SCOTTISH GOLF IN THE SPRING
One of the key questions that any visitors face when choosing a Scottish golf vacation is the answer to the question of when? In other words, the choice of season or month. Scottish golf in the Spring is one of the most interesting, and varied options of the lot.
Meteorological spring begins at the start of March and lasts until end of the May. In practical terms this means a window that starts in the winter season, and which briefly runs through a shoulder season, and finishes on the peak summer season rates. You see, Scottish golf in the spring covers a stretch like no other season and is quite capable of throwing wild and varied conditions at you.
Most courses are still on their winter season rates in March, and this usually means a green fee approximately half the price. In March however it’s by no means unusual for the courses to require that you play off fairway mats, so anyone looking to steal a little bit value should make an allowance for this inconvenience. Muirfield are normally the first to break rank and introduce a seasonal price increase in mid March.
You wouldn’t normally expect to have little difficulty getting a round of golf on the St Andrews Old Course in March. Our own experience is that golfers playing in March can more or less pick and choose the number of rounds they wish to play. Indeed, you’d even stand a chance of getting a round on the much sought after Muirfield at relatively short-notice too. We should perhaps warn you however that early March in particular can still throw up some quite unplayable conditions should we hit a cold snap. On balance Faraway Fairways would probably advise that golfers based in southern England or nearby continental Europe are perhaps the best placed to play March. You are the guys who can look at a seven-day weather forecast and respond at short-notice
Kingsbarns only begin taking bookings at the start of April and Royal Troon waits until mid April before they begin taking visitors. Scottish golf in the spring does have a few restrictions you see, but as we pass through March and into early April we begin to encounter the shoulder season and better weather
Shoulder seasons usually last for a stretch of two or three weeks from early to mid-April. During this period green fees will typically be in the region of 33% less expensive than the peak summer rate. Some courses run this structure to the end of the month (Kingsbarns) and a couple run a shoulder season up until mid May (Royal Aberdeen and Turnberry).
We perhaps need to focus on St Andrews however, as this is the destination that frames so many package golf breaks. April represents something of a transition zone. In the first two weeks you would still normally expect to be able to play the Old Course more often than not. The adoption of ‘British Summer Time’ at the start of month adds an extra hour’s daylight to our day. The sun sets at close to 20.00 in the first week of April, which means the hardy can begin to entertain ideas of playing double-days for the first time of the year. By the end of month however we’re beginning to encounter our first Old Course pressure. Although conditions are still favourable, you should bank on losing a few ballots now, even with approximately fifteen hours of daylight by the end of the month being available to you
Before we leave April behind us though, it’s definitely worth sharing a potentially valuable insight that few people seem to be aware of. April is the driest month of the year in St Andrews. Indeed, the three months of the spring are also the driest season. Whereas this might be a good advert for Scottish golf in the spring, you might need to balance the lack of rain with the temperature. April can still have a bit of a bite in the wind, and it’s only as we move into May that things will begin to warm up.
For all intents and purposes May more or less functions as a summer month with seventeen hours of daylight by the end of it. In St Andrews however it normally begins with a significant Old Course block-out for a week though. This often deters overseas visitors from targeting the first week. It’s always worth keeping an eye on the Carnoustie diary in May as well as they run a series of traditional fixtures and competitions too which can also create something of a scheduling problem if we haven’t planned properly.
Faraway Fairways normally reckon that an indicative daily strike-rate on the Old Course ballot for May is about 25% and we advise clients who are particularly focused on playing to think in terms of allowing at least four days where they’d be in a position to capitalise should their name be drawn. We have however seen some extended losing streaks in May which have previously coincided with windows of the greatest availability in the diary. We’re increasingly of the view that overseas visitors in particular who consult the Links Trust’s ‘busy day’ diary are over-subscribed clear windows of play and damaging each other’s prospects, whereas other windows which have some block-out, but which stop of short of total block-outs might be more productive
If golf courses are prepared to cut visitors a bit of slack on the green fees in April, accommodation providers will usually adopt something of a mid-range pricing structure too, and only start going through gears towards the peak summer season in May
All things considered Scottish golf in the spring is quite an attractive proposition, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular season as visitors hedge their bets against the reduced availability at St Andrews in the summer, and of course the more expensive accommodation we see from July onwards