The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

Dream Trip to Scotland: What they learned

They played 20 rounds on 16 courses in 11 days for $4,000. Two brothers, separated in age by almost 13 years, sampled the best golf Scotland has to offer.


Kevin Daly, 39, struggled to find his game. Mike Daly, 51, the sage Navy veteran of hard travel and no sleep, had some low rounds in extreme conditions. After 1,000 miles of cars, boats, trolleys, twisted ankles and broken tees, I spoke to the Daly brothers about their favorite courses, the best value, tips to planning a dream trip to Scotland, and what’s next on their brotherly bucket list.

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Would you ever do a trip like this again?
KEVIN DALY: I would definitely do another golf trip, but I wouldn’t cover as many hubs as we did. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose one hub and spend a full week there. Our trip was fun, but punishing.
 
Kevin, if you were to build a trip around one hub, which would it be?
KD: I think you’d have to start with St. Andrews. There are so many courses within a 10 to 15 mile radius, you wouldn’t even need to rent a car. As I said in the blog, St. Andrews is the pilgrimage site for golfers.
 
Mike, what would you change in the itinerary?
MIKE DALY: I would not do it exactly the way we did. We were originally looking at traveling with four or eight people. And you could not have done the trip we did with more than two people. If I went back, I would focus on St. Andrews, and make the excursion north for a day or two.
 
Of the 20 rounds you played, can you guys name five favorite courses?
KD: The Machrie was our favorite. Even if I failed to break 100 both times. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fantastic views. Magical experience. There’s something about island life that really appeals to me.
 
Royal Dornoch was a very close second. Growing up in San Diego, and playing seaside golf, you get addicted to the saltwater. And some of the strongest saltwater smells were at Dornoch. I’m so happy we played it a second time.
 
Turnberry is third. Both of us were beat when we played it, it was our first day, but it was a gorgeous day. Those holes, four through 11, were unbelievable. 
 
St. Andrews is fourth. It really was a magic carpet ride. I was in shock that I was there. It’s a trippy layout. Two or three times you have holes crisscrossing each other, a few double greens, a few times you feel like you’re in a traffic jam. Thankfully I had a caddie to get me through it. The round was a blur.
 
Carnoustie is fifth. Mama Mia! It’s an amazing test of golf.
 
What about you, Mike?
MD: Those five are all wonderful. With Machrie, which is off the beaten path, not everyone likes hitting so many blind shots, but we didn’t mind it because we were given such great directions. And the views are fantastic.
 
What was some of the best value golf?
KD: Certainly Cruden Bay, to play it twice for a total of $110; that was an incredible deal. Dornoch, to play that course for $140, and then a replay for $80, is unbelievable. The Crail Golfing Society, to play two completely different courses for $120, was a steal. Tain, playing for less than if we didn’t play in the tournament, was weird. We paid $30; it’s normally $60. Aberdeen, for what it is--a fantastic golf course--we paid $150. For Turnberry, normally you have to pay $350, so I believe it’s a good deal to pay $150 for twilight. Most people dream of having their own Duel in the Sunset anyway.
 
You guys spent roughly $4,000. Did you get your money’s worth?
KD: I’m actually quite surprised it was only $4,000. I’m glad you kept a running tally, because it helped me realize what an absolute bargain the trip was. It made me happy I spent the time and energy to research the courses and B&Bs. I know that in times like these, $4,000 is a lot of money, but I’m pretty sure if the same trip had been organized by a travel agent, it would cost five times as much.
 
In terms of what you packed, what was the MVP of your trip?
KD: It’s tie between the Tiger Balm and whiskey flask. I also bought one of those skin shirts. That thing was insane. It kept my lower back warm, it breathes, great in all weather conditions. I spent $100 on that, and I wore it 75 percent of the time. I brought two pairs of waterproof golf shoes. I needed both pairs.
 
MD:  I made one investment earlier this golf season, a new driver, the Titleist 910 D3. I was very confident with it, and as you know, the importance of getting off the tee well, especially over there, is important. 
 
Kevin, prior to taking your dream trip to Scotland, you put in a lot of physical preparation, you overhauled your swing, but in terms of results, it read like a nightmare. Were you still able to have fun?
KD: I was. Early on I changed my mindset. By the second or third day, I think it was at Troon, I said to Mike, “I’m going to play one hole at a time.” If I tripled or quadrupled a hole, I just said, “Forget it, I have a new hole in front of me, and let’s try to make a par.” At first, it was embarrassing to allow you to post those scores. And my expectation was to play better golf, but bottom line: it takes a long time to make a major swing change. And as bad as the scores were, I did have stretches of good golf.
 
Mike, were there points of the trip where you felt sorry for Kevin?
MD: There were many points. He has the talent, but he was making some big swing changes. I’m sure if we went back, he would play better.
 
What was your key to such great golf?
MD: A little bit of practice before I left, but I think the key to success, having thought about a trip like this for a number of years, is being excited about being there. There’s so much history, it’s all so special, there’s an added desire to step it up and play well. Who knows when you’re going to get back there again? And that added desire helped me. 
 
Kevin, three tips for someone trying to plan a trip to Scotland?
KD: First, choose people who you like to travel with. Regardless of how much Mike and I got on each other’s nerves, he was a great travel partner. Choose people you can rely on, who are responsible, who are willing to go with the flow. On the road, prima donnas can drag you down.
 
Second, the website I used for 80 percent of the planning is golfnook.com. Of all the independent travel sites, it was the best. It gives you everything. Since I used it last year, they’ve updated it twice. It’s really impressive. There’s another good one, called TheIndependentGolfer.com. Those two sites complement each other very well. 
 
Third, the thing that really ate me alive was the lack of sleep. Unless you’re masochistic, like we were, make sure you plan some sleep. I would tell people to get some rest and relaxation and enjoy the places where they stay.
 
Were you guys prepared go to Scotland and not to play the Old Course?
KD: We knew that there was a 50-50 chance. And we were OK with that. Both of us said before the trip, after looking at the itinerary, it was still an amazing trip if we didn’t get on the Old Course. We obviously didn’t get picked in the lottery. And if we didn’t get on by way of the daily ballot box, we were willing to go out at 5 a.m., and play as singles. The guys we played with, they were on the singles list.
 
Kevin, ten years from now, what will be your greatest memory of this trip?
KD: I have to go with the first flash into my brain, which was the drive on the Road Hole. I never dreamed I would have to play a fade, but that’s what my caddie told me to do. And I did exactly what he told me to do. Too bad I topped my 5-iron and bogeyed the hole, but you don’t have to write that.
 
Mike, what did you take away from the trip?
MD: To go the home of golf was a life-long goal fulfilled. Given my past career, being active in the Navy, I’ve had the opportunity to play golf in some special places: the Orient, both coasts of Australia, the Persian Gulf, but never in the European theater. So being able to go to Scotland, to play there, it was fun. On the course, off the course, it was enjoyable.  
 
Kevin, at the end of day, with you’re ongoing love affair with the game of golf, is the relationship as strong as ever, or is it in need of some counseling?
KD: It’s stronger than it was before. I took a good two and a half weeks off when I got home to let my back and feet heal. I’ll be honest, the putter I almost launched at Balcomie; I launched it here in Vienna. I never liked the damn thing. I’ve gone back to my high school putter, my old grip, and I’ve been putting better. I’m also thinking about the belly putter. I still believe I can get down to a single-digit handicap like I had when I was 16.
 
What’s next for the Daly Brothers?
KD: The Navy/Notre Dame football game is going to be in Dublin in September 2012. A good friend of ours is a Naval Academy grad, and he threw out the idea of going to that game and spending a week playing golf in Ireland, so that’s on our radar.

--Matty G.

(You can follow me on Twitter @Matt_Ginella.)

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