Friday, November 28, 2008

Bistro and spa for Dornoch Castle Hotel?

According to an article in The Northern Times GTS members and Dornoch Castle owners Colin and Roz Thompson have lodged a planning application to build an 11-bedroom extension to the hotel.

"The enterprising couple also want permission to construct a new bistro and to convert a building at the bottom of the hotel garden into a spa. The development marks a substantial investment for Dornoch and will be welcomed locally."
As the industry well knows fears were raised only last year that a lack of bed spaces in the town would have an effect on golf tourism to the area given that both The Burghfield and The Royal Golf are closed.
With work about to start on the Burghfield House Hotel to turn it into a hospitality training centre for the North Highland College. and the 24-bedroom Royal Golf Hotel, bought earlier this year by a consortium of businessmen headed by David Sutherland, chairman of Tulloch Homes, has now been closed for two years.
"There is a difference between applying for planning permission and going ahead with a project," said Colin Thompson. "We're confident the market is there, but obviously undertaking such a project will involve us borrowing money. We'll be proceeding with extreme caution and prudence and have not set a timeline given current economic events. Once planning consent is granted, it stays in force for five years and I'd like to think everything will be done well inside that time frame."
Mr Thompson said he would be working closely with Historic Scotland and planners in order to ensure construction and design work was in tune with the history of the castle. The building is thought to date back to the late 15th century and to have been built as the residential palace of the Bishops of Caithness.

Grant Sword Joins Castle Stuart Golf

Mark Parsinen, Managing Partner of Castle Stuart Golf LLP, has announced the addition of Grant Sword, former Managing Director of Morton Hotels, to Castle Stuart’s partnership. Parsinen said that Grant Sword, whose family hotel company owned and operated four hotels (The Golf View and Newton in Nairn, the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch, and Westerwood in Glasgow), will be involved in all aspects of Castle Stuart’s business with a particular focus on the hotel, spa, and resort-ownership elements, all of which are in their early phases of development planning.
Castle Stuart Golf has completed a recent limited ‘preview golf’ programme. The programme has introduced the links course (scheduled to open next July) to local Highland golf clubs, golf tour operators, golf journalists, course managers, and friends of the project.
November marks a return to a singular focus of preparing for next July’s opening. Grant Sword will be involved in that preparation as well as the planning for future hotel, spa and resort-ownership development.
“Grant Sword is well known and highly regarded in the golf and hotel sector of Scottish tourism,” said Parsinen. “I have known Grant for six years and am privileged to have him join me in the management of Castle Stuart. We are excited about our future but intend to take it one step at a time. Grant will help us make these steps sure and steady.”
Parsinen emphasised that Sword and he are committed to working closely with all Highland golf-related businesses to help make the region an increasingly attractive destination in the world of international golf tourism. “The Highlands are already one of the most sought out destinations in Scotland,” Parsinen said. “And we’d like to be an additional asset for the region.”

Fraser Cromarty
Marketing & Sales Director
Castle Stuart Golf LLP
Tel: 01463 219822

Grant Sword
Castle Stuart Golf
Tel: 01463 219819

Thursday, November 20, 2008

KPMG Golf Travel Report Published

KPMG Golf Advisory Practice has published its Golf Travel Insight report for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, revealing Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Dubai are seen as golf tourism's future hot spots.
The study, which surveyed more than 80 specialist golf tour operators in 21 countries was conducted in spring 2008 reveals that Portugal and Spain are predicted to be the most popular destinations with some surprising destinations catching up fast.
It's not good news for established golf destinations such as Scotland and Ireland, however, where operators expect stagnation in inbound golf tourism.
Read more on the report.

GTS Dinner Photographs

The images are now available for download from the gallery section. The images can be downloaded as high resolution for print.
Golf Tourism Scotland Awards 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rain Affects Golf Courses Shocker!

Strange kind of article for The Scotsman to run but it's about golf in Scotland - and rain! According to The Scotsman heavy rain is adversely affecting Scotland's golf courses. It's certainly a serious revenue issue and one that the GTS managed Golf Tourism Monitor has highlighted over the past six months.
Mike Williamson who oversees the Monitor states that "Its a pretty obvious parallel and that the months where less rain fell the numbers went up. It's quite a clear statistical corelation but rounds played in May and September were up; June July and August were down as rain fell."
There isn't any enough overall information to make clear forecasts but it does question the myth that the weather doesn't affect golf tourism on the basis that rounds are booked months in advance and the weather doesn't impact on that decision. The clear indications are that the weather is impacting on the substantial sector of the market that plans short term or on impulse when here. Perhaps more than we budget for?
Full article at The Scotsman online

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Event for Dundonald

Dundonald Links in Ayrshire is to stage the 2009 Glenmuir PGA Professional Championship on June 16 to 19. It will be the first time in since 2003 and only the sixth time in the tournament's 36-year history that it has been staged in Scotland.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Annual Awards dinner for Golf Tourism Scotland took place at Cameron House on Loch Lomond last night. The prizewinners are listed below and a full release will be issued on the website with high resolution images.

Golf Course of the Year is awarded to the golf course that has provided the very best overall experience for visiting golfers.

Those nominated this year were:
  • Ailsa Course, Turnberry
  • Balcomie Links, Crail
  • Carnoustie Championship Course
  • Castle Course, St Andrews
  • Downfield, Dundee
  • Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Nairn West
  • Royal Troon Old Course
  • West Links, North Berwick
  • Western Gailes
  • Old Course, St Andrews
The winner was...

The Ailsa Course, Turnberry

Golf Secretariat of the Year is awarded to the secretariat that has provided the most efficient, friendly and helpful reservations service over the course of the year. Needless to say, the job of the tour operator, or anyone else that books tee-times for clients and guests, would be much more difficult but for the professional staff now found at most golf courses.

Those nominated this year are:
  • Carnoustie Golf Links
  • Crail Golfing Society
  • Golspie Golf Club
  • Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Nairn Golf Club
  • The North Berwick Golf Club
The Golf Secretariat of the Year award went to…

Kingsbarns Golf Links

The third award was given to the Caddie Master who has provided the best caddie service over the course of the year.

The following individuals had been nominated:
  • Stan Craig, Prestwick Golf Club
  • Sam Fox, North Berwick Golf Club
  • David Gilchrist, Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Martin Roy, Carnoustie Golf Links
The recipient for 2008 was...

Martin Roy

The Hotel of The Year in the Small Hotel/Guest House Category is awarded to the best small hotel or guest house. Nominations were open to properties with 20 or fewer bedrooms. This category specifically excludes country house hotels.

Those nominated this year were:
  • Ardgowan Hotel, St Andrews
  • Dunvegan Hotel, St Andrews
  • Highgrove House Hotel, Troon
  • Hotel Broughty Ferry
  • The Nether Abbey Hotel, North Berwick
  • Old Course Hotel, Prestwick
  • Open Arms, Dirleton
The winner was…

The Ardgowan Hotel

Hotel of the Year in the Country House Hotel Category is awarded to the best hotel or exclusive-use property, regardless of the number of rooms.

Those nominated this year were:
  • Culloden House, Inverness
  • Fenton Tower, near North Berwick
  • Glenmorangie House near Tain
  • Green Craig, Aberlady
  • Greywalls Hotel, Gullane
  • Lochgreen House, Troon
  • Rufflets Country House, St Andrews
The winner was...

Rufflets Country House

Hotel of The Year in the Large Hotel Category is awarded to the best large hotel, i.e. those with more than 20 rooms. This category specifically excludes Country House & Resort Hotels.

Nominated this year were:

  • Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
  • The Bonham, Edinburgh
  • Dornoch Castle Hotel, Dornoch
  • Golf View Hotel, Nairn
  • Inn at Lathones near St Andrews
  • Lundin Links Hotel
  • Macdonald Marine Hotel and Spa, North Berwick
  • Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, St Andrews
  • Royal Marine Hotel, Brora
  • Scotsman Hotel, Edinburgh
  • South Beach Hotel, Troon
  • Western House Hotel, Ayr

The winning hotel was...

The Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa

The Hotel of The Year in the Resort Hotel Category is awarded to the best Resort Hotel, regardless of number of rooms.

Nominated this year:

  • Fairmont St Andrews
  • The Gleneagles Hotel
  • The Green Hotel, Kinross
  • The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa
  • Turnberry Resort
Resort Hotel of the Year for 2008 was…

Fairmont St Andrews

Transport Operator of the Year is presented to the operator that has consistently provided the highest standards of operation within Scotland over the course of the year. Nominations for this category were open to any business providing transport services including rail, road, air and sea.

The 2008 nominees for this category were as follows:
  • Capercaillie Travel
  • Courtney Travel
  • First Class Travel
  • Kintyre Express
  • MacMur Tours
  • Prestwick International Airport
  • Ryanair
  • St Andrews Executive Travel
  • Woods Coaches

This year’s winner was...

Kintyre Express

Tour Operator of the Year – nominations for this category were open to any tour operator bringing golfers to Scotland who provided a quality support service for the visitor or travel trade.

Those nominated for the award this year:

  • Adventures In Golf
  • Carr Golf Travel
  • Golf Scotland
  • Haversham & Baker
  • Links Golf St Andrews
  • PerryGolf

Tour Operator of the Year was…

Haversham & Baker

And, last but absolutely not leastwas the Young Industry Person Award.

This award was first presented in 2006 and, once again, has been kindly sponsored by our host venue.

The individuals nominated required to be under 30 years of age, be connected through employment with a public tourism body or a Golf Tourism Scotland Member Company, and be actively involved in golf related tourism in Scotland. The award seeks to identify young people who are dynamic, who add vitality to the industry and who have the potential to play an important future role in the developing of Golf Tourism in Scotland.

The following individuals were nominated and interviewed:

  • Grant Cooper, Retail Supervisor, Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Leanne Lawrie, Tour Co-ordinator, Links Golf St Andrews
  • Fraser Liston, Golf Retail & Operations Supervisor, Fairmont St Andrews
  • Alexander Macdonald, Head Greenkeeper at Golspie Golf Club
  • Caroline Price, Client Services Manager, Drumgolf

This Year’s Young Industry Person of the Year award went to…

Alexander Macdonald, Golspie Golf Club

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three Awards for Castle Course

The Castle Course in St Andrews has received three prestigious international awards in its inaugural season.

The course has been recognised by Travel & Leisure Golf magazine in America as the New Course of the Year. It was also named International Development of the Year by Golf Inc magazine in America pipping the Els Club in Dubai to the title.

In August, the course was recognised by the Institute of Groundsmanship, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) and some leading turfcare journalists as the 2008 Turf Professional Project of the Year.

The Castle Course opened for play on 28 June and after only a few months was included in the authoritative Golf World Top 100 rankings an impressive achievement for a new golf course.

By 31 October when it closed down for the winter, 14,000 rounds had been played on The Castle Course and bookings have already been coming in for its first full season from April 1 to October 31 next year.

As the seventh course at the Home of Golf, The Castle Course has attracted a great deal of media interest from around the world since the project started and an international naming competition for the course was held through the St Andrews Links website

Alan McGregor, general manager of the Trust, said, “For a new golf course to receive this level of recognition at such an early stage is quite remarkable. When we began working with the architects David Kidd and Paul Kimber we knew we were going to create a special course but I don’t think anyone realised just how dramatic and eye-catching it was going to be.

“It has been a successful first half-season with many golfers from near and far playing the course. We have received a large amount of positive feedback and, it is fair to say, some questions about the challenging nature of the course. We had always anticipated making some changes as the course matures and we will be working on it over the winter. But overall we are absolutely delighted with how the course is progressing and we are looking forward to next season.”

The Castle Course sits on a spectacular clifftop location overlooking the ancient town of St Andrews. It has been designed as a links-like course with undulating fairways and landforms and crisp, sandy lies. Over the winter some of the mounds in the fairways will be cut back and reduced and some adjustments will be made to the green surrounds on a few holes.

As well as adding to the golf offering in St Andrews, The Castle Course has brought economic benefits to the town creating jobs for 40 people across the greenkeeping, reception, retail and food and beverage departments and helping to encourage visitors to stay longer and play more golf.

Tee times for The Castle Course from 1 April to 31 October, 2009 can be booked by contacting 0044 1334 466666 or emailing

Saturday, November 8, 2008

East Lothian Golf Plans Approved

EAST LOTHIAN Courier reports that the area’s economy could be set for a near £3 million boost after councillors gave the green light to the county’s first golf and leisure resort.

On Tuesday, planning committee members voted 12-1 to approve outline consent for a revised application by Whitekirk Golf and Country Club Ltd (WGCC). The multi-million pound project, which could be up and running by 2012, will feature a second 18-hole course at Whitekirk, a 100-bedroom hotel, a new clubhouse, 21 holiday lodges and 42 houses.

It will create 150 jobs and generate an estimated £2.7 million for the local economy annually.
East Lothian Provost, Councillor Sheena Richardson, declared: “There is no question our tourism industry requires a development such as this.”

Golf and tourism operators have also hailed the decision, which comes just 18 months after an original application was rejected. Then, the planning committee determined it was unsustainable and damaging to the environment.

This time, councillors agreed with their officials’ view that the scheme would be viable in the long term and that environmental concerns had been addressed. However, opponents claim the proposed development – which will double the number of homes in Whitekirk – will destroy the character of the historic village.

Friday, November 7, 2008 brought into public ownership

The following statement has been issued by VisitScotland:

Today we announced that VisitScotland has reached agreement to bring the national tourism website back into public ownership.

The website, which attracted over 11 million visits in 2007 and has delivered over £65 million in bookings since it was launched, will be brought under the direct control of VisitScotland in a move to allow it to adapt more flexibly to changing consumer trends and tourism industry needs.

The changes will also give VisitScotland more flexibility to assist businesses and to respond to the current economic downturn.

As technology advances needs to respond to those changes and be able to work with market leaders to deliver a high-quality website that can change and develop quickly.

Changing internet usage and developing consumer trends have meant that the original model developed over six years ago—that of a ‘one-stop shop’ that meets all the customer needs for information, booking and sales—now needs to evolve to ensure that remains able to fulfil the needs of the Scottish tourism industry in the 21st century.

Following discussions with its partners in the joint venture – Tiscover, Partnerships UK and Atos Origin – VisitScotland has reached agreement on the terms of a deal to take control of the operation. VisitScotland is currently working with the partners to ensure a smooth transition.

VisitScotland is committed to ensuring continuity and stability throughout the changes and we will engage fully with staff.

The website will continue to operate as usual, tourism businesses and consumers will see no immediate change, although the website will continue to evolve and develop over time.

Further information on the changes announced today is contained in the attached briefing document.

If you have any questions on any of the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

VS Appoint New US Business Tourism PR

According to their press release the MWW Group (, one of the US's "top ten public relations firms" have added“VisitScotland” to its portfolio of travel and hospitality clients.

"MWW Group will work directly with the Business Tourism Unit of VisitScotland, which actively promotes Scotland as a dynamic destination for international conventions and corporate meetings, with unique and varied incentive programs. MWW Group’s consumer lifestyle marketing group will implement strategic media relations initiatives, and provide media support for trade shows, events and sales missions."

"The VisitScotland Business Tourism Unit’s mission is to provide meeting, event and incentive planners with direct access to all the world-class venues, services and activities Scotland has to offer. With a tradition steeped in innovation and hospitality, Scotland delivers the perfect combination of science, technology and business capabilities together with unique, dramatic locations and warm, welcoming people. From cutting-edge conference centers to accommodate thousands to secluded castles hosting a select few, venues are guaranteed to be memorable and enriching. In addition, Scotland offers a myriad of incentive activities including memorable cruises, calming spas and rounds of golf on legendary courses. VisitScotland invites planners to bring their next meeting, event or incentive program to one of the world’s most beautiful locations, with a future as inspiring as its past."

Plans Approved for Lawrie Designed Layout

According to news reports, plans for a £115million golf resort at the historic Blairs College near Aberdeen were given the go-ahead, just 48 hours after Donald Trump's £1billion project was also given the green light.
On the face of it, the Muir Group’s proposals to transform the former Catholic seminary and Mr Trump’s Menie Estate plans have a lot in common.
The Muir Group want to build a championship golf course, new houses and a hotel but unlike the Menie Estate plan, the proposal had passed unopposed at the same Aberdeenshire Council committee that previously turned down Mr Trump.
The grand buildings of the former Catholic seminary, about eight miles southwest of Aberdeen, were once the training school for Scotland's young priests. Steeped in history the buildings have been left to slowly decay since it closed its doors more than 20 years ago. But the Muir Group say they will transform the site and safeguard the future of one of the Northeast's most architecturally important buildings.
The plans for the course have been designed by Aberdeen-born Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ownership Changes and Major Events.

Scottish Golf has been in the Press rather a lot this week and we're publishing information as factual updates for members (although comments on all articles are welcome below.)

An issue raised although from separate starting points has been the future of Open Championships, Scottish Opens and European Open events - all for different reasons.

With regards to Loch Lomond and its hosting of The Scottish open, The European Tour has insisted that a change of ownership will not effect the staging of the Barclays Scottish Open in 2009. Both the Tour and Loch Lomond golf club own 50 per cent of the Scottish Open title. This means any prospective purchaser of Scotland's most highly regarded inland course would also inherit an equal share in ownership of the home of golf's national ch

According to Peter Adams, the championship director of the Scottish Open, "The European Tour and Loch Lomond golf club are joint venture partners in the Barclays Scottish Open and we do not envisage any change in that arrangement. We are assured that the new management team will continue to operate Loch Lomond golf club to the same world-class standards and we look forward to the next edition of the Barclays Scottish Open which will bear the same hallmark of quality that we have come to expect. In the event that Loch Lomond Golf Club comes under new ownership then naturally we will review the situation at the time."

One of the European Tour's most prestigious events since the 1980s, the Scottish Open has been held on an annual basis at Loch Lomond since 1996.

The Open also hit the news with the R&A being quoted on warning Leisurecorp, the Dubai-based owners of Turnberry, that holding annual stagings of a European Tour event on the Ailsa may deter the organisers of the Open from retaining the Ayrshire links as part of the championship rota. At a press briefing to discuss the return of the oldest major to Turnberry next summer for the first time since 1994, David Hill, the R&A's director of championships, made it clear the obligations attached to being one of the nine venues which host events for the club over a ten-year cycle would make it impossible for the Ailsa to also become a permanent home for the European Open.

Asked if Turnberry putting on a European Tour event would deter the R&A from going back to the Ailsa after 2009, Hill replied: "It might. I don't think it would be ideal from an Open championship point of view if there was a European Open here every year for the next nine years. I would say the same thing of any of our Open venues. The exception is St Andrews, because the home of golf is unique.

All I'm saying is Turnberry would have to give quite a lot of consideration if they want to have the European Open on their course as an annual event. They should be aware if they did that, then they probably wouldn't get a Senior Open, the Amateur or a Ladies Championship. And, therefore, a question mark (over] an Open championship. But I'm absolutely certain the owners of the hotel will be thinking about this carefully.

When Leisurecorp launched the Race to Dubai at Turnberry, David Spencer, the golf chief executive for the Gulf-owned company indicated that consideration was being given to staging the European Open on the links. "From our point of view, the more often Turnberry can be exposed to the golfing public outside of Scotland in Europe, Asia and the US, the better for golf in Scotland," he said.

"We want to have more regular events at Turnberry. The more we test the course, the more it will develop as a championship venue. I think the European Open is a transportable event but it could also have a (permanent] home. And Turnberry would be a likely candidate for a home venue. When you look at the investment we're making, after doing all that work (on the Ailsa], if we decide to bring the European Open here, a lot of that would be driven by the players, because they love playing here."

Stewart Selbie, the general manager of the hotel, explained that a strategy for developing the business as a tournament home has yet to be finalised. He reiterated the Open would remain the focus of Turnberry's future plans saying: "It's a bit early to say what the long-term thinking will be because the owners only took over the property on Saturday. But they fully recognise the importance of the Open. I'm pretty confident they wouldn't wish, in any way, to jeopardise that. We have more than one course at Turnberry and it's possible the European Open might not be held on the Ailsa."

Interesting cause and effects? And not a word about the Trump Resort!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Trump Plan Gains Approval

Breaking news on Sky reports that The Scottish Government has given Donald Trump permission to build his £1bn golf resort.

The American mogul's plans were rejected in controversial circumstances by Aberdeenshire Council last year.

But they were later called in by the Scottish Government and finance secretary John Swinney said today there was "a significant economic and social benefit" in granting the application.

Mr Trump was given outline planning permission for the resort, which will include two championship golf courses, a five-star hotel and housing. While he has enjoyed support from local business chiefs, environmental groups have opposed the development, as part of it will encroach on protected sand dunes near Balmedie, north of Aberdeen.

The Minister responsible, John Swinney said: "I am content that there has been an efficient, transparent and inclusive process, led by Scotland's Chief Reporter, which has taken account of all of the relevant issues and the views expressed before, during and after the public inquiry.

"Having given careful consideration to the issues and arguments, I agree with the Reporters' findings and reasoning, and with their recommendation that outline planning permission should be granted, subject to the satisfactory prior conclusion of necessary legal agreements."

Turnberry Now Closed for Refurbishment

Ayrshire's Turnberry Hotel has now closed to commence its £30million refurbishment ahead of next year's Open Championship.

Leisurecorp, the Dubai World investment company focused on the sports and leisure sector, has taken ownership of its latest acquisition, the Turnberry Resort in south Ayrshire. First announced in May, the £55 million deal sees Turnberry transferred from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. to Leisurecorp. Starwood has entered a 50-year management agreement with Leisurecorp to manage the hotel and after extensive restoration, the property will become a member of its Luxury Collection portfolio.

Internationally-renowned interior designer Mary Fox Linton has been appointed to lead the refurbishment which will see the 101-year hotel restored to the original vision of the original architect, James Miller. Working in conjunction with a heritage consultant, the refurbishment will ensure that the building’s heritage is maintained while delivering beautifully-designed stylish hotel rooms and facilities.

Alan Rogers, Group CEO, Leisurecorp, said: “Turnberry is a significant addition to our property portfolio and we take seriously our responsibility to restoring the hotel and facilities to its former glory. When the eyes of the world fall upon Turnberry next summer, we are determined that the venue will stand tall with pride, taking its rightful place as one of the top golf courses in the world."