ABTA Magazine

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

48 hours in Xi’an

Steeped in history and heritage, China’s ancient capital should be at the top of any travel itinerary, says Kaye Holland

History buffs will be in their element in Xi’an. The former capital of the Tang Dynasty and the starting point of the Silk Road is today regarded - together with Athens, Cairo and Rome - as “one of the four major capitals of ancient civilization.” 

Xi’an’s premier sight - and one of the most famous archeological finds in the world - is without a doubt The Terracotta Warriors. The life like army (no two warriors have the same features) was built more than 2,000 years ago to serve Emperor Qin in the afterlife but it wasn’t until 1974, that the army was discovered by peasants drilling a well. Today the aforementioned peasants are bonafide celebrities and sit outside the site signing (for a fee) guide books 24/7. 

Ticked off the Terracotta Army? Make a beeline for The Big Goose Pagoda which was constructed during the Tang Dynasty to house the Buddhist sutras brought back from India by Xuan Zang. The famous translator and Buddhist monk’s travels served as the impetus for Journey to the West – one of the most well known works of Chinese literature. 

Xian’ is also home to one of the oldest city walls in China. It takes four hours to walk around the City Wall (builtback in 1370 to serve as a defense against the Emperor’s enemies) although a golf cart can whizz you around for 200RMB.

Inside the wall, The Drum and Bell Tower is the big draw. The Bell Tower originally housed a bell that, in ancient times, was struck every morning while the Drum Tower, marked nightfall. Both offer arresting views of the surrounding area and serve as a wonderful example of Xian’s ancient architecture.

Lastly don’t miss the Muslim Quarter that’s been home to the city’s Chinese Muslims for centuries. The narrow streets are full of shops and stalls peddling sweets, salted nuts and every souvenir under the sun.

Wendy Wu Tours includes a visit to Xi’an as part of its ‘Imperial China’ tour. As well as historic Xi’an, the eight day private tour (from £2,090) also takes in bustling Beijing. Price includes international flights, domestic transport, all accommodation, some meals, entrance and visa fees. www.wendywutours.co.uk


Take a trip to see the famous forces - aka the Terracotta Warriors. Start with the smallest pit and work your way up to the largest pit (home to 6000 warriors and horses) for an impressive finale. 

Check out the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang which took a work force of 700,000 people, some 38 years (246-210 BC) to complete. Legend has it that Qin ordered precious stones to be placed into the ceiling. The craftsmen were then buried alive, so that the location of the first (and most infamous) Emperor of China’s tomb remained a secret.

Make for the Muslim Quarter where, in streets such as Dapi Yuan and Liyang Shi, you can get stuck into good tasting specialities like Guan tang baozi (steamed buns served with sauces) and Yangrou paomo (a soup dish that involves breaking a loaf of bread into a bowl and adding broth, mutton and noodles).


After a leisurely breakfast, hit the Big Goose Pagoda - rightly regarded as a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture. Expect to see walls and doors carved with exquisite Buddha figures.

Wander around Xian’s City Wall - the largest and most intact Ming Dynasty castle in the world. Then pick up a trinket (think jade and Mao memorabilia) or two at Northwest Antique Market by the Zhongshan Gate.

Feast on dumplings while enjoying traditional dance, music and singing at Tang Dynasty. Thedinner dance show is big, bold, brash and, if you’re in the right mood, fabulous fun. For a night cap, head to one of the many bars on buzzy Nan Dajie.