Scottish tourism gearing up for summer of golf

Last year's Ryder Cup was a huge success and golf continues to be a major attraction for sports tourists from across the globe. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Last year's Ryder Cup was a huge success and golf continues to be a major attraction for sports tourists from across the globe. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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FOLLOWING up the success of last year’s Ryder Cup is a tough ask but Malcolm Roughead reckons Scotland’s historic position makes it a winner

Last autumn, Scotland hosted what is widely regarded as the greatest Ryder Cup in history when Europe retained the trophy against the United States.

The stunning victory at Gleneagles not only captured the imagination of millions of golf fans around the world, but it also helped thrust Scotland into the global spotlight during a year in which this country also hosted the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and more than 1,000 events as part of Homecoming.

It is very apt that Scotland, as the undisputed Home of Golf, should host such a spectacular event, and it’s only natural after such a fabulous occasion to pine for more.

A good thing, then, that Scotland is gearing up for an absolutely spectacular summer of golf.

Golf is a critical part of the visitor economy and the ripple effect of event tourism is felt in shops, hotels, and a wide range of businesses across Scotland.

It is more than a holiday experience or attendance at an event – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides an international shop window for Scotland. Between 25 June, when the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge tees off in Aviemore, to the end of September, when some of the biggest names in sport and showbusiness descend on Scotland for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, this country will host nine fantastic professional golf events.

VisitScotland is investing a total of just over £2 million into eight of these events but, with golf tourism worth around £220m to the economy and supporting around 4,400 jobs, it really is a no-brainer.

Following the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge, which is being supported by VisitScotland for the tenth successive year, we turn our attention to the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Qualifier at North Berwick (4-6 July).

The exciting new event, which will be part of the PGA in Scotland’s Tartan Tour schedule, offers five spots in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane on 9-12 July.

The Scottish Open itself is expected to attract more than 60,000 spectators to the East Lothian course. Not only that, but it will be beamed globally by a network of broadcasters including Sky Sports in the UK and throughout the United States by NBC. So not only does it provide a televisual feast for sports fans, but the whole event will serve as one big advert for Scotland.

Of course, the jewel in the summer crown will be the 144th staging of the Open Championship at St Andrews, which returns to the Old Course for the first time since 2010.

More than 200,000 people will be in Fife from 16-19 July to see the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson battle it out for the sport’s oldest and grandest prize.

The last time it was staged at St Andrews, the Open generated £100m for Scotland, which included a country-wide economic impact of £47.4m and a marketing benefit of £52.6m calculated from global television coverage which presented Scotland as the Home of Golf. The Open is broadcast on more than 100 channels with a household reach of 505 million.

It really is an incredible showcase, not only for St Andrews, but for Scotland as a whole.

We’ll barely have time to draw breath following the presentation of the famous Claret Jug before the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open tees off at Dundonald Links, Ayrshire, on 24 July, while the Ricoh Women’s Open will be played out in the magnificent surrounds of Trump Turnberry Resort from 30 July to 2 August.

Over the same four days, the European Tour and Paul Lawrie – Scotland’s most recent male Major champion – launch the inaugural Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play at Murcar Links, on the outskirts of Lawrie’s native Aberdeen.

It will pit 64 of the leading players on The Race to Dubai against each other in a straight knock-out, match-play contest and will attract thousands of spectators to the North-east.

The action returns to East Lothian from 27-29 August when the Prostate Cancer UK Scottish Senior Open comes to Archerfield Links for the first time, while our amazing summer of golf comes to a close with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns – an event that has previously attracted celebrities such as Samuel L Jackson, Damien Lewis and Shane Warne.

It promises to be a superstar line-up, rivalled only by the dazzling line-up of golf competitions taking place in Scotland throughout the summer.

• Malcolm Roughead is chief executive of VisitScotland