Golf writers predict a boom year for Scottish courses

Scottish golf courses could have 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 scarce for the summer.

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

Part of the reason for this was “pent-up demand” from golfers, who have been unable to travel for the past two years due to coronavirus restrictions, he explained.

The Royal Dornoch Golf Club recently revealed it has taken over 13,000 bookings for this year, with visitor bookings now closed for 2022.

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

Scottish Golf, the sport’s governing body in Scotland, revealed that its membership grew by 6% year-on-year.

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

Mr Atkinson said: “At Scotland’s most famous courses, open venues and destination links, tee times are scarce this summer.”

Speaking as the book Golfland, the first guide of its kind for two decades, was published, he added: ‘There is pent-up international demand following travel restrictions over the past two years, tourists now looking to take advantage of the chance to come and play on Scotland’s historic and iconic courses.

“Nationally, golf has seen a rise as a sport that can be enjoyed socially from a distance with friends outdoors.”

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

“Scots are coming back to sport or taking it up again for the first time because they realize the solution to socializing and exercising safely 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.

“To have the 150th Open Championship taking place in St Andrews this summer means Scottish golf is witnessing something of a perfect storm.”

He added that it had not been “easy to identify all the Scottish courses”.

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

Mr Morrison said: “There are definitive golf club databases, but not golf courses. Private homes, caravan parks and boutique hotels sometimes have their own courses, sometimes maintained, sometimes not. We had to ask ourselves the question, what exactly defines a golf course?

Mr Atkinson added: “The Scottish golf landscape has changed significantly since the last attempt at a definitive guide in the 1990s.

“Many golf courses have closed in the years since, but likewise a small number of exquisite new courses have been created. The Scottish golf scene is rapidly changing and constantly changing.

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