In a matter of days, people all across the globe will lock arms at midnight and sing the lines of a poem by one of Scotland’s favorite sons: Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns. As 2016 draws to a close, it’s only natural to pause and reminisce on all that has happened over the past year. We certainly made more than our fair share of Memories that Last a Lifetime. But looking ahead, there are many reasons to expect 2017 to be another exciting year for golf travel across the pond.
The fallout from the Brexit vote by the U.K. is still being measured, yet one thing is known for certain: For Americans, Britain is on sale. The Pound is currently hovering near levels not seen since Ronald Reagan was President. As a result, The Home of Golf, England’s Golf Coast and the links of Northern Ireland are a better value than they’ve been in a generation. How long will the good times last? Impossible to know. But if you’ve been on the fence about a golf trip across the pond, there’s plenty of compelling reasons back in the wallet to make the jump.
The addition of Royal Portrush to The Open rota was one of the great golf travel stories in recent years. In order to accommodate the the infrastructure needed for golf’s oldest major championship, the club has been overseeing a wide array of changes to its pair of courses. The most notable of these are two new holes – the 7th & 8th – which are set to make their debut for play in 2017. Designed by Mackenzie & Ebert, the same firm which oversaw Turnberry’s spectacular redesign, we have no doubt that these new holes will be a great addition to the Dunluce Links.
The Machrie Reborn
Just off the well worn path on the Isle of Islay lies an enigmatic links known as Machrie. For decades, golfers who made the journey to Islay came away either completely spellbound or utterly disillusioned by the large assortment of blind shots found on the links. A multi-year redesign of the Machrie has, as the folks at Golf Course Architecture put it, “Improved The Machrie beyond all recognition.” Depending on your point of view, this may or may not be a good thing, but from what we’ve seen of the work, the new Machrie will certainly be something to see when it debuts next spring. When combined with Islay’s famous collection of whisky distillers, you’ve got a Golf and the Good Life pairing that should start to register on the radar of many more golf travelers.
The Links Trust
2017 will mark the final year that guaranteed tee times for the Old Course are handled in their present fashion. In 2018 the Links Trust will take over the distribution of these guaranteed times, and we expect more details on pricing and availability to come throughout 2017. As our CEO, Sam Baker shared with Golf Advisor, this should also bring the welcome benefit of driving down prices for those looking to solidify their place on the tee sheet. Lower prices should also spur higher demand, however, placing an even greater necessity on planning those trips to The Home of Golf early.
Back in 2015, Bandon Dunes developer, Mike Keiser, made waves in The Highlands when he announced his intention to build a new links course on an unspoiled stretch of dunes-land north of Dornoch near the village of Embo. As is typically the case with these types of projects, the plans were met with both great excitement and strong opposition. Currently, the project known as Coul Links is navigating the assortment of approvals needed from the government agencies involved. There are still a host of unknowns related to the project, but we’d expect 2017 to be pivotal year in the fate of the proposed Coore & Crenshaw design at Coul Links. Stay tuned.
The Irish Open
Earlier this year, it was announced that the 2017 Irish Open would be moved from the Lough Erne Resort to Portstewart. In addition the date of the event was moved to the week immediately preceding the Scottish Open in July. This means that golf fans on this side of the pond will be treated to an unprecedented three straight weeks of links golf on television, thanks to the Irish, Scottish, and Open Championship. And given that Portstewart is home to perhaps the finest front-9 in Ireland, it is sure to make for must-see TV.
The Palmer Tribute
The long discussed 2nd course at Castle Stuart is at last on the horizon, thanks to a final step in the planning approval process which was stamped by officials last summer. The new course, fittingly known as The Palmer Tribute, should start taking shape this year in a collaboration between the teams at Castle Stuart and Palmer design. We have every expectation that the new links will make its namesake immensely proud, and turn one of Scotland’s must-see courses into a multi-day destination.
All of us at H&B look forward to another memorable year filled with Golf at its Finest and Life at its Best. We wish you a safe, prosperous and happy New Year.