Feeling the urge to take flight and playing golf abroad? Try these top destinations first, you won’t be sorry.
Scotland will always be a kind of pilgrimage for the golf traveller, in particular a trip to St Andrews. The golf spirit seeps through this little university town, and the beauty is that while getting on to the Old Course can be exceedingly difficult and expensive, you aren’t denied being part of its grand history, as you can walk it and take all the important photos you want. And on the outskirts of the town you have a wealth of classic courses such as Kingsbarns and even tiny Crail.
But the reality is that with the wealth of quality links courses in Scotland, you could spend months just travelling and playing there.
Links golf in the heartland is something you need to experience. You need to feel what it’s like teeing off with a train storming past on your backswing, stepping into a pot bunker and wondering if you’ll ever be able to get out again, playing into a howling gale or pouring rain coming at you sideways, and soaking up the atmosphere of the many historic fairways and clubhouses in that part of the world.
DUBAI AND ABU DHABI
The Middle East is also a popular golf destination and one that is growing all the time in terms of its offering.
Dubai has long drawn amateur and professional golfers alike, with world-class courses such as Emirates and Jumeirah.
Abu Dhabi adds to the spectacular golf offering with the Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach (with a clubhouse designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry) and Yas Links. And on the subject of clubhouses, the Abu Dhabi Golf Club has one of the most iconic, built in the shape of a giant eagle with outstretched wings.
SOUTH AMERICA AND SOUTH EAST ASIA
But you can now book golf trips to Chile or Argentina, the Canadian Rockies, and even Vietnam and Cambodia. And the new trend in golf tourism is to get out there and experience the less traditional, but no less rewarding golf destinations.
Mexico is throwing everything into its golf tourism, led by its hosting of the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
The resort golf experience there is world class and, with the peso to the rand currency exchange at close to 1-0.66, South Africans need to be looking at Mexico as a great golf destination. Granted, though, the golf itself isn’t cheap.
There are close on 200 courses in the country. If you have plenty of pesos, amigo, Los Cabos should be the region where you want to start your Mexican golf experience. Diamante Dunes is the prime collection of fairways in this part of the country. But you’ll also be able to find plenty of quality municipal courses to fit your budget.
The Puerto Vallarta region is another golf paradise, especially if you’re a Jack Nicklaus fan. The Pacifico Golf Course there constantly gets top reviews as a must-play.
And the Riviera Maya (ever heard of Cancun?) is the third in the hat-trick of golf regions in Mexico. El Camaleon Golf Club almost has a Durban Country Club feel to it, especially with the holes running close to the sea.
If you still fancy Europe as a golf destination, at least try something different and maybe tee off in Italy.
The Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club is the second-oldest in Italy. But that’s not why you should play here. It is located on the shores of the famous Lake Como, and the clubhouse also has a well-stocked golf library.
Or head to Cyprus for a true Mediterranean holiday and golf experience. Nick Faldo’s Elea Estate Golf Club is a lovely venue at which to base yourself.
And while you’re in the neighbourhood, Turkey also offers quality golf and is just a ferry ride away. Head for Belek, which has several world-class courses and hotels to match. If you can only choose one, the Gloria Golf Resort is a great option.
If you have family in Australia, try to fit in a trip to the Sandbelt Region, which has some spectacular golf courses that have provided the inspiration for some of the world’s foremost professionals when it comes to their designs – Ernie Els included. It’s here where you’ll find Royal Melbourne, which is one of the finest in this area. But you are spoilt for choice, with other incredible courses such as Kingston Heath, Victoria Golf Club and Yarra Yarra Golf Club.
MAURITIUS AND CO.
Closer to home, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Reunion offer great value for a golf tour the whole family will enjoy.
Mauritius has been steadily increasing its world-class golf offering, and the hosting of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open – a tri-sanctioned tournament between the Sunshine Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour – is only increasing the global visibility of this tropical island as a premier golf destination.
The design offering speaks for itself, with names such as Ernie Els (Anahita), Peter Matkovich (The Heritage) and Bernhard Langer (Le Touessrok).
And the island’s offering for the family is equally impressive.
It’s said that golf’s roots in Mauritius are among the deepest in the history of the game. The Gymkhana Club is the island’s – and indeed one of the southern hemisphere’s – oldest golf clubs. Records show that golf was played there by British officers in the 1840s.
The Seychelles is also growing as a golf destination. On Mahe Island you have Seychelles Golf Club, a nine-hole course built on a coconut plantation and with an incredibly welcoming atmosphere.
Then on the island of Praslin you have an 18-hole championship option at the Constance Lemuria Resort.
And staying with the island theme, Reunion Island proclaims proudly that ‘Never a fairer fairway’ you will find than there. The Golf Club de Bourbon is the oldest on the island, while Golf Club du Colorado is another pleasant 18-hole experience with the kind of views you would expect from a beautiful island such as this.
With the multitude of new golf destinations on offer, there’s no excuse to stick with what you know.
This is the year to pack the clubs, stamp the passport and head off into a new sunset over some new fairways.