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How to Golf Scotland like a Local

Sometimes the last thing you really want is an accurate historical perspective on expenses, especially when it comes to dream golf trips to Scotland. But here goes: In 1971—admittedly not yesterday, but scarcely Paleolithic—my wife and I, our teenage sons, young daughter and one boy's sweetheart took an eleven-day trip through Scotland. (It was the first of more than thirty golf trips to Scotland that I would make over the years, playing more than a hundred courses along the way, and I plan to return again in August.) In St. Andrews we spent two nights at the Scores Hotel, where the six of us occupied three rooms, one with bath and sea view, the other two without. The total bill came to £61.84, which translated then to $154.50. The greens fee for the Old Course was seventy-five pence ($1.87).

Today, the rate for a night in a double room at the Scores is $335. As for the Old Course, the greens fee, £120 ($225), is 120 times more than it was in 1971. Even taking inflation into account, one becomes acutely aware that things are not what they once were. But that's no reason at all not to attempt an itinerary that, in the summer of 2006, makes sense with respect to time, money and the game.

For starters, let's say that a week away from work is all that you can spare. Is that enough to do the trip justice?Yes, because it will produce eight golf days. On Friday evening, fly to Scotland. Play Saturday through Saturday, then fly home on Sunday.

If you stick with me, you'll play at least eleven courses, all from only two bases, St. Andrews and either Gullane or North Berwick, and all of them dune-studded, seaside links (the reason for crossing an ocean). Your greens fees will range from $17 (Musselburgh Links) to $254 (Muirfield—I feel that shoestring stretching), with an average of about $130. Accommodations, at around $80 a night, can be markedly less expensive than the golf.

As for caddies, they would set you back about $75 per round. Though a great source of local color, let's make them optional this time. The one exception is at the Old Course, where both line and distance can often be perplexing.

With the basic guidelines now out of the way, it's time—high time, you must be thinking—to get going.

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