Value of golf tourism to Scotland soars by 30 per cent

Overseas visitors driven by a long-held ambition to play on a course in the country they regard as the 'home of golf' have helped boost the economic value of golf tourism in Scotland by 30 per cent over the past decade.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps tees off during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships at the Old Course, St Andrews, in 2012. Picture: Jane Barlow/TSPL

However, the report warned that global economic uncertainty, particularly in mainland Europe, may have resulted in slower growth than envisaged. The economic value of golf tourism and events to Scotland has increased to £286 million per year, the report said, supporting 4,700 jobs north of the Border.

The study, commissioned by VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise, found golfing visitors spend more than four times as much money on a typical visit as other tourists, an average of £338 per night.

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Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Golf is one of Scotland’s unique selling points which resonates with potential visitors all over the world and signifies why we place huge importance promoting Scotland as the Home of Golf to a global market place.

“Our support of international golf events and our global golf marketing activity gives us significant media profile and I am delighted that this is in turn reflected in golf’s ­contribution to the Scottish economy.”

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The report said the past decade had been “stellar” for Scotland as a golfing destination, having hosted key golf events including multiple Open Championships, Ricoh Women’s British Opens and the 2014 Ryder Cup among others. However, the economic impact of major one-off events such as the Ryder Cup is not included in the £286m figure and therefore represents additional value to Scotland.

American golf fans make up almost a third of all overnight golfing visitors, with 14 per cent coming from Europe.

The survey of more than 2,000 golf tourists found that key motivations to visit Scotland to play golf are its reputation as a golfing destination, an ambition to play golf in Scotland or a previous positive experience of golfing in the country. A total of 87 per cent of those asked said they regarded Scotland as the “home of golf”, with the figure rising to 95 per cent of the American market.

The average number of golf rounds played by overnight visitors was 5.16, with visitors from North America likely to play more frequently than those from Europe.

Female golfing visitors tended to be more “committed” golfers than male counterparts, with more having handicaps and golf club membership and fewer inclined to describe themselves as social golfers.

Fife was the area which most benefits from golf tourism in Scotland, generating £52m for the economy, followed by the Highlands, East Lothian and the area around Carnoustie.

Danny Cusick, tourism sector portfolio director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland has some of the finest golfing assets in the world as well as a rich golfing history and heritage, and with such tremendous international appeal, it comes as no surprise that the value of this important tourism sector has grown enormously in recent years.

“But we mustn’t rest on our laurels; we want ambitious Scottish golf tourism companies to capitalise on this upward trend and consider how best they can develop and scale their business to meet the growing domestic and international demand.”