Tour operator insights

Gain insights into the industry, from these golf holiday experts

“Despite fluctuating foreign currency exchange rates post Brexit, 2017 golf holiday bookingsto EU destinations are significantly ahead of this time last year suggesting golfers are resilient to the forecasts of financial Armageddon. Having said this, Driveline is also seeing increased demand for all inclusive options, brought about by a weak pound.”
Paul Cowgill, Director, Driveline Golf

“We have seen an increase in the volume of golfers travelling to luxury resorts across Portugal and Spain, moving away from Turkey and North Africa. Client feedback shows that golfers are demanding higher service levels both on and off the courses -and the resorts which offer this are busier than ever with.”
Edward Terre General Manager, Supertravel Golf Holidays

“Despite the value of the pound dropping significantly since Brexit, this hasn’t deterred golfers booking trips for 2017. Popular destinations such as Vilamoura [Portugal] and Benalmadena [Spain] are thriving and there are still bargains to be had.”
 Robert Stinson, Partner, Golf Tours International

“Golf tourism to Turkey has tailed off - owing to the ongoing political uncertainty - but this means that, for those undeterred from visiting, the course conditions are better than ever.
However for the most part, golf travellers are heading back to Spain and Portugal - two destinations which are safe, affordable and, crucially, close to home. In these troubling times, people don’t want to travel too far.”
Steve Nicholson, Business Development Manager, Bilyana Golf Holidays

FYI Jo: Steve has requested that a PDF of the piece is sent to him (steve@bilyanagolf.com), prior to publication

“Golf travellers are shying away from troubled destinations such as Turkey and North Africa and it’s Portugal that is proving to be the major beneficiary of this change. Portugal’s popularity is partly due to its gorgeous, great value courses but also because, beyond the fairways, the country offers great beaches, weather and nightlife.”
Harley Mills, UK customer service specialist, Golfbreaks.com

“Golf tourism is growing again and we anticipate that our business will continue to increase, despite the disappointment of Brexit.

"We have seen an increase in travellers to Portugal due to unstable conditions in eastern Europe and Turkey while Spain, Portugal, UK, Ireland and France continue to have the majority of exclusive products with repeat bookers.”
Matthew Roberts, Sales specialist, Your Golf Travel

View the article here: http://content.yudu.com/web/2q1af/0A372gz/ABTAGOLF17/flash/resources/30.htm

Spotlight on South Korea

The vibe
East doesn’t just meet West in the Republic of Korea (ROK). Rather they collide in one almighty explosion, so expect a heady mix of traditional and modern. Buddhist temples, tea houses, historic palaces, hanbok (colourful silk costumes) and hanoks (traditional Korean houses) are juxtaposed alongside skylines of steel and glass, clubs playing K-Pop and chi chi boutiques - ensuring that South Korea truly has something for everyone.

The crowd
ROK has long been overshadowed by its larger neighbours - China, to the west and Japan, to the east - meaning that the country isn’t as clogged-up with tourists. Fast forward to 2017 though and ROK is finally coming into its own as a tourist destination, owing to its harmonious blend of technology and tradition and yes, it's rise as a golfing power. Our advice? Visit now - before everyone else catches on.

The golf
Spurred on by the success of Se Ri Pak - the first Korean woman to win one of golf’s major championships, the 1998 US Open - Inbee Pak, Hyo-Joo Kim and co, golf is seriously big business in ROK. There are two television channels dedicated to the game, while more than 250 courses dot the Land of Calm. Three of the best are:

Jungman Beach Golf Club
Situated on a seaside cliff, Jungmun Golf Club is ROK’s sole coastal course. It’s also the longest golf course in Korea, with a total of 18 holes and 72 pars, and one of the most picturesque: fairways are adorned with Jeju-grown foliage and subtropical plants. Green fee from 91,000 won (weekdays) -128,000 won (weekends) for 18 holes; www.jungmunresort.com

Nine Bridges Golf Club
Named one of the ‘Top 100 courses in the World’ by Golf Magazine, Nine Bridges’ name derives from the eight stone bridges built on the course - the ninth bridge is a metaphorical one connecting the club to its members and guests. Green fee from 140,000 won (weekdays) to 180,000 (weekends); www.ninebridges.co.kr/

Pinx Golf Club
Designed by renowned golf course designer, Theodore G. Robinson, Pinx Golf Club offers arresting views of both the Hallasan Mountain and the ocean. Year-round play is possible while over 30cmof sand paved beneath the greens, provides good drainage. Green fee from 85,000 won (weekdays) - 97,000 won (weekends) for 18 holes; www.thepinx.co.kr

The hotels
Hotels and motels abound in the major cities and on the volcanic island of Jeju - the largest of ROK’s many islands - offering all the amenities a modern traveller could desire. However homestays are arguably the best way to to experience Korean culture and customs first-hand. For a truly unique stay, check into a hanok (single story, tile roof, traditional Korean houses made out of wood and characterised by their traditional courtyards). 

PART 2: Essentials

When to go
Late spring (April-May) and early Autumn (September-October) is the ideal time to tee off in ROK, when temperatures are mild and rainfall is low.

Green fee
From £59- £124 for 18 holes.

Flight time
The average flight time from London to Seoul (ROK’s capital) is 10h, 45min.

Visa requirements
UK citizens are granted a 90-day permit on arrival, providing they have a confirmed onward ticket.

There are no special vaccination requirements for visiting ROK, although immunisation against Hepatitis A & B is recommended.

Getting around
ROK boasts an excellent public transport system - reliable trains and buses link cities, towns and rural villages alike - that puts the UK to shame.


View the article here:



Oh Carolina!

Already played (and stayed) in Florida, California and the Capital Region? It’s time to tee off in the Carolinas

North Carolina
Thanks to its intoxicating mix of magical mountain towns (here’s looking at Asheville, the childhood home of writer,Thomas Wolfe), booming microbreweries, sandy barrier islands (Ocracoke island, anyone?), forested mountain ranges - say hello to the Smokies (America’s most visited national park) and the Blue Ridge Mountains (America’s favourite drive) - unique bluegrass music scene, ability to serve fab barbecue and yes - great golfing opportunities - the southern state of North Carolina has charm by the bucket load.


The Omni Grove Park Inn
Swing into a round of golf on the historic 18-hole course at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Designed by Donald Ross in 1926, this 6,400-yard championship course has been played by PGA stars Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus and politicians including President Obama. The course was overhauled in 2001 - and has since earned nods from Conde Nast Traveler and North Carolina Golf Panel - but the feel and spirit remains the same: expect amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the tree-lined fairways and bent greens.
Green fee from US$75 -US$140; www.omnihotels.com/hotels/asheville-grove-park/golf

Known as the cradle of American golf, Pinehurst Resort boasts no fewer than nine 18-hole, world-famous championship golf courses but its most revered golf course is Pinehurst No. 2 - widely considered one of the game’s architectural masterpieces.
No. 2, which reopened in March 2011 following a year long $2.5 million restoration by design firm, Coore & Crenshaw, is best known for its crowned, undulating greens, - some of the most complex in the world - set amid towering pines.
Pinehurst reserves advance tee times for resort guests. If you wish to play at Pinehurst and aren’t a resort guest, contact the golf shop for tee times and rates 24 hours in advance of your play date.

Pine Needles
Two 18-hole Donald Ross designed golf courses have helped Pine Needles earn its place among America’s best golf resorts.
Measuring more than 7,000 yards in length, The Pines course follows the natural contours of the land, by the position of the sand traps and shaping of the greens.
Meanwhile Mid Pines remains exactly as Donald Ross crafted the course in 1921, a rarity among his masterpieces. Its most memorable hole is the postcard perfect, par-3 which plays over a pond to a back-to-front sloping green, that’s framed by majestic pine trees.
Green fee from US$85-US$235 (The Pines) and US$85-US$195 (Mid Pines);


South Carolina
Crossing the border into South Carolina is akin to stepping back in time: read charming cobblestone streets, carriage rides, colourful colonial-era mansions, mammoth oak trees dripping with moss and Instagram-friendly antebellum plantations.
Other attractions include palm studded beaches and the chance to get better acquainted with Gullah (a culture created by enslaved Africans in18th century, in an attempt to retain their homeland traditions).
That said South Carolina’s biggest draw is its southern hospitality - don’t be surprised if you’re invited home for sweet tea and Southern fried chicken…

Wild Dunes Resort
The Links Course at Wild Dunes Resort was Tom Fazio's first major solo design. Today, it’s newly renovated and still among his favourites - the ASGCA architect called the Links course “an architect's dream” - owing to the rustling palms lining lush, rolling fairways and a finishing hole overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Elsewhere the Harbor Course is famed for its water -  lagoons and salt marshes come into play on every hole. Make no mistake: the Harbor Course may be the Links’ little sibling but it poses huge challenges.
Green fee from US$55 (Harbor course); from US$65 (Links Course)

Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Sitting prettily by the sea, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is a haven for golfers boasting, as it does, five public courses - step forward Cougar Point, Osprey Point, Turtle Point Oak Point and The Ocean Course - sure to challenge anyone with a passion for the game.
The latter, which plays along 7,296 yards, is arguably the jewel in Kiawah’s crown. As its name suggests, golfers can look forward to panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere. Little wonder then that The Ocean Course was chosen as a key location for golf flick The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Green fee from US$300; www.kiawahresort.com

Harbour Town Golf Links
Tiny Hilton Head island - South Carolina’s largest barrier island -  is one of America’s top golf spots and home to more than 400 golf holes. However it is Harbour Town - whose 18th green is back-dropped by a lighthouse (Hilton Head’s enduring symbol) and the Calibogue Sound (the channel between the island and the mainland) - where most golfers want to tee it up.
Harbour Town Golf Links was Jack Nicklaus' first foray into golf architecture back in 1969. The course - which Nicklaus co-designed with Pete Dye - continues to challenge pros and tourists in equal measure, owing to its interestingly shaped greens and lagoons.
Green fee from US$190-US$380; www.seapines.com/golf/harbour-town-golf-links





When to go

Autumn (September- October) and Spring (April-May) is the optimumtime to take to the greens. The weather is warm and pleasant, but not too hot.

Green fee
Green fees range from US$55-US$380.

Flight time
The Carolinas are approximately a 13 hour flight from London.

Visa requirements
UK citizens must register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov) 72 hours before arrival. Registration costs US$14 and is valid for two years.


No specific vaccinations are required.

Getting around
For flexibility and convenience, renting a car is crucial.


Tourism board contact

View the article here: http://content.yudu.com/web/2q1af/0A372gz/ABTAGOLF17/flash/resources/220.htm

Big hitters

The Aloha State maybe synonymous with surfing but Hawaii is also a haven for golfers, being abundantly blessed with gorgeous golf courses. Here's a primer on where to play: you can say “Mahalo” (thank-you) later..

Olomana Golf Club (O’ahu)

Framed by the dramatic Ko’olau mountain range in the gorgeous Windward community of Waimanalo, Olomana is where Michelle Wie - one of the LPGA's most recognised stars - got her start. It’s also where POTUS (and O’ahu native), Obama, practises his swing when in town. And for good reason: this 18-hole golf course is divided into distinctly different and challenging nines. The front nine features level fairways with formidable water hazards, while the back nine’s lush rolling hills are scattered with strategically placed sand bunkers.
Green fee from US$39 (nine holes) and US$69 (18 holes); www.olomana.golf


Mana Laui Francis H. I‘I Brown Golf Courses (Big Island)

Mauna Lani Resort's two championship golf courses, the Francis H. I‘i Brown North and South, are strikingly different, yet equally challenging.
Built on a lava bed, the north course is characterised by kiawe forests and rolling fairways. The signature hole is the number 17- an Instagram-worthy par-3 tucked into a natural lava bowl. Meanwhile the south course - which snakes through stark, rugged a‘a lava - boasts two striking ocean holes. Step forward number seven, a picturesque par-3 framed by the blue Pacific Ocean, and number 15. The latter is one of the most photographed over-the-water golf holes in the world.

Green fee from US$225 (non resort guests) and US$160 (resort hotel guests); www.maunalani.com


Turtle Bay (O’ahu)
Oahu’s North Shore is celebrated for its spectacular surf, but two legends of golf and architecture – Arnold Palmer and George Fazio – have left their mark with this 36-hole venue.
Crafted during the 70s, the original Fazio course has holes that meander along the coastline and include breathtaking views of Hawaii's iconic North Shore. However the jewel in Turtle Bay’s crown is the Palmer course, whose setting - think dense wetlands, contoured tree-lined fairways, and a crescendo to amazing ocean views from the penultimate hole – make it a bucket-list course for any avid golfer.
Green fee from US$105 (Fazio course) and US$155 (Palmer course); www.turtlebayresort.com/Hawaii-Golf

Kapalua Golf (Maui)

Voted the best golf course in Hawaii by Golf Digest magazine, Kapalua - set amid a 22,000-acre historic pineapple plantation on the popular island of Maui - boasts two championship courses. Take a bow the Bay course - an Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane collaboration offering ocean views on 14 of the 16 holes - and the Plantation course. Framed by the West Maui mountains, the Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore designed Plantation course is home to the PGA TOUR’s season opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Green fee from US$219 (Bay course) and US$299 (Palmer course); www.turtlebayresort.com/Hawaii-Golf


When to go
The dry season (April to October) is arguably the optimumtime to take to the greens.

Green fee
Green fees range from £54-£23.

Flight time
The Hawaiian islands are a long flight from London - you’re looking at approximately 17 hours.

Visa requirements
UK citizens must register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov) 72 hours before arrival. Registration costs US$14 and is valid for two years.

At the time of writing, no specific vaccinations are required for entry to Hawaii.

Getting around
O’ahu has an excellent islandwide public transportation system called TheBus but renting a car is usually necessary on thee neighbouring islands.

Tourism board contact

View the article here: 


Make me a match

The UAE is becoming a haven for championship golf courses. Kaye Holland suggests the best layouts for a variety of holiday golfers


For a country that was only formed in 1971, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hasn’t half hogged the headlines thanks to its single minded pursuit of superlatives –  the seven star hotels, the man made islands, the world’s tallest tower…. But the desert kingdom is also - owing to advancements in technology - becoming a haven for championship golf courses. Here’s the low-down on five of the best…

Best for beginners: Al Hamra Golf Club
Tucked away at the northern tip of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah is less crowded than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, making the emirate’s Al Hamra Golf Club a great choice for golf novices to practice in peace. Designed by renowned golf course architect, Peter Harradine, the course incorporates both open water lagoons and desert landscapes resulting in a stunning par 72 championship course measuring 7,325 yards at full length with five varying tee options on each hole.  Green fee from AED275; ww.alhamragolf.com

Best for serious golfers: Yas Links Abu Dhabi
The Middle East’s first and only Links course was over three years in construction but the wait was worth it.  Set among rolling hills and delicate mangrove plantations on the western shores of Yas Island - Abu Dhabi’s landmark entertainment destination - every hole boasts arresting visas of the Arabian Gulf. Gorgeous views aside, the beloved Kyle Phillips designed course, with its uneven fairways, pot bunkers and unpredictable wind conditions, offers golfers the ultimate challenge. Little wonder the par 72 championship course, which stretches to a demanding 7,450 yards, has been hailed by Golf Digest Magazine as the ‘24th best course in the world outside the US’.
Green fees vary. Email info@yaslinks.com for information; www.yaslinks.com

Best for families: Tower Links Golf Club
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the UAE’s ultimate holiday destinations, but families may prefer the sleepy emirate of Ras Al Khaimah whose Tower Links Club is set against the backdrop of the stunning Hajar mountains and mangroves - as opposed to modern shopping malls. With four tees to choose from, golfers of all handicaps can enjoy this 7,199 yard, par 72, 18 hole course whose back nine holes are fully floodlit allowing for night golf. What’s more, the golf carts on the course are GPS enabled meaning even a first time golfer can catch up on the course layout, in no time. There’s also a world class clubhouse equipped with a pro shop, restaurant, gym and spa.
Green fee from AED650; www.towerlinksgolfclub.golfgaga.com

Best for couples: Saadiyat Beach Golf Club
Designed by golfing great, Gary Player, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is the Gulf’s first ocean course. As such stunning seaside views (keep your eyes peeled for dolphins) come as standard. 
The club’s 18-holes are of varying difficulty from challenging par 3s with gently contoured greens, to par 5s with strategically positioned bunkers and water features aligning the immaculately shaped fairways. But the best bit? The course, which has been graced by the A-list likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Ernie Els, weaves in and out of several superlative five-star hotels - perfect for a romantic getaway.
Green fee from AED550; www.sbgolfclub.ae

Best for groups: Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Home to the European PGA Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship since 2006, this par-72, 7,334-yard Championship course provides a tough-but-fair challenge with 18 holes of lush fairways, 90 strategically placed bunkers and generous greens. Presiding over the course is the Middle East’s most striking clubhouse - a winged falcon perched atop a golf ball - that encompasses a state of the art gym, large, swimming pool, sauna and steam room and three fantastic restaurants. Bottom line? There’s plenty to keep groups engaged after they’ve finished on the fairways.
Green fee from AED550; www.adgolfclub.com


PART 2: Box Copy, Essentials

When to go
The best time to play is between the months of November and March when the weather is warm and sunny virtually every single day. Summer (June-September) is hot and humid - temperatures have been known to top 50 degrees. Golfers will also want to avoid visiting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when drinking and eating in public is unacceptable.

Green fee
From AED275-945

Flight time
Emirates Airline fly from London to Dubai- one of the most acclaimed airports in the world - in under seven hours.

Visa requirements
UK citizens will be granted a free visit visa on arrival - expect your passport to be stamped as you pass through immigration. The visa is valid for 30 days but can be extended for an additional 30 days, by visiting an immigration office and paying an extension fee.

At the time of writing, no specific vaccinations are required for entry to the UAE, but it would be wise to check with your GP prior to travelling.

Getting aroundOfficial taxis are air conditioned, well maintained and metered but beware: huge volumes of traffic can turn a 20 minute journey into a two hour long grid-lock nightmare - particularly in Abu Dhabi.

Tourist board contact