scotland continues to strengthen
On a recent visit to Scotland to celebrate a wee birthday at St. Andrew’s, the recent emergence of Dunbarnie as an excellent new addition to the region seemed to be a conversation many were discussing, as the new golf season rolls in.
I heard enough to know that this is a venue that will need to be experienced sometime soon, but with my GTE hat on, I started thinking about the strength of Scotland as a globally renowned golf destination, and how they have consistently added some fantastic new courses in recent times.
As well as Dunbarnie, you can add Trump Aberdeen, Castle Stuart, Dundonald, Ardfin, Machrihanish Dunes and the seventh course at St. Andrew’s, The Castle; that is an extraordinarily impressive list of exceptional courses built in modern times.
Naturally, my mind then wandered to England, and considered whether we have added anything of significance, and particularly whether we have added any venues that could attract more tourism.
Well, the answer would have to be a resounding no. Yes, there have been some excellent new courses built, such as the Centurion, Queenwood, JCB and Beaverbrook, but all of these are financed and managed as private membership models, and therefore are only accessible through knowing the right person at each of the Clubs. The Grove could be considered relatively new, even though it is very well established now, but this course and hotel does a roaring trade on many levels other than just golf.
So, the question would certainly be, do we need more golf courses, and if we built them would they be sustainable. It’s no secret that many courses have closed over the last 10 or 15 years due to lack of demand or being badly run. It is also wise to remember that we are experiencing unnatural demand for domestic golf since, during and following the pandemic, and gauging the potential success of a new development would be even harder to assess in current times.
But let’s assume there is a demand for more golf tourism in England, where would you build a new golf course. Well, if you took a lead from Scotland, you would build courses and hotels in regions that already have an international reputation. Right at this moment, the North West would probably welcome a new 5-star resort with open arms. Demand is extremely high, and the traditional links classics like Birkdale, Hoylake and Lytham can probably close their visitor tee sheet for the next 18 months. For all the truly great golf in the North West, there is no 5-star resort of the Turnberry, St. Andrew’s, Gleneagles ilk, so I don’t think the development of such a venue would do the region any harm.
The second region with a global golf reputation is Kent; an additional course and perhaps a high-quality hotel, to add to the heavyweight courses already there would again seem to present an opportunity.
So, the question would certainly be, do we need more golf courses, and if we built them would they be sustainable?
There is great golf to be found in the South West, Surrey and Yorkshire, but for a variety of reasons it is hard to imagine more golf courses being welcomed in those regions. The South West already has a huge number of visitors flooding into the area, that the infrastructure is already bursting at the seams. Surrey and Yorkshire are urban and suburban environments, not normally associated with a growing golf tourism market, and with most Clubs having such strong active, local memberships, tee times are already difficult.
Of course, there are many other great touring areas in England; Norfolk, Suffolk, Northumberland, Bournemouth, but they do not necessarily have a golf destination profile. Northumberland, for instance, is much better known for Castles, Lindisfarne, scenery, etc., so building a major new golf resort in these areas would be a challenge.
It’s always exciting to hear about or discover new golf courses, and if the growth of golf participation continues to grow, then hopefully, we will hear about some new developments in England sometime soon.
If you would like to contact Golf Tourism England with any questions, then please get in touch.