It is very common for golfers to travel and compete as groups. Activities may be organised via golf clubs, corporate groups and social groups, amongst others. Angela Youngman gives readers a taste

Stoke Park's iconic clubhouse

Stoke Park's iconic clubhouse.

With around four million keen golfers within the UK, it is no surprise that demand for golfing breaks is high. Research by Sports Marketing Surveys has indicated that 85% of golfers have taken a golf break of between three and six days either in the UK or abroad, and that almost half of all golfers now take golf holidays.

In addition, there is the corporate market. Golf days and breaks have always been a popular corporate activity in which business and pleasure can be combined. In Scotland, there are 254,435 registered golfers accounting for 8% of the adult population – one of the highest concentrations of golfers in the world. This is not surprising since Scotland is the ‘Home of Golf,’ the place where golf was born.

The Royal St Andrews Links is the oldest in the world, since golf has been played here since 1552. This is also where the 18-hole layout was first standardised. It is one of the most sought after courses for golfers, as well as those wanting to watch championships. Golf tourism has become big business. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are attracted to the venue to watch the Open Championships, and to try out for themselves some of the 600 courses scattered across Scotland.

Golfers wanting to play on historic Scottish courses such as St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Muirfield and Turnberry need to plan well ahead as visitor tee times are quickly booked up. Guaranteed times can be booked as part of group packages.

Catering To Groups

Since 1998, has developed into one of the leading participants in the golf tourism sector. During 2015, it arranged golf days, breaks and holidays for more than 750,000 golfers working with 2,000 venues in the UK, Ireland and Europe. Chief Executive, Andrew Stanley, said: “the groups market has been really good for us, and we are doing all we can to support that, offering free places for group organisers and lots of value-adds. UK packages are very much our ‘bread and butter’ and we love working with the resorts to source great value, one night and two round packages for our customers. Old favourites like The Algarve, the Costa del Sol and Northern France also continue to do well.”

UK Golfing Destinations

The largest Amateur Golfing Tournament in the world will be held at Bridgend in South Wales in June 2016. It attracts top ranking amateur players, as the winning prize includes a place in the Open Championship and the US Open. The majority of the golf will be played at Royal Porthcawl, but there are four other courses enabling visitors of all skill levels to enjoy a game of golf while watching the championship.

Stoke Park is set within 300-acres of Capability Brown landscape.

Stoke Park is set within 300-acres of Capability Brown landscape.

Also in Wales is the Vale Resort at Hensol, a four-star resort close to Cardiff, which caters for golf breaks, weekends, holidays together with four ball, society and group golf for 10 or more. Guests can enjoy two championship 18-hole golf courses including the Wales National floodlit driving range, putting greens and practice bunkers. Winter breaks up until March 2016 cost from £99 per person.

Further south are the premier championship links courses known as the Atlantic Links, comprising Burnham and Berrow in Somerset, Westward Ho and Saunton in Devon, Trevose and St Enodoc in Cornwall. The pleasant climate and access to other cultural and gastronomic destinations such as Padstow means that these courses are popular with golfers and non-playing spouses who seek alternative activities. The Trevose Golf & Country Club is a popular venue where golf competitions, group suppers as well as special operator rates can be provided.

Nottinghamshire Golf & Country Club frequently hosts county, regional and national level competitions, and offers a variety of packages for groups of up to 200 people looking to enjoy a day or a weekend of golf. With two courses available, guests can enjoy 18, 27 or even 36 holes. A new, luxury 12-bedroom hotel is due to open in April 2016 providing purpose-built accommodation. Group packages start from £35 per person.

Northern Ireland has over 80 courses. The Royal County Down, Newcastle hosted the Irish Open in 2015 and is a favourite of Rory Mcllroy and Tiger Woods. The six strong Hastings Hotels offer special golf packages linking into many of the top courses in the region. For example, the Slieve Donard Resort is adjacent to the Royal County Down, while the Culloden Estate & Spa is within a short distance of the Royal Belfast, Holywood Blackwood, Clandebove and Bangor courses.

In Bond’s Footsteps

Follow in the footsteps of James Bond and enjoy golf at the five-star Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire. This was the scene of the legendary golfing duel in the classic 007 movie, Goldfinger, which ended in front of the iconic clubhouse. Set within spectacular 300-acre Capability Brown landscaped parkland, this is one of the most popular golfing resorts in the country, and was named UK golf’s ‘Ultimate Members Club’ in 2015.

Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire.

Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire.

Popular Portugal

Portugal is a favourite venue for golf breaks and holidays attracting numerous awards. The Royal Obidos near Lisbon was named 2016 European Golf Resort of the Year, while the Lisbon golf coast was named Best Golfing Destination. There are over 20 golf courses close to the coast amid spectacular scenery – and the nightlife and historic attractions of Lisbon are close at hand.

A pleasant climate and all year-round golfing on more than 40 high quality courses has made the Algarve a popular destination attracting hundreds of thousands of golfers to play more than 1,000,000 rounds of golf each year.

It is now Europe’s premier golf holiday hotspot with courses available from Lagos to the Spanish border. Internationally renowned golfers have created many of the courses. Nick Faldo designed courses at Oceânico Amendoeira; while the Arnold Parmer designed Oceânico Victoria course at Vilamoura is the regular venue for the European Tour’s Portugal Masters in October.

The five-star Quinta da Marinha Resort is one of many top golfing destinations in Portugal.

The five-star Quinta da Marinha Resort is one of many top golfing destinations in Portugal.

Bordering the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the three championship layouts at Quinta do Lago have become Europe’s most exclusive sports and lifestyle destinations since reopening two years ago. Five night packages at Quinta do Lago start at €500 per person. On the western coast, the Howard Swan designed Boavista and the new courses at Espiche are attracting attention.

Other famous courses close by include the Royal and Ocean at Vale do Lobo while the San Lorenzo course has one of the most challenging final two holes in European golf. With beautiful beaches, stunning countryside and a host of activities, The Algarve has much to offer non-golfing companions as well as golfers.

Verdura Resort in Sicily offers stunning course views from its outdoor infinity pool.

Verdura Resort in Sicily offers stunning course views from its outdoor infinity pool.

Elsewhere in Europe

Located on Spain’s Costa Blanca, the La Manga Club is a mecca for British golfers. Three first rate courses sit beside outstanding practice facilities and a new Leadbetter Golf Academy – the only one in mainland Spain. This site has hosted five Spanish Opens. With both hotels and self-catering accommodation available, La Manga Club is easily accessible. The Mediterranean climate means golf can be played all year round.

An Italian mountain golfing challenge is available at Golf San Vigilio Siusi. Open from March to November, this Northern Italian course enjoys an altitude 850-metres above sea level. The undulating terrain of the Dolomites and the tight fairways ensure that rounds of golf across the San Vigilio Siusi are quite demanding, although the course is not too long making it playable by every level of golfer.

For over 120 years, the Swiss Samedan area has been known as the golf centre of the Alps, with courses at Engadine and Kulm Golf St Moritz. Nestled among trees in the high Alpine landscape and with views of Lake St Moritz, the courses are suitable for beginners and experts.

In Greece, the Costa Navarino features two signature designed courses, the Dunes Course and the Bay course – both operated by Troon Golf. Created by former US Masters champion Bernhard Langer, the courses incorporate stunning sea views overlooking the historic Bay of Navarino while weaving through hills and olive groves. The region possesses one of the most unspoiled Mediterranean landscapes and has numerous five-star hotels, conference facilities, residences, spa and thalassotherapy centres, plus year- round activities for adults and children.

Thracian Cliffs offers the ultimate golfing break.

Thracian Cliffs offers the ultimate golfing break.

For the ultimate golfing break, Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria is the answer. Designer Gary Player commented that it is impossible to find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet. It is said to be more challenging than the course at Pebble Beach in California!

Set on the Cape Kaliakra coast, the resort possesses a dramatic cliff top course where the risk of hitting the ball into the sea is constantly present.

Then there is the challenge of playing the seventh hole from a tee built out in the sea, and from where the shot has to be played across the sea, up and over a cliff to the green beyond! Not surprisingly, it is attracting a lot of attention from keen golfers wanting to really test their skills!

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