vehicle, then you will be penalised with just one person undertaking the cost burden rather than being able to share it. Which ever way you dive on this one, you will also be responsible for the fuel costs too which can’t be shared either.

One possibility a single golfer might consider is finding a hotel near to railway station. A return rail fare on a local train can work out to be rather cheap and you wouldn’t be out of options

Kilmarnock Barassie130 yards Glasgow
Prestwick220 yardsGlasgow
North Berwick360 yards Edinburgh
Carnoustie370 yards Stirling (change for Edinburgh)
Troon 1500 yards (probably too far) Glasgow

It’s a real shame no one ever built a station halt at the Gailes courses as the line runs along the perimeter of the course as it does at Dundonald too. It would potentially tee-up a Glasgow Golf Tour by train

Faraway Fairways don’t dismiss enquiries from single golfers, we’ll do our best for you, but as we’ve hopefully outlined, there are some challenges we’ll need to overcome

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