|11th green at Castle Stuart|
It will certainly add huge weight to what is
an impressive links golf destination, combining Scotland's North East (Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay, Fraserburgh, Trump International... to name a few), with the Highlands (Castle Stuart, Nairn, Brora, and the richly acclaimed Royal Dornoch). With airports in Inverness and Aberdeen, it makes one of the best golfing coastlines in the world very accessible indeed.
|The dramatic par three 2nd on Carne's Kilmore nine|
More importantly, for Ireland, could these new courses influence the decision-making of future golfing tourists looking at an Ireland vs. Scotland golf trip?
It is an interesting question when you consider the plans for Irish links courses that have fallen by the wayside over the last decade... the most recent casualty being Bushmills Dunes on the Antrim coastline.
The Irish Golfing PlethoraBack when I was travelling in 2007/2008, there were plans for many new Irish golf courses. Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els (x2)... were just some of the higher profile courses which were to be spread across the country. Consider that three of the last courses to be built and opened in Ireland were designed by Nick Faldo (Lough Erne), Paul McGinley (Macreddin) and Jack Nicklaus (Killeen Castle) and you'll note the trend for 'names'.
Big names = big courses = big media splash.
|The par three 4th at Macreddin|
|The new 3rd hole on Carne's Kilmore nine.|
Two links courses were to cover a 700 acre stretch of dunes and land north of Castlegregory. One course was to be private (which would have been the 1st of its kind in Ireland) and designed by Bill Coore (of Coore and Crenshaw); the other was to be open to all and designed by Tom Doak. The story goes that seven Irish families had grazing rights to the land and it took the efforts of Bob Bianchi, a non-golfing lawyer from Massachusetts, to convince them that a bigger picture existed. Indeed, there had been dreams of a golf course on this land for some 50 years. Sadly, with environmental and EU restrictions, that dream has not materialised... and so it remains.
Then there are Mike Keiser's plans for Inch, on the opposite side of the peninsula. Should the planning all go Keiser's way, the course would be just 300 yards away from Dooks, across Castlemaine Harbour. It would be on a spit of land, meaning water would be alongside almost every hole. In terms of a new links course in Ireland, this remains the most viable option.
|The 4th hole at Castle Stuart - aiming straight at the castle|
The Golfing QuestionThe question really is: will the new courses being built in Scotland affect golfers' decision-making processes? Will they look at Scotland as being more attractive once these two new courses are added? Let's not forget that the existing courses at both Trump Aberdeen and Castle Stuart are 'new' in links terms. According to Ruairidh MacDonald (of the Scottish Golf Podcast) they have already boosted tourism:
"Cruden Bay (practically next door to Trump) noted a 40% rise in visitors in 2013 (one year after Trump opened) based on three things:
1. The Trump course is bringing more golfers to the region.
2. The PR / media people who visit while also visiting Trump. One Wall St Journal article concluded by saying 'visit Trump International but only if you have time after playing Cruden Bay.'
3. Course conditioning has Cruden Bay in great shape.
Ruairidh concludes with what can only be termed as golfing gold:
"For the first time golf tour operators are reporting solely Aberdeen itineraries, a sign that the great golf offering is extensive."
Look at it from the other side: is Ireland missing out by not building these new courses? If the government is placing such weight on tourism, surely these courses would only help to improve the number of golfers striding our fairways? And as our government and Tourism Ireland are so keen to bang on about, golfers are worth three to four times as much as 'regular' tourists.
I know it's not just a political decision - there's also the issue of EU regulations and developer motivation - but what do people think? Should we be looking at every possibility to build these new courses?