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‘If we didn’t have the American golfers, we probably wouldn’t be here’



“To be honest, if we didn’t have the American golfers, we probably wouldn’t be here.”

Golf tourism – including visitors playing courses and those who come to watch major events – is estimated to be worth nearly £300 million annually to the Scottish economy. According to research commissioned by Visit Scotland, average daily spending jumps from £64.50 for a day trip visitor to £318.12 for an overnight visitor, and goes up again to £338.49 for an overseas tourist.

READ MORE: Golf to the fore as new season gets underway

Mr Oldham said between 40% and 50% of guests throughout the year at Trump Turnberry are directly attributable to golf, but this rises significantly in the summer months when room rates are higher. So while golfers account for approximately 40% of overnight stays, they generate about 60% to 70% of revenues.

And among the biggest-spending international golf tourists, the Americans dominate. Without them, Mr Oldham said golf tour operators would face a stark challenge.

“You take the likes of the big boys such as are Perry Golf, Links Golf, Hidden Links [and St Andrews Golf Experience] – they wouldn’t have a business model without it. They really wouldn’t,” he said.

The Herald: Image: Craig McCausland/Getty Image: Craig McCausland/Getty (Image: Craig McCausland/Getty Images)

On the domestic golfing side, Golfbreaks and Your Golf Travel are the main operators for those from within the UK. They also do some outbound travel during the winter months to places like Spain, Portugal and Turkey, but not on the same scale as visitors coming here from the US.

“The UK could not support the market,” Mr Oldham said. “The quality of the golf courses, the money we invest in the golf courses across Scotland – we would be devastated if we lost the American market.

“It would recover, but the model would be very different. We charge for a non-resident golfer today £495 [at Trump Turnberry]. For us, the amount of people who are willing to spend that in the UK is just not there.”

READ MORE: Tour signs mental coaching deal to aid aspiring Scottish golfers

Schloss Roxburghe near Kelso has been part of the Destination by Hyatt collection since 2022 when it received an extensive refurbishment that saw the addition of a contemporary wing of dining, spa facilities and guest rooms to the original Sunlaws House dating back to the 1500s.

Its championship course will play host to the Tartan Pro Tour in July and is used by club members as well as hotel guests. Located off the beaten track, golf is a key element in creating what has become Hyatt’s first “destination location” in Scotland.

“This is a big draw not only for Hyatt members, but for travellers in general,” said Katie Johnson, vice president of independent collections and hotels at Hyatt. “Having access and a footprint in Scotland is very crucial, so we are actually meeting with the development team to talk about how we grow and get more properties, whether new builds or conversions.”

She added: “We are seeing a lot of interest in golf, especially after the pandemic we saw a resurgence of interest in the game globally. Obviously Scotland is very well-known for golf and at Hyatt we are constantly grounded in listening and learning, especially on the luxury side of our guest experience.”

The Herald: Mar HallMar Hall (Image: Agency)

Golf is also a key selling point for the new owners of Mar Hall, where the resort’s 18-hole championship course is benefitting from a multi-million investment after it was bought out of administration in December by Dubai-based Dutco Group with support from investment management specialist Align Partners

David Webster, operations director at Align, said the goal is to position it among the best hotel golf venues available to local members, guests, visiting parties, and golfers from overseas.

“They [international golfing tourists] will want to come here and play the courses that Scotland is famous for,” Mr Webster said.

“What we want to do is say, well stay here and play us once while you are on a tour of Scotland’s marquee golf courses. We won’t be a marquee golf course but we will be an exceptional quality golf course with exceptional quality service to match that.”

READ MORE: Historic Old Course golf pub Jigger Inn re-opens today

Mr Oldham said Trump Turnberry has about 350 individual club members and 50 corporate members who together account for approximately 15% of golfing revenues, “so you can see how important that green fee from the American golfer is”.  Asked what golf at the resort would look like without the inflow of guests from the US, he said the operation would have to “re-invent ourselves and what we do”.

“The Ailsa course is highly rated, it’s number three in the UK and Ireland behind County Down and the Old Course at St Andrews, it’s world-renowned and it’s had one of the best Open Championships ever, so it’s always going to be a course that people want to play,” he mused.

“The challenge is that price point. As I say, we’re over £400 for a resident, and £495 for a non-resident, so to get any volume we would have to drop that rate significantly.”





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