|Albatross Golf Resort, Prague, Czech Republic|
Travel agents are increasingly popular—The poor, lonely travel agent is coming back. Many golf travelers are overwhelmed by the choices and options available on the Internet and don’t have the time or inclination to travel on the information highway. Golf packaging companies and veteran travel agents can suggest destinations and develop itineraries that include fun and interesting activities beyond golf.
Rising airfare prices—There just aren’t that many major carriers anymore and less competition, soaring fuel prices and fewer flights mean higher ticket prices. Bargains are difficult to find, which means more golfers are opting to stay closer to home and travel by car. Nowadays, golfers will drive up to five hours away for a golf resort vacation if they can save a substantial sum versus airfare.
Earlier bookings—As the recession starts to subside, albeit slowly, golf travelers are showing increasing confidence and booking further in advance than waiting to the last minute, which has been the standard the since the economy hit the skids in 2008.
Couples-oriented trips—Empty nester Baby Boomers-- a demographic that plays lots of golf--are taking more couples golf vacations. Their itineraries include as many shopping excursions, spa sessions and candlelight dining nights as golf rounds.
Multi-generation excursions—Like other segments of the travel market, the multi-generation trend is increasingly popular with golf trips. Grandfathers want to introduce their sons and grandsons to some of the great destinations and courses they’ve played around the world. Multi-generation pilgrimages to golf meccas like St. Andrews and Pinehurst are among the more popular along with the Monterey Peninsula in California, Orlando, Florida, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, San Diego, California and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Sports themed trips—Americans, in particular, are huge sports fans. An increasingly popular trip is to schedule a golf resort visit to coincide with other sports events such as Major League baseball, NFL football or NBA basketball games. Vacationing golfers play a round or two during the day, and then enjoy a sports event in the evening.
New Europe destinations—Italy and France have increased their golf course inventories in recent years. Golfers are attracted by the new courses and the plethora of off-the-course activities such as gourmet dining, winery tours, cooking schools and other pursuits that aren’t as prevalent in traditional destinations like Scotland and Ireland. Wales is another up and coming destination attracting more golfers following the exposure it received after the 2010 Ryder Cup matches at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. Eastern Europe destinations like Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Russia have debuted new courses recently and are increasingly popular to golf vacationers.
|Italy is becoming a popular golf destination.|
Emerging destinations—While Scotland and Ireland are at the top of most lists, well-traveled golfers, who’ve played those destinations numerous times, are seeking other, more adventurous spots. In South America, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia are entertaining more linksters. Top destinations in Asia are China, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia. In the U.S., destinations with high-profile courses like Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon and Kohler, Wisconsin will continue their rise in popularity as will newcomers like Branson, Missouri, Mississippi Gulf Coast (Biloxi and Gulfport) and Gulf Shores, Alabama, which promote golf heavily. Value-priced destinations such as Myrtle Beach, Northern Michigan and San Antonio, Texas are strong because of their course inventories and exceptional golf packages. Luxury golf destinations like Naples, Florida and Palm Springs, California remain strong. In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are golf-happy destinations with exciting golf courses fashioned by big-name designers. [Below, see the 2012 International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) Award Winners.]
Golf and wellness—Empty nester older golfers are increasingly opting for resorts with spas, fitness centers and nature trails. Many major golf resort spas now offer golf muscle specific massages and invigorating treatments designed to rejuvenate golfers and prepare them for their next round of golf.
|The spa has become the new 19th hole.|
Fewer new resorts, more renovations—The worldwide recession stunted the growth of new golf courses and resorts being built. Consequently, major resort companies are pumping millions into existing properties to enhance and renovate golf courses, add expansive practice and teaching facilities and amenities such as infinity pools and spas.
2012 IAGTO Golf Travel Awards
Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year-Bulgaria
Golf Destination of the Year-Africa, Indian Ocean and Gulf States—Abu Dhabi
Golf Destination of the Year-Asia and Australia—Pattaya, Thailand
Golf Destination of the Year-Europe—Fife, Scotland
Golf Destination of the Year-Latin America & The Caribbean-Los Cabos, Mexico
Golf Destination of the Year-North America—Palm Springs, California
Golf Resort of the Year-Europe—Fairmont St. Andrews, Scotland
Golf Resort of the Year-North America—Turnberry Isle, Miami, Florida
Golf Resort of the Year-Rest of the World—Mission Hills, Hainan, China