Well, 2019 turned into another great year of travel for all of us at Golf Away Tours. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to many different golf destinations around the world, and certainly do not take it for granted. We pride ourselves on knowing the destinations to which we send our clients so not only are the trips fun and exciting for us personally, but they are very beneficial as well. During our travels, we take the time to get to know the hotels and courses we use, as well as meeting influential individuals, with whom we create great partnerships and friendships.
In March Matt and I travelled to Bermuda for the Grey Goose World Par 3 tournament. It was the 3rd time I have attended the event that is run by the PGA of Canada, and it again proved to be a great experience. Bermuda remains one of my favourite winter weather golf destinations, with more courses per capita than any other country in the world! It’s surprisingly close to Toronto (less than 2.5 hours in the air), and with direct flights and very reasonable winter rates, it’s a great golf getaway for Canadians.
We again took the opportunity to spend a couple of days there in advance of the tournament to play the two best tracks on the island – Mid Ocean and Port Royal. Mid Ocean is the private course on the island, but they do allow some visitor access. It has been ranked in the top 100 of the world and has so much history, as a CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor masterpiece. Port Royal has hosted many PGA Grand Slams and recently hosted it’s first full PGA Tour tournament. In addition to those two courses, the course that hosts the Par 3 tournament, Turtle Hill, is a fantastic challenge and fun course to play. It’s on the grounds of the Fairmont Southampton, one of the best hotels on the island and a great place for golfers to stay while visiting Bermuda.
Somtehing is blocking the beautiful scenery!?!?!
Power group - TJ paired with Lori Kane
In April I had the chance to visit Northern Ireland as a guest of Tourism Northern Ireland. The week long event combined meetings with local suppliers with some golf and hotel visits, in advance of Royal Portrush hosting the Open Championship. I have been lucky enough to visit NI a few times over the years and it still remains one of my all time favourite golf destinations.
We stayed at the fabulous Slieve Donard for the first few days of the event. The Slieve Donard is a majestic hotel on the doorstep of Royal County Down, ranked by Golf Digest as the #1 course in the world. The resort is not just a great location to lay your head, it also has great facilities including a world class spa. And you certainly can’t beat the experience of walking out the back door of the hotel onto the first tee at Royal Country Down.
After RCD, we played another favourite of many of our clients, Ardglass Golf Club. Ardglass is a cliff top course that has some of the most spectacular holes in all of the UK/Ireland. They are also likely the friendliest club to guests, always providing a very warm welcome to anyone visiting from abroad. The changes they are making to the course are also making the course better and better each year. It has really become a must play when visiting Northern Ireland.
From there we had the great pleasure of playing Royal Portrush only 2.5 months before they hosted the Open for arguably the most successful Open Championship on record. It was the first time the Open had been in Northern Ireland since 1951 and it didn’t disappoint! The recent changes to the course, including adding two new holes to replace the old 17th and 18th have vaulted the course into the top echelon of courses in the world.
The trip also included rounds at Portstewart, home to arguably the best 9 holes in Ireland, and a round at Royal Dublin before flying home. Royal Dublin is a classic links course just outside the city and well worth including on your Irish itinerary.
My next trip took me to Austin, Texas for our North American Golf Travel conference. I had never travelled to Texas before, so it was an eye opener. I had heard a lot about Austin as a great city for music, food and golf, and it didn’t disappoint. We stayed at Horseshoe Bay Resort, just west of the city, a community with three fantastic golf courses, along with many culinary options, pool, spa, etc. As a quick golf getaway option, Horseshoe Bay ticks all of the boxes.
Horseshoe Bay Resort, Austin, Texas
In September, I travelled to the south of Spain to not only meet with a group of ours for a few days, but also spend a couple of extra days touring some hotels I had yet to see, and visiting the golf courses that we often use for our clients. It was a strange trip in that I didn’t take my clubs for the first time on a trip in ages! It was a shame not to be able to play any golf, but I had played most of the courses before, and this trip was more focused on visiting hotels and hosting the group from Mississaugua G&CC.
The south of Spain is becoming a more and more popular option for our clients in the past couple of years, and for good reason. The weather is almost always perfect (it is called the Sunshine Coast after all!), the golf is very good and you can’t beat the food and wine! If you haven’t visited Costa del Sol, put it on your bucket list!
H10 Andalucia Plaza Marbella, Spain
In October I hosted our 3rd annual Sweep and Swing trip in Scotland. This year our hosts included Glenn Howard and John Morris, two legends in the game of curling, and even better people! The trip started in Carnoustie with a round on each of the three courses, curling in Forfar, and then 4 nights in St Andrews, staying at the iconic Rusacks Hotel on the 18th hole of the Old Course. It was an amazing trip with some great people, and I can’t wait to return for our next Sweep and Swing in 2021.
First tee on a perfect day at the New Course St Andrews
Co-Champions of the Forfar International Bonspiel
Another beautiful fall day in St Andrews
Following on the footsteps of the Sweep and Swing, I was invited to attend the Scottish Golf Tourism Week, which this year took place in St Andrews, which was very convenient for me! We stayed at the Fairmont St Andrews, located just a short shuttle ride from the town itself. The 5 star resort sits on a property with two championship golf courses, both very good courses and great options to add to your itinerary after checking off the bucket list courses like Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
In advance of the conference, everyone was taken on a familiarisation trip to some part of Scotland and I was lucky enough to be chosen to visit the Highlands. I had been there before, but never tire of visiting that beautiful part of the world. It also game me the chance to visit a couple of hotels I had yet to see, including the fabulous Links House in Dornoch, and the cozy Golf View Hotel in Nairn, both awesome options if you are visiting the north of Scotland. The trip also gave me the chance to do something I had never done, and that was riding in a helicopter. What a way to travel from course to course! Truly the 5 star travel experience.
Off to the next course!!
No doubt one of the highlights of my time in Scotland was the opportunity to play the most anticipated new course in Scotland in many years, Dumbarnie Links. It officially opens in May 2020 but we were able to play the course in October as they finish the final touches on the property, including the clubhouse. The course will certainly become a must play when visiting the St Andrews area, even potentially rivalling the amazing Kingsbarns, which is often the favourite course of our clients visiting Scotland. Make sure to add Dumbarnie to your itinerary the next time you visit the Home of Golf!
Dumbarnie Golf Links opening Spring 2020 - a great addition to the St Andrews Golf scene
So, all in all, 2019 was again a very busy year for me and the rest of the team at Golf Away Tours. I never tire of visiting the golf destinations that we sell, and pride myself on knowing the destinations as well as anyone, so that we can provide the expert advice that our clients expect. I look forward to another great year in 2020!