- November 5, 2021 // The Consummate Pro
The global pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives, but how has Covid-19 changed international golf travel in that time? In this article we discuss the ten most obvious changes we are seeing as a result of Covid, and what impact they are having on our clients future travel plans to Ireland and Scotland.
The biggest consideration for our prospective clients is tee time availability. As things currently stand, much of 2022 is already booked up. A significant number of groups moved from 2020 and 2021 into 2022 before the diary even opened, so ‘new’ availability was very limited to begin with. There is now a push on for 2023, with many clients realising that they need to start planning ahead. This is a good strategy, as it is more likely they will be able to access the best tee times and lodgings on offer. What with 150th Open in St. Andrews’ next summer, the 153rd edition in Royal Portrush in 2025, and the Ryder Cup in Adare Manor in 2027, the next few years are going to be busy. These events are great in themselves, and for raising the profile of golf in this part of the world, but they do create a challenge for finding tee times.
Some golf clubs are actually considering reducing visitor availability as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The increase in member play around the world in the past few years, has some predicting it will continue. The change to hybrid working and working from home full-time, will afford people extra time to play golf. The reluctance of more senior members to travel overseas anymore, will also reduce tee time availability. These factors may put pressure on visitor availability in the longer term, but only time will tell.
Service levels at many golf clubs have been reduced as a result of Covid-19 mitigation measures, but one has been impacted more than others, and that is the availability of caddies. With a lack of visitors, many caddies moved to other temporary paid jobs in the services sector and a considerable number have not (yet) returned. In some of the biggest clubs in Ireland, the caddie pool has been reduced by up to 75%. It is expected that as the opportunity for consistent loops return, so will the caddies, but there is no guarantee of this. As an integral part of the golf travel experience, we hope to see the numbers return as soon as possible.
Having been denied the opportunity to fulfil that bucket list trip, or the annual sojourn to Ireland or Scotland for the past 2 seasons, there is now unprecedented demand from key markets such as the USA and Canada. Enquiries are at an all-time high, but, availability is at an all-time low. The key message, if we were to offer one, is to start planning now for 2023 and beyond.
The “lost time” factor
Having spoken to many of our clients who have been fortunate enough to travel to Ireland this summer, they told us just how much they missed playing here. Many mentioned how they felt the Covid-19 pandemic had robbed them of precious time. We have heard this a lot, and it is another key factor in driving the demand we are now seeing. Consequently we are seeing an increased spend on trips. Clients have extended for a day or two in order to make sure they get in that coveted round. We are seeing higher category bedrooms being booked and an increasing number of rounds being played. These factors are again adding to the pressures on availability and demand.
One of the most significant booking requests we are seeing is for helicopters. The number of clients who have requested a helicopter for either part or all of their itinerary is up by over 50%. This certainly feeds into the ‘lost time’ narrative where groups are looking to maximise their time and experience while on tour. Utilising helicopters is not only a great time saver, but a great way to see the country. Clients have been able to explore the Cliffs of Moher, the Lakes of Killarney and much more this year, all from the air. We highly recommend that you consider taking a helicopter ride for at least one leg of your trip. Not only is it a fantastic experience, but the cost-benefit can add significant value to your trip.
One of the positives of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has presented properties and suppliers with the time to invest in their physical product. Golf courses, hotels, restaurants and pubs have all spent time to spruce up their properties. Transport providers have added to their fleets and are gearing up for some great years ahead. You could easily make the argument that there isn’t a better time to visit Ireland or Scotland.
A number of significant new golf courses have opened since the start of the pandemic, adding to the already magnificent offering in Ireland and Scotland. The St. Patricks Links at the Rosapenna Resort in Co. Donegal, Ireland, opened its doors earlier this year. The first Tom Doak project in Ireland, it has received universal acclaim since. Joining the Old Tom Morris and Sandy Hills Links, there are now 54 holes of world class links golf in the village of Downings. It is no understatement to suggest that it’s opening is a game-changer for the region. The Dumbarnie Links in Leven, Fife, was due to open its doors just before Covid-19 struck. It finally welcomed its first visitors on the 29th of May 2020 and has been lauded ever since. Designed by Clive Clark, and only a short drive from St. Andrews, Dumbarnie is a perfect accompaniment to the other great links golf courses in this part of Scotland.
Opportunities – The road less travelled
With availability at the most popular links golf courses in Ireland and Scotland at a premium in 2022, this is the perfect time to explore some of the other great linksland in the British Isles. We have recently sent clients itineraries for the Scottish Highlands, the Northwest of Ireland, Wales and the Open rota gems of Liverpool and Southport. There are just so many fantastic links golf courses to be experienced around these islands. The spectacular 9-holes of Cruit Island in Donegal or the rolling dunes of Arklow Links in Wicklow should not be missed. The rugged beauty of Carne in the west, or the ancient Ardglass in Northern Ireland should form part of any trip. Then, what about a trip to the Scottish islands to play Machrihanish Dunes, The Machrie and Askernish. You could still take in the vibrancy of St. Andrews without playing the Old Course or blowing the budget by playing magnificent courses such as Crail, Leven, Elie and Lundin Links. The opportunities are endless for the links golf enthusiast who takes the road less travelled!
Finally, as we all know, the world of aviation has been devastated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Capacity is down on all transatlantic routes with many potentially not returning for years to come. Therefore our advice is simple – book early. Most international routes allow you to book up to a year in advance. So with seats at a premium, now is the time to get on it. Seats in business and first class are reporting high demand as people adopt that “lost time” attitude we mentioned above. So the sooner you can secure your seats the better.
Here at The Consummate Pro we have successfully negotiated our clients through the past 2 years without the need for cancellations or price increases. Our clients trust us, not only with their travel plans but also their money. As a professional tour operator with insurance and bonding in place, your money is safe with us. If you have any concerns about booking a trip with us and want to know more about how our terms and conditions protect you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. If you are thinking of taking a golf trip to Ireland or Scotland in the near future, then we would encourage you to get in touch with us sooner rather than later to make those plans. In the meantime, why not take a look at one of our sample Northern Ireland Golf Tours for some ideas.