What to Expect When Playing Golf at a UK or Irish Golf Club
The main differences between playing golf in the British Isles v the USA!
The UK and Ireland is blessed with wonderful golf courses, in fact some of the best in the world. There are however a few differences and quirks between playing golf in the UK or Ireland and playing in the USA that you need to be aware of before you jump on the plane over here or step out onto the first tee of a traditional golf course in the British Isles. Below are my top ten (and a half) tips to take on board when planning your golf trip to the UK or Ireland.
1. Walking the course; some UK and Irish courses (especially traditional links course) have a no buggy rule – unless you have a medical condition (and a doctor’s note to prove it) that means you’ll have difficulty walking the full 18. Thankfully, you will find that the more commercial golf clubs do provide buggies; so if a buggy ride spins your wheels then make sure you inquire and reserve one in advance of your trip. The good news however is that pull trollies are usually available at most courses – which will certainly help those of us with bad backs.
2. Request caddies in advance; some course do provide caddies, but you will need to request them in advance. If you are prepared to pay, they are well worth it as they will significantly improve your scorecard and playing experience as well as filling your day with amusing and intriguing stories. A caddy will usually cost around $75 a round. See How to Hire a Caddy at Scottish Golf Courses for more details.
3. Self-serve driving ranges, and some clubs not even having driving ranges – instead this could be just a practice matt and a net. Yes, space is at a premium in the UK or I guess in the old days the golfing aristocracy of the time did not deem it necessary to have a warm up – instead they knocked a few balls out over the fen before their game and then just asked their staff to pick them up. Therefore, in modern times, I suggest that you check in advance whether a course has a driving range or not, and if not arrive slightly earlier and make sure you loosen up in advance with some good old stretches… instead of jumping straight from the car to the first tee (and trashing your first three holes…).
4. In-Out course layout; many courses in the British Isles are the classic 9 holes out and 9 holes in (with the 9th being the furthers point from the Clubhouse), so beware, don’t pop out for a quick nine until you have studies the course layout, as you could end up having a long (buggy-less) walk home.
5. Half way houses are a luxury; some of the more commercial courses have them, other courses have them but they are rarely open, and many courses don’t have them at all! Therefore, be prepared to play the full 18 without a break, and this brings me on to my next point….
6. Bring your own refreshments; be it a hip flask, energy drink or a sandwich, as it is likely that there will not be a cart girl/boy whizzing around the fairways at your beck and call serving you treats.
7. No restrooms on the course; either go beforehand… or it is a trip to the bushes for you! Make sure that this is a key part of your pre round preparations to avoid any embarrassing or uncomfortable situations! Enough said…
8. A jacket and tie may be required in the Clubhouse at some clubs; if it is, then embrace it and enjoy the traditional atmosphere and mixing with the locals. You’ll no doubt receive a wonderful welcome and hear some fantastic stories… you just need to be wearing a jacket.
9. The weather! Come prepared as you can experience four seasons in a day (especially on the West Coast of Ireland)…. Even in the height of summer. This means packing some good waterproofs and maybe even a spare pair of shoes. Don’t bother with a brolly however, as modern science still has not managed to develop the links golf umbrella that can survive a 25 knot side wind. Plus, by not bringing it, you will save weight in your luggage (which you can invest in a spare, dry set of clothing!).
10. Warm beer or dark beer? Take your pick, but straight plain “lager” is not the go-to drink for many UK golfers. So be prepared, post round you will be presented with a selection of strange looking brews of various strengths, colours and earthy tastes…. Dive in however because they will all taste fantastic and you’ll be back for more, lots more!
11. Strong accents; is a fact of travelling, but in certain parts of the UK and Ireland the dialects and accents can be very strong, such that sometimes it is hard for even some UK residents to pick them up. Don’t worry, the locals are all very friendly, so you can always get by with hand gestures, smiling and Google translate….
Feel ready for a golf trip to British Isles now? I hope so….!
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