Golf travel growth continues

While the recent Scottish independence vote was keenly monitored by the world, one of the most watched sports events unfolds this week at Gleneagles as U.S. and European teams meet to compete for the 2014 Ryder Cup. The Wall Street Journal is calling it “The Other Scottish Showdown.”

From the viewpoint of the travel and hospitality industries, the popularity of golf travel and the growth of golf development has exploded around the world over the past decade. In addition to the usual golf destinations in the domestic United States, the Caribbean and Europe, travel advisors tell us courses in Asia (particularly Southeast Asia) and the Middle East are swiftly emerging. New Zealand is “hot” and likely near the top of any golf aficionado’s “bucket list” for 2015 with top-notch courses like Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs.

Travel advisors note that the profile of the golf traveler has evolved, with more women and children playing than ever before. Women are a vital market segment, enjoying both the challenge of golf and the relaxation and indulgence of a spa. Hoteliers I speak with say more couples are playing together, traveling with like-minded friends, and there is a distinct growth of family travel shaped around a golf experience because it’s not just “dad’s game” anymore. 

Other trends I hear about from experts in the golf-travel segment include golf travelers who are in pursuit of authentic and local experiences seeking access to private golf clubs globally. Golf by private jet and heli-golf trips allow golfers to maximize their opportunities by playing in multiple locales. Young professionals are increasingly drawn to the game as an invigorating stress-reliever. Golf resorts are cultivating the consumer market, further investing in attracting their guests to engage in some level of the game.

The Financial Times points out golf has weathered the personal and professional foibles of Tiger Woods and welcomed the rise of Rory McIlroy. But the desirability of golf travel continues to soar with rising consumer demand, and the market is happily responding.

When the first friendly competition between U.S. and U.K. pro golfers took place at Gleneagles in 1921, the resort became the birthplace of the Ryder Cup. Whoever you are cheering for this weekend, pause to consider that the tournament is back in Scotland for the first time since 1973, and the Cup has truly come home.