Ivan Morris Column - Overseas golf breaks on the rise

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
DURING the Celtic Tiger years, Irish golfers were well known as inveterate travellers to sunnier climes in pursuit of their sporting passion.

DURING the Celtic Tiger years, Irish golfers were well known as inveterate travellers to sunnier climes in pursuit of their sporting passion.

A recent survey commissioned by the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM), found that Irish golfers travelling overseas for golfing breaks is steadily on the increase again.

The findings also indicated that Spain continues to be the most popular choice with at least 30% of Irish golfers who travel on golf breaks.

They go to Spain largely because it remains the most reliable for sunshine and consistently has the cheapest prices, especially for off course activities.

Even with an almost unlimited choice of Spanish locations for golf holidays, the Costa del Sol remains firmly the most popular. Easy access by air and familiarity are the main reasons.

A 6-night stay in the Senator Marbella Hotel with prepaid rounds at the gorgeous La Reserva (arguably the best course in the area,) and European Tour courses at Finca Cortesin, San Roque and the famous Ryder Cup venue, Valderrama costs from €895 per person (flights extra.)

The second most popular golf destination is Portugal with 23% of Irish golfers heading there. Green fees in Portugal tend to be a little more expensive than in Spain but the quality of the golf courses, in my opinion, is better.

The primary destinations are the Algarve and the Lisbon coastal area. The slightly shorter journey and frequency of flights means getting there is quicker and cheaper, leaving that ‘little bit extra’ to cover the higher green fees.

Quinta do Lago in the Algarve is particularly popular with the Irish and I heard firsthand from somebody knowledgeable who played the recently renovated North Course that it is ‘a big improvement.’

You can stay in ‘lively’ Vilamoura for four nights and play golf at the three Quinta do Lago courses for €430 (flights extra.)

Morocco is one of the more exciting and up-and-coming golf destinations, whether you base yourself near the bustling centre of Marrakesh or at either of the beach resorts of Al Jadida and Agadir.

The quality of golf in Morocco is superb. With great value and year-round sunshine only four hours away, it’s a growing market. Ireland and Limerick’s primary golf travel experts, Fly for Golf, are offering 5-night stays in the 5-star, Palmarie Golf Palace in Marrakesh including four rounds of golf and transfers for €495 per person (not including flights.)

Turkey is a big surprise packet that is only recently being discovered by the Irish. Already, it is a huge golf tourism destination for Brits, Germans and Scandinavians. The quality of the courses and hotels are second to none.

The all-in, full board deals in the hotels including drinks are astonishingly good value. The only drawback is the relatively expensive flights and the length of time it takes to get to Istanbul (4.5-hours), Antalya (1-hour) and then a 45-minute bus journey to Belek.

But, as soon as you get there you’ll enjoy magnificent hotels (choose from 50 of them) and superb golf courses (choose from 18, one as good as the other.) A stay in the ultra modern, Sueno Golf Resort on an all-inclusive basis with unlimited golf at the Dunes & Pines course costs €850 per person - excluding flights.

The Black Sea Coastline of Bulgaria has been a booming holiday destination for central and northern Europeans for decades. Now, the Irish are discovering it.

The quality of the golf courses is on par with Turkey and Portugal (no faint praise.) After all, Bulgaria is in the running as a Ryder Cup venue in 2022 having heavily invested in the European Tour.

Gary Player’s sensational Thracian Cliffs course is just one of a number excellent layouts in a country with a lovely climate, glorious scenery and a low standard of living which translates into top value prices for visitors from Ireland.

There are flights from Dublin to Bourgas from May until September with a 5-nights stay in the Mistral Hotel, Balchik including 3-rounds of golf from €655 per person - flights extra.

My favourite golf destination in Europe is France where the game is advanced and sophisticated and is already gearing up for the hosting of the 2018 Ryder Cup at the Albatros course at Golf Nacional near Versailles where the French Open has been staged for quite a few years now. I can’t imagine a more spectacular golf course or interesting destination.

The Ryder Cup course is one of the toughest I have ever played but also enjoyable and satisfying. There is a second course, L’Aigle, and a hotel on site.

Flights from Shannon to Beauvais make Golf Nacional extremely accessible. A 2-night stay in the Novotel St. Quentin including 2-rounds of golf on each of the courses, costs from €315 per person (flights extra.)

I’d strongly recommend ‘negotiating’ an extra night’s stay and playing an extra game at the nearby Irish Course at Clementader in Gretz Armainvilliers.

You’ll come home understanding why French golfers are improving rapidly as contenders on the European Tour.

For more information, contact: sales@flyforgolf.com/ Tel: 061-204444 or call in to Limerick Travel, Bedford Row.

Words of the Wise

Peter Alliss used to say I hit miracle shots. I never thought that. Miracles don’t happen very often; I was hitting those shots all of the time - Seve Ballesteros