Golf can be an expensive business. In Europe almost every course is accessible, but at a price. To play the new Turnberry on a weekend this summer will set you back the eye-watering sum of £350. For one round of golf! This makes it the most expensive green fee in Europe - President Trump must be so proud.
However, if you look around, sometimes you can find something pretty special. And here's an offer: You can play three truly exceptional courses - Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn with 2 nights' accommodation for £365 per person. Yes, that's right. For pretty much the same cost as one round at Turnberry, you can play these three quality tracks and have a bed to lay your head in.
First things first, of course there is a catch. This offer is available only in April, October and November. However, that needn't be an issue. April is the driest month of the year in these parts and the course is coming out of hibernation, with hardly any chance of a ground frost. And while October and November are wetter months you can still get some lovely days. Frankly, this part of the world is capable of surprising you with the weather (either way!) at any time of the year.
The quality of these three courses is pretty impressive. Royal Dornoch has recently been heralded as the 5th best course in the world by Golf Digest Magazine and in my ultimate poll of polls ranking, I have it as number 7. This is better than Muirfield, better than Portrush, in fact only St Andrews ranks higher in mainland UK!
Dornoch is simply a delight to play - you can read my full review here. Tom Watson describes it as the most fun he has ever had playing golf. I genuinely believe that if this course was situated in a more accessible place then it would be second only to St Andrews as the most frequent host of The Open. It is simply immense. It will test every shot in your bag but, as Watson says, you will have great fun.
Nairn may be the least heralded of the three courses but you will enjoy your round here without a doubt. It is famed for its incredibly conditioned greens and the course has been worthy of hosting a Walker Cup where the likes of Donald and Casey have teed it up. This is one of those courses which you wouldn't fly to the region just to play it but when it is there in front of you it would be a shame to miss.
And so to Castle Stuart. This is a fantasy golf course. I played it twice - in appalling weather - and fell in love with it. I have ranked it higher than Pebble Beach, Winged Foot and Kingsbarns. It leaves the likes of Royal Lytham and Carnoustie behind by a country mile. It is officially ranked 65th in the world but I have it in my top 10 for sure.
The course has been designed to be accessible to all. Fairways are generous and it's hard to lose too many balls. The lines you take from the tee are key to scoring well - this is a course that rewards the brave, but doesn't overly punish the weak.
The course has a tremendously natural feel to it and it's impossible to play without a smile on your face. If I could only play one course for the rest of my life, Castle Stuart would be a very strong candidate.
So, for £365 you get to play all three courses, in April, October or November, and have 2 nights' accommodation at Culloden House, the Royal Golf Hotel Dornoch, the Kingsmills Hotel or at Castle Stuart Golf on-site Lodgings. You can get all the details here.
Let me put that into perspective. If you were looking to book the same trip for the first week of May then the golf alone would cost you £475 and 2 nights at Culloden House would be £270 a person making a total of £745. Therefore this deal gives you a better than half price deal on some of the very best links courses you will find anywhere in the world.
Ok, you will be in and out in 3 days and probably won't have that much time to take in the local sights but both Inverness and Dornoch are great places to stay. Inverness has quite a few good restaurants and the pubs and nightclubs will keep you occupied if that's your thing. Johnnie Foxes rarely disappoints! If you are looking for something a little less hectic then definitely consider staying in Dornoch, it's not a big place but has golf in its blood and you will get a really true Scottish experience if you spend a couple of nights in the local pubs.
If you are in Scotland anyway then Inverness is a 3 hour drive from Edinburgh or a couple of hours from Aberdeen. However, if you are London-based it is probably even more accessible. Skyscanner tells me there are 38 flights a week now from London - with Easyjet or BA - and it is only an hour and a half away. Average ticket prices are under £50 each way. Castle Stuart and Nairn are both within 15 minutes drive of the airport so you can be teeing off just a couple of hours after leaving the south, truly in a different world!
I spend a lot of time looking for different opportunities to play some of the best golf courses in the world and too often they are hard to get on and ridiculously expensive. It's fantastic to see these three great courses getting together and making play so accessible. My advice would be to get booking now before they change their mind!