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Golf trips to top British courses are selling out this 12 months and next

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Travelers planning a golfing vacation to prestigious courses in the UK might have to act fast.

Among the U.K.’s top venues are selling out, not only this 12 months, but for spots — or tee times — in 2023, due partly to growing confidence in international travel amongst wealthy Americans.

Travelers are attracted by the prospect to tee off at venues played by among the game’s top players, and premium courses in proximity to 1 one other make Scotland a very hot ticket.

Gordon Dalgleish, a Scot who has run U.S. tour operator PerryGolf for nearly 4 many years, says he’s never seen a lot demand from Americans wanting to play upscale courses in Britain, resembling the Old Course on the seaside town of St. Andrews and Muirfield, east of Edinburgh.

“These are the courses that are filling up far quicker than I even have seen in 38 years. Some are already full,” he told CNBC by email.

PerryGolf has almost sold out of 2023 spots to play the Old Course, which hopes to host Tiger Woods on the a hundred and fiftieth Open Championship in July. The star said in a tweet that he had pulled out of next week’s U.S. Open resulting from health issues, adding that he plans to be ready for the U.K. event.

Dalgleish said travelers are booking trips months sooner than usual, especially those that accrued money through the pandemic and are able to spend.

“Should you have a look at the form of typical demographic of the American golfer, perhaps mid to later in life in age, they have vastly extra money, they usually’ve got less time than that they had two years ago,” he told CNBC by phone.

Now, even well-known individuals with money to burn are being turned away, Dalgleish said. He said “A-list businesspeople” contact him but “simply don’t understand that [bookings] aren’t available,” he said.

It’s estimated that nearly 67 million people worldwide played 9- or 18-hole courses in 2021, a record high, and a figure that rose through the pandemic as people headed outdoors to sharpen their handicaps, in line with The R&A, which governs the foundations of golf for a lot of the world.

Scotland’s top courses

St. Andrews Old Course

St. Andrews is home to seven courses, and the “Old Course” is where the game of golf is claimed to have originated around 600 years ago. Jack Nicklaus won the Open Championship, or “Open,” there in 1970 and 1978, and it’s known for features just like the 700-year-old Swilcan Bridge and the 7-foot deep sand trap Hell Bunker.

The easiest way for overseas travelers to get a spot on the Old Course is via a licensed provider. U.S. firms PerryGolf and SGH Golf are on the list, as are others including the Scottish-based DP&L Golf.

Jack Nicklaus won the 1970 Open Championship held on the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland. The course stays some of the popular with American visitors.

R&A Championships | R & A | Getty Images

Nevertheless, if you happen to’re prepared to take a risk, the Old Course operates a ballot for tee times 48 hours ahead of play. With half of spots allocated this fashion, the lottery system “enables golfers who’re in the realm to still have the chance to play,” in line with its website.

An alternative choice is to go solo. Single golfers, who show up on the day of play, are sometimes grouped with two or three other players.

Ian Murphy, a Brit who lives within the south of England and who said he takes three or 4 short golfing vacations a 12 months, recommends contacting hotels or tourist boards like Visit Scotland to see whether or not they have available tee times. If not, it’s possible to take in the atmosphere of the Old Course without playing it, he said.

What’s a “links” course?

“Links” courses are the unique kind of golf course, originating in Scotland. The term “links” comes from the Old English word “hlinc,” which implies ridge or rising ground, and refers to golf courses on the Scottish, Irish or English coast which might be sandy and undulating. Such courses are likely to be hard to play, as they’re exposed to the weather, and differ from manicured parkland courses, which regularly have trees and man-made features.

“You may actually just walk across the golf course, and that is nearly nearly as good as playing it,” he said. “You may stay at a pleasant guest house in St. Andrews, spend half an hour just watching people tee off on the Old Course [and] have lunch on the clubhouse.”

Murphy — who has managed to play the Old Course thrice up to now two years resulting from a scarcity of overseas bookings related to the pandemic — also recommends booking tee times out of season. Besides, he said, the weather in Scotland will be unpredictable, so getting in high summer doesn’t guarantee sunshine.

Trump Turnberry

Trump Turnberry, on the west coast of Scotland and the primary course to host the Open in 1860, is a favourite of U.S. club skilled Kyle Phelps.

“It’s a layout that’s difficult but permits you to be rewarded if you happen to are playing well. The views are amazing and the indisputable fact that the halfway home is a lighthouse is completely spectacular,” he told CNBC via email.

The course has tee times available this summer, although some weekend spots have sold out, in line with the club’s website.

The lighthouse stands among the many ruins of the Thirteenth-century Turnberry Castle, and Phelps, who’s head golf skilled at Rhode Island Country Club, said a part of the appeal of Scottish courses is that their topography is different from the manicured courses in the USA.

The lighthouse on the Ailsa Course on the Trump Turnberry Resort. The Trump Organization bought the course in 2014.

David Cannon | Getty Images

Courses might feature burns, or streams, plus vast swaths of heather plants, double greens — which have two holes to play moderately than one — and pot bunkers, that are small and deep unlike shallower sand bunkers, Phelps said.

The Trump Organization has owned Turnberry since 2014, and it claims to have spent 200 million kilos ($253 million) on its restoration. The ownership isn’t without controversy: Days after the attacks on the U.S. Capitol, the R&A, which organizes the Open, said it could not hold the championship on the club while it’s owned by the previous president’s company.

Muirfield

Dating to 1744, Muirfield will host the Women’s Open Championship in August. Reports have suggested that tee times for summer 2023 are fully booked, but a representative told CNBC that while May through September are in “high demand,” there are still some slots during this era, in addition to in April and October of next 12 months.

A lady plays golf at Muirfield, Scotland, in 2019, because the club opened its doors to women for the primary time. It can host the Women’s Open Championship in August.

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

Playing multiple courses in a single trip

Perry Golf’s clients on a six-night tour can soak up multiple top courses, resembling the Royal Troon Golf Club, which is ready to host the Open in 2024, Carnoustie Golf Links — where golfing legend Ben Hogan first played links golf in 1953 — and Kingsbarns Golf Links, where U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps made a “monster” 153-foot putt in 2012.

Such a tour may cost a little around $12,000 per person, including airfare and expenses, Dalgleish said. “Our demographics are folks which might be members of multiple clubs which might be spending significantly to hitch clubs … and that is just a part of their lifestyle,” he explained.

U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps on the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links on Oct. 5, 2012 .

Ian MacNichol | AFP | Getty Images

Kyle Phelps said with the ability to stay at one hotel and play plenty of venues is one of the best a part of golfing within the U.K.

“On a protracted weekend you may play The Old Course, Carnoustie & Kingsbarns,” he said. “Within the U.S., that will be such as playing Pine Valley, Merion and Pebble Beach on consecutive days.”

Insider picks 

Royal Dornoch

One other course in high demand is considered one of Murphy’s favorites: the Royal Dornoch within the Scottish Highlands within the northeastern a part of the country. Being up to now north, the sun sets about an hour later than in London which provides “spectacular” views for longer, Murphy said.

Scottish golf course Royal Dornoch has seen “unprecedented demand” from those wanting to play in 2022, in line with its website.

Lucinda Lee / Eyeem | Eyeem | Getty Images

“It’s just stunning by way of views over the Dornoch Firth and onto the North Sea, and the town itself is an exquisite Highland Scottish town with an old cathedral,” said Murphy. The course is “right in the middle of the village as well, so it is a central a part of the community.”

But due to “unprecedented demand,” bookings for the club’s “Championship Course” are closed this 12 months, per the club’s website, and golfers are advised to register online for future availability.

Murcar Links

Just outside Aberdeen in northeast Scotland is Murcar Links, a “hidden gem” with a “warm, friendly” environment, in line with Murphy.

“It’s right on the coastline, with views of the oil rigs and the wind turbines in the ocean within the background,” he said, calling it a “lovely, quirky little golf course.”

It’s nine miles from Aberdeen Airport, and has bookings available for this summer, which start at around 130 kilos.

Castle Stuart Golf Links

Near Inverness Airport is Castle Stuart, opened in 2009 and designed by the late developer Mark Parsinen and architect Gil Hanse, each Americans.

Sweden’s Alex Noren plays on the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links on July 8, 2016. He went on to win the tournament.

Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images

Murphy likes the course for its service: “Everyone knows your name right from the time you arrive … Every little thing runs so easily between the arrival, the check-in, the meal within the clubhouse, the trip to the driving range, the visit to the primary tee, the person serving you drinks at halfway … It’s more like American service, but at a private level,” he said.

The course is currently promoting packages for October and November, and golfers are advised to email for availability.

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