£250 To Spend On Green Fees – One ‘Trophy’ Course Or Five Decent Courses?

Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood debate which of the options delivers the more fulfilling golfing experience.

£250 to spend on green fees
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GM regulars Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood debate which of the options delivers the more fulfilling golfing experience.

£250 To Spend On Green Fees – One ‘Trophy’ Course Or Five Decent Courses?

One Trophy course says Jeremy Ellwood

The figures may be a little arbitrary and, of course, how much money you have at your disposal will have a bearing on things.

But assuming you could afford to do either, is it better to push the boat out on one dream course or play it safe and spread things round a little more?

I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of very good golf courses in the line of duty, and would probably draw a comparison between choosing to treat yourself to a four- or five-star hotel or sticking to a more modest guest house.

I’ve returned from many a trip over the years where I’ve skimped on the accommodation budget to keep overall costs down, only to declare, “Never again!”

I’m very much of the school of thought that life is too short, and when it comes to spending my money, I’m now far more interested in experiences than possessions.

I must have bored my wife rigid with the number of times I’ve told her that when this pandemic is over, we’re going to go away for a few days to a very nice hotel.

Not just a hotel, but a very nice hotel, because I want it to be an experience to savour - one that is very different to the everyday reality of my relatively humdrum life.

When it comes to golf, yes, I’ve played countless enjoyable courses that cost £50 or considerably less, but the rounds that have stayed with me longest are the ones that have delivered not just the very best experiences, but also a real sense of occasion.

And, like it or not, the very best experiences, just as with material possessions, tend to come with a heavier price tag.

£250 To Spend On Green Fees – One ‘Trophy’ Course Or Five Decent Courses?

Five decent courses says Fergus Bisset

There are so many things to love about golf but, for me, principal among all the merits is simply playing the game.

I enjoy hitting shots, making pars and birdies, trying to better myself and occasionally others in a little friendly competition.

I always love playing a top course, and I’ve been fortunate to do so reasonably often with this job. I wouldn’t forgo any of those experiences.

But the question here is, would I trade five rounds on reasonable tracks for one on a pearler? The answer for me is no.

On this, quantity would have to win over quality. What might I miss in those four extra rounds? A hole-in-one, the round of my life, the perfect golfing day?

And the sacrifice in quality needn’t be huge. Advances in greenkeeping have greatly improved the conditioning of courses in the last decades. There are very few layouts at the £50 green fee mark where the playing surfaces are poor. And there are plenty of gems to discover at that price point.

OK, the design and/or setting may not be as spectacular as one of the top-level trophy courses but, generally, playing conditions and the level of golfing test at a £50 course will be more than decent.

To fully convince myself, I imagined having a week off at home here in Aberdeenshire, with no commitments and a budget of £250.

Would I rather spend the lot on a single round at one of the premier tracks within striking distance and watch repeats of Cash in the Attic for the remaining four days? Or would I rather play every day for £50 (even twice a day for that price) on the supremely scenic and well-maintained courses all along Royal Deeside.

There’s no question – I’d be playing every day and I’d be enjoying every minute of it.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?