Not a typical itinerary but earlier this month, Ron spent 2 weeks visiting these 3 amazing golf destinations as he made his way to the annual International Golf Travel Market conference in Lisbon (IGTM). With that conference scheduled for October 16-20, Ron was able to head over a bit earlier and meet a few of the PGA of Canada pros, and their members, who were enjoying the great links golf of England and Ireland (and get a few rounds in himself!).
My first stop was Liverpool, where I had the chance to meet the groups from Canyon Meadows and Windermere Golf Clubs who were enjoying the chance to play some of the Open championship courses in the area, plus some amazing “lesser known” links courses in the area. We enjoyed a few drinks in Sky Bar at the INNside Melia hotel (wonderful panoramic views of Liverpool from the top of the hotel!) where I was able to hear about their adventures, before everyone headed off for a group dinner.
I was also able to get in a couple of rounds at Formby (great local track), Royal Birkdale (my first Royal in the area – what a track, and fun to see where Spieth hit that shot from the driving range!) as well as my surprise of the trip – Wallasey.
Wallasey NEEDS to be on everyone’s itinerary when they are in the Liverpool area. A short 20 minute drive from downtown but you feel like you are a million miles away and not only are the views unbelievable, but the course is also in the most amazing condition and the layout makes it just a great day of golf (BTW, it is the place where Stableford Scoring was invented).
A short flight to Dublin and a drive up to the Northwest coast got me to Cruit Island Golf Club.
Cruit Island has been on my bucket list for years and it did not disappoint. 9 holes of rugged, natural, seaside golf where the next stop if you look west is Canada. It is a remote location and a bit of a trek for 9 holes but those 9-holes (especially 3 though 7) make the trip so worthwhile.
Rosapenna - including a stay at their beautiful resort - was next on the itinerary with rounds on both Sandy Hills and St Patrick’s Links, plus a quick trip around the Old Tom course. All are world class links courses and must plays on the Wild Atlantic Way, but St Patrick’s (designed by Tom Doak) is the newest addition to the resort and no doubt the best of the lot. Much has been written about this recently opened course and it is all true – what an amazing layout. You play through massive dunes with ocean views around every corner. A memorable golf experience for any golfer.
The Bushmills Hotel was the spot for out reception with Westmount, Whistle Bear and Islington Golf Clubs, who were all in the area to start their Irish adventures. More than a few drinks and stories were consumed and told as I had the chance to meet everyone before they headed off for a group dinner.
Next stop for me was Lisbon for the IGTM Conference with a brief stop in Dublin to play the renovated Jameson Links (see some info on that below). The conference is great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new suppliers and friends. 3 days of meetings, many late nights exchanging stories, and even a little golf at Comporta Dunas when I stayed an extra day made this a great stop.
Some interesting new opportunities came up at the conference.
- A new 5* hotel is opening right beside Royal Portrush and another hotel right in town is renovating to get to 4* status (all in time for the 2025 Open at Royal Portrush), which will give us even more options for clients as we get into 2025 bookings.
- The Scores Hotel in St Andrews has been closed for some time now, however it is now scheduled to Open in late 2024 which again will add a welcome option for clients visiting St Andrews.
- On the course front, many of the Portuguese courses were excited to share their plans for upgraded irrigation systems as that country struggles through serious drought issues. De-salination and Grey Water plans are being implemented and there is no doubt the already great conditions in Portugal will be maintained, or even improved, with these new systems.
- Comporta Dunas is a shining new star in the Lisbon area. One of the best new courses in the world (if not the best), the course is now fully open, conditioning is improving (it is really growing in nicely compared to when I played it pre-opening last spring) and the facilities are being built (they serve a great steak sandwich!). This is a must play when in Portugal (it is on basically every itinerary we have booked next year in Portugal) and the latest news is that by 2026, there will be a second course on property to enjoy – we can hardly wait!
- In Ireland, Jameson Links (formerly the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links) went through an extensive renovation and an already great course is even better. New tee boxes, greens and routing have added sea views and some amazing new holes that really take advantage of the dunes. I had the chance to play it and chat with Fenton, their superintendent, and I was very impressed with the changes (not to mention the conditioning, which is second to none).
A busy 2 weeks but well worth the trip as we continue to look for the next great golf opportunities for all of you. If golf travel is in your plans, give us a call anytime and we will be happy to chat with you and get the perfect trip in place for you and your group.