SUMMER GOLF IN SCOTLAND
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. Summer golf in Scotland is the most popular season of the year. Meteorological summer begins at the start of June and lasts until end of the August.
One of the first things to consider is the venue for the Open Championship. Although no formal decision to remove Turnberry from the rotation has been taken, it hasn’t reappeared since 2009. This does perhaps indicate that it’s been unofficially ‘parked’ for now. That being so, Troon, Muirfield, Carnoustie and St Andrews (twice every ten years) will mean that five in every ten years will likely see a clash. The championship takes place in mid July which means the hosting venue will be closed from the start of June in preparation. In addition to this, the Scottish Open proceeds it. This means that we should expect to lose another course in June too. In recent years this European Tour event has been variously hosted by Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen, Gullane, Dundonald, and most recently, the Renaissance Club
One of the big advantages to summer golf in Scotland is the latitude that we play at. The longest day of the year typically occurs in June on or around the 20th of the month. To give you some idea of what this potentially means, the sun rises in St Andrews at about 04.20 in the morning and sets at 22.00. At higher latitudes in the Highlands on courses like Royal Dornoch, you’ll get an extra 30 minutes and a full eighteen hours of daylight.
Faraway Fairways tend to advise that larger groups might consider using June as their month of choice. This is why
It’s worth noting that June can be a surprisingly good month for the playing the St Andrews Old Course, despite there usually being a bit of a dearth of opportunities on Saturday’s due to block-out. In recent seasons however, the month has seemingly been targeted a bit more aggressively as perhaps word started to get out that June was being overlooked a little as visiting golfers and local anxious to ‘get their season going’ piled into May.
One local quirk we need to note is that the final week of June is St Andrews university graduation week. This means that parents and returning students are competing with golfers for accommodation in the auld grey toon, and they normally operate over a longer lead time as well meaning that they get first jump. As you might expect, hotels respond to this with a price increase for the week (usually about 20%) although in truth availability is a bigger problem than price. Otherwise, the week in question is normally quite a good window to play the Old Course. Faraway Fairways have seen evidence that daily Old Course ballot strike rates rise by 10% during this week to something like 30%
July is the hottest month of the year in St Andrews and the mid-point of the month sees the school summer holidays begin. From here until the end of August winning St Andrews Old Course ballots becomes a whole lot harder. Faraway Fairways tend to advise that clients need to be thinking in terms of one in six applications succeeding, perhaps as high as one in seven in particularly good weather. In fairness to the St Andrews Links Trust though, they do seek to make plenty of tee times available in July, and with 06.30 first tee-times now the norm opportunity still exists if we can navigate onto favourable landing strips (not always the most obvious choices)
August performs very similarly to July as we complete our appraisal of summer golf in Scotland. One thing we need to draw to your attention however is the Edinburgh Festival which takes place throughout most of the month. This is a notorious accommodation killer in the capital. Hotels fill up and will usually look for at least twice the normal rate. If you’ve got a programme that involves playing the courses of east Lothian (Muirfield, North Berwick or Gullane) then this could become a consideration
Another thing we need to advise as well is that the build up of warmer air from May onwards has usually introduced a bit more moisture into the atmosphere by August. In St Andrews, August is the wettest month of year (similar to January) albeit the average temperatures are a lot more obliging.
The summer is the best season for you to entertain some of the more ambitious itineraries that might involve the Highlands and Islands and the remote courses such as Machrie, Machriahnish and Askernish. In order to reach these isolated out-posts we need to use ferries. These are more plentiful in the summer and sail with greater frequency and less weather disruption
On balance, we’d probably nominate the Highlands as well. The Scottish Highlands supports a visitor and tourist industry. The more nomadic golfer needn’t always be the reservation that hoteliers regard as their best catch, and we can come into occasional conflict with accommodation providers holding out for a single week-long booking. Although it’s harder work to navigate this, we nearly always succeed in doing so, but usually require a little bit of early planning to lock down our options
Faraway Fairways would probably nominate the summer as the best time to play the west coast giants of Turnberry, Troon and Prestwick as well. The western sky is often set alight by burning sunsets at this time of year too which provides a dramatic finale to the day.