Golf writers predict boom year for Scotland’s courses

There is ‘pent-up demand’ to play on some of the most prestigious courses after two years of Covid restrictions.

14 March 2022

Scotland’s golf courses could be set for their busiest year, the author of a new book on the sport has predicted, with playing times at some of the most prestigious venues already in short supply for the summer.

Michael Atkinson, one of the writers behind a new guide to Scotland’s 549 golf courses, said playing time at venues such as the Old Course in St Andrews – the host of this year’s Open Championship – and other “destination links” were already limited.

A “pent-up demand” from golfers, who have been unable to travel over the last two years as a result of coronavirus restrictions, is partly behind this, he explained.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club recently revealed it has taken more than 13,000 reservations for this year, with bookings for visitors now closed for 2022.

The Shiskine course on Arran is featured in the new guide (David Cannon/Getty Images/PA)

Scottish Golf, the governing body for the sport in Scotland, has revealed its membership numbers have increased by 6% year on year.

Research also indicated the number of rounds of golf played across the UK was 17% higher in 2021 than when compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 figures.

Mr Atkinson said: “On Scotland’s most famous courses, the Open venues and the destination links, tee times are in short supply this summer.”

Speaking as the book Golfland, the first guide of its kind for some 20 years, was published, he added: “There is pent-up international demand following the travel restrictions over the last couple of years, with tourists now looking to enjoy the chance to come and play the historic and iconic courses of Scotland.

“Domestically, golf has seen a surge as a sport that can be enjoyed socially distanced with friends in the outdoors.”

Co-writer Craig Morrison said this could be the busiest year yet for the sport in Scotland, stating: “During the pandemic, golf has proven to be the perfect sport of social distancing. Its health benefits, mental and physical, have been highlighted.

“People in Scotland are returning to the sport or taking it up for the first time as they realise the solution to safe socialising and exercise is all around them.

“Meanwhile, international golf tourists, unable to travel easily for two years, are desperate to visit the world’s most important golf destination.

“That the 150th Open Championship is being played in St Andrews this summer means Scottish golf is witnessing something of a perfect storm.”

He added it had been “no small task to identify all of Scotland’s courses”.

The guide also features the Askernish course on South Uist (David Cannon/Getty Images/PA)

Mr Morrison stated: “Definitive databases of golf clubs exist, but not golf courses. Private homes, caravan parks and boutique hotels sometimes have their own courses, sometimes maintained, sometimes not. We have had to ask ourselves the question, what exactly defines a golf course?”

Mr Atkinson added: “The Scottish golf landscape is much changed since the last attempt at a definitive guide was produced in the 1990s.

“Many golf courses have closed over the intervening years, but likewise a small number of exquisite new courses have been created. The Scottish golf scene moves quickly and is ever evolving.”

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