The golf guide for the travel industry
The future of golf By Peter Ellegard
IGTM round-up The Algarve took top honours at IAGTO’s 20th golf tourism awards. Peter Ellegard reports from the event in Marrakesh
he Algarve took top honours when the winners of global golf tourism organisation IAGTO’s 20th annual golf tourism awards were announced at the end of the 2019 International Golf Travel Market in Marrakesh. Held during a gala dinner attended by more than 1,000 IGTM delegates, the prestigious 2020 IAGTO Awards crowned Portugal’s golfing hotspot as Golf Destination of the Year following a poll of its 700-plus golf tour operator members worldwide. Cambodia was named Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year, while the country’s Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, Moon Palace Cancun in Mexico and Ireland’s Adare Manor were honoured as Golf Resort
of the Year for Asia Pacific, the Americas, and Europe, Africa and the Middle East respectively. In a tie-up for the eighth year with golf sustainability body the GEO Foundation, Cyprus golf resort Aphrodite Hills took overall honours for outstanding contribution in the 2020 IAGTO Sustainability Awards. Also honoured were PGA Catalunya, Spain (for nature protection), Minthis resort in Cyprus (resource efficiency) and Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai (community value). Wales was unveiled as the host destination for IGTM 2020, taking place from October 26–29, 2020, at the new International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) and adjacent Celtic Manor Resort. Staged annually by Reed Exhibitions, October’s four-day
Morocco IGTM was attended by more than 1,300 industry professionals, the 477 exhibitors including newcomers showcasing golf in Japan, Russia and Azerbaijan. Attendees also experienced six golf courses in Marrakesh in the IGTM golf tournament while tour operators explored courses and destinations in other parts of Morocco on postconvention fam trips. During IGTM, two new programmes were unveiled by IAGTO to mark reaching 1,000 golf club and golf resort members across 80 countries. A Quality Assurance certification scheme will acknowledge golf courses that deliver the best experience to visiting golf travellers while the Golf Tourism Accreditation programme will recognise the experience and expertise of golf course managers.
Top 5: Middle East courses
The top five: A Middle East courses James Mason looks at the best courses in this up-and-coming golf destination
s golfers start to look further afield than traditional destinations like Portugal, Spain and the USA for their annual golf tour or family holiday (with a few rounds built-in), the Middle East has emerged as an alternative. The region’s amazing desert landscapes have paved the way for some of the world’s foremost course designers to showcase their skills in creating lush, meandering, manicured fairways in an ecofriendly way – with courses now also becoming bird sanctuaries and important homes for local wildlife.
YAS LINKS: UAE When I interviewed golf course designer Kyle Phillips about his work on Yas Links, he said that people would not believe that the area where it now sits was a wasteland. It’s now home to not only one of the best courses in the world but also a sanctuary for a variety of birds and wildlife, creating its own little ecosystem. The modern-day links design, always in immaculate condition, deserves all the praise it receives from professional golfers, journalists and visiting golfers.
SAADIYAT BEACH: UAE Back to the UAE and Abu Dhabi for the Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach, which meanders its way alongside the Arabian Gulf. If you enjoy wildlife along with a pure drive that splits a perfectly manicured fairway then look out for dolphins, hawksbill turtles and mountain gazelles as you make your way around this beautifully conceived course.
Top 5: Middle East courses
DOHA, CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE: QATAR I interviewed Sergio Garcia when he was defending his Qatar Masters title in 2015 and he stated how much he enjoyed playing the Peter Harradine-designed Doha Championship course with its natural rock formations and water hazards â€“ they also imported 65 cactus plants from Arizona! You can be easily distracted by amazing views of the Doha city skyline.
AL MOUJ: OMAN I feel links golf is the purest form of the game, so itâ€™s little surprise that the number two course on my list is the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj that runs along two kilometres of sandy beach on the Indian Ocean with the beautiful Al-Hajar mountain range as its backdrop. Steep humps and mounds line the fairways with large deep bunkers ready to punish wayward shots.
ROYAL GOLF CLUB, MONTGOMERIE COURSE: BAHRAIN Bahrain was the destination of the first supersonic jet airliner, Concorde, and Colin Montgomerie along with the team from European Golf Design has certainly taken the original Riffa Golf Club and given it the supersonic treatment. This is desert golf at its best: lush green fairways juxtaposed against a desert backdrop with deep wadis and large waste bunkers. If youâ€™re looking for a tough test of your golf game, this is the one for you.
Interview: Your Golf Travel’s head of European product, Neil Crossland, talks to Peter Ellegard
HOW DID YOUR GOLF TRAVEL START AND HOW HAS IT EVOLVED? YGT was started by founders, Ross Marshall and Andrew Harding from university over 14 years ago. Through their focus and drive, along with key industry experts being employed, the company has become the market leader it is today.
HOW MANY DESTINATIONS DOES IT OFFER GOLF HOLIDAYS TO? We offer over 3,500 destinations worldwide from the UK to Australia. One “off the wall” destination is in Finland at the Linna Golf Resort, a really exciting resort where around the summer solstice you can play any time of the day with 24-hour daylight.
IS THERE ANYTHING NEW FOR 2020? With its five courses on site, Quellness Golf Resort in Germany is an exciting new venue for YGT and one we are seeing clients taking an interest in. DO YOU WORK WITH TRAVEL AGENTS? We are largely a direct-sell
company with a large call centre of 78 specialist agents who have played and stayed at all our key partners. We do have direct contracts with specialist travel agencies in the UK; we provide expert views to the agents to enable them to sell direct to their client databases. WHERE IS THE BULK OF BUSINESS TO? IS IT STILL THE TRADITIONAL FAVOURITES? Spain and Portugal continue to stake claims as the UK’s favourite golfing destinations. Due to the quality of courses, weather and price point, they tick all the boxes. ARE OTHER PARTS OF EUROPE BECOMING MORE POPULAR? Turkey continues to grow due to the high quality, all-inclusive concept they have there. We are seeing exciting growth in Morocco, and with the International Golf Travel Market recently held there and a greater understanding of the destination, we expect to see continued growth. ARE GOLFERS BECOMING MORE ADVENTUROUS WITH THEIR GOLFING HOLIDAYS? Golfers have their favourite destinations and courses and they will return year after year to enjoy their annual golf trip. However there is also a segment of the market wishing to explore “hidden gems” which are off the beaten track and try something new each year. WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THEY LOOK FOR IN A GOLF HOLIDAY? For some groups it comes down to the quality of golf and some the apres golf, while others like fine gastronomy in resorts. Not one holiday is the same as each group has a different priority.
ARE GOLFERS BECOMING MORE ECO AWARE? IS YOUR GOLF TRAVEL ADDRESSING THE ENVIRONMENT? I think everyone is becoming more eco aware, with courses and resorts all doing their part to influence the reduction of their carbon footprint. YGT offers paperless tickets, we work in a paperless office and we will continue to work as a company to improve our carbon footprint. WHICH FACTORS PLAY KEY ROLES IN CLIENTS’ DECISIONMAKING? Flight access and value are always key to client decisions on where to travel to, along with availability for their preferred dates of their travel and group tee-time access. Golfers like their 10am tee starts, and there’s only one of those each day! Brexit has at times impacted decisionmaking, but the golfing market seems fairly resilient and clients have continued to purchase. WHICH DESTINATIONS ARE FARING WELL FOR 2020? Spain, Portugal, Turkey are faring well, Morocco continues to grow and France has seen good levels of business booking since the Ryder Cup. Cyprus has had a strong end to the year, Italy seems to be bouncing back and South Africa has had a fantastic year, in part due to the great exchange rate but also the diversity and unique experiences it offers. Costa Navarino in Greece is destined for a successful 2020; from pro golf business to groups and couples, it caters for everyone. ARE THERE ANY NOTICEABLE BOOKING TRENDS? The market for couples and family holidays is increasing and with resorts offering greater facilities to
cater for all needs, there is more opportunity for golfers to take partners on their golfing holidays. HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE GOLF TRAVEL INDUSTRY AND YOUR GOLF TRAVEL? My career in the industry started from my leisure and tourism course at South-East Essex College. I joined a specialist French golf tour operator for 12 years. I then joined YGT eight years ago as product sales manager for France and Belgium. HOW IS YOUR GOLF? I have played golf since I was 18, so that is 23 years. My handicap has only gone one way recently and that is up; it is currently 18. YOUR FAVOURITE GOLF DESTINATION AND THE BEST GOLF COURSE YOU HAVE PLAYED? I am very fortunate to have played and stayed at some truly amazing courses and resorts in my job. Just recently I played a fantastic and memorable round at Sotogrande Old in Spain. I would recommend it to anyone. My favourite golf destination is Le Touquet. I have played there for around 20 years and seen it develop to one of the best areas for golf in Europe. It offers links golf, parkland, nightlife and gastronomy and is only 45 minutes from Calais – it’s a real winner! HOW IS 2020 SHAPING UP FOR GOLF HOLIDAY BOOKINGS? Forward bookings have started well. We are seeing positive numbers of clients booking for all key destinations to get their preferred choice of courses and tee times. 2019 had its challenges with outside influences impacting trading, but we navigated around them to finish the year well. ABTAmag.com
Whistling Straits Peter Ellegard profiles the incredible course on the shore of Lake Michigan that is hosting this year’s Ryder Cup
n late September 2020 a gloriously rugged, two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan coastline in Wisconsin will be the setting for the biennial Ryder Cup battle between the golfing stars of Europe and the USA. US captain Steve Stricker will be aiming to snatch back the cup so comprehensively won by Europe at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018 when he takes on Padraig Harrington and his European team at Whistling Straits. Regarded as one of the toughest public courses in America, The Straits is one of two Pete Dye
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courses at Whistling Straits, the other being The Irish, and two Dye designs at Blackwolf Run. Together, they form part of the Destination Kohler resort an hour north of Milwaukee in the village of Kohler – created a century ago by industrialist Walter J Kohler for immigrant workers at his new factory, with Tudor-style luxury resort hotel The American Club in what was the workers’ dormitory. Host to three PGA Championships and the US Senior Open, the bunker-strewn Straits is a beauty carved from flat coastline into man-made mounds, valleys
and swales that’s a beast even for the pros. After playing it in the 2004 PGA Championship, Lee Westwood quipped: “I’d been told there are ten difficult holes and eight impossible ones. I’m still trying to work out which the ten difficult holes are!” Dustin Johnson fell foul of the course’s bunkers when he brushed the sand in what he thought was a waste area with his club and incurred a penalty in the 2010 PGA event, missing out on the play-off. Eight of its holes hug the shoreline, but all 18 have views of the lake. The par-three third,
seventh, 12th and 17th holes all have greens right by the shore. Every hole is named. They include the par-four eighth, On the Rocks, where the green drops off the back into a pot bunker, the par-four 13th, Cliff Hanger, set on the edge of a lakeside cliff, and the brutal par-four 18th, aptly named Dyeabolical. WHISTLING STRAITS TRIVIA • The Straits course has 1,000 bunkers – the most of any course in the world. They range from bathtub-sized to a gargantuan 300 yards across. The eighth hole has 102 bunkers, more than most golf courses, while the 18th has 96 • The Straits was named after the sound of the wind whipping off Lake Michigan’s shoreline, the straits, in gales • A flock of Scottish blackface sheep wander the course freely during the golfing season. Caddies often stop to feed them • During the 1950s, the site was used for nine years as a US Army anti-aircraft training facility called Camp Haven. Prior to that it was flat farmland • The highest elevation change is 25m, on hole 15 THE STRAITS VITAL STATS • Walking-only course, 7,123m, par 72, 152 slope rating (back tees) • Designer: Pete Dye • Opened: July 1998 • Key events: PGA Championship – 2004, 2010 and 2015; US Senior Open – 2007; Ryder Cup – 2020 • Closed for winter, typically November to late April • Green fee: up to $400-plus depending on season, plus $70 caddie fee (caddies are mandatory before twilight) and recommended $50 tip americanclubresort.com
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Women in golf There have been significant changes in women’s golf over the past 25 years. Alison Root takes a closer look
omen’s golf has not had an easy journey into the 21st century, but over the past 25 years or so, significant changes have taken place and a serious drive throughout the industry to encourage female participation has allowed the sport to become a more attractive proposition for women than ever before. In 2002 the late Beverly Lewis became the first female captain of the PGA; there was the introduction of the 2010 Equality Act; in 2014 Carnoustie Links appointed Patricia Sawers as the first female chairperson; in the same year The R&A voted to allow women members; in 2017 The R&A merged with the Ladies’ Golf Union to create one governing body; in 2018, and with a financial commitment of £80 million over 10 years, The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter that asks golf to pledge its support to increasing the number of women playing and working in golf, and at the beginning of this year, the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union and Golfing Union of Ireland combined to
create an all-inclusive governing body, following suit with England, Wales and Scotland. At professional level, Ayla Golf Club in Jordan became the host venue of this year’s groundbreaking Jordan Mixed Open, which saw men and women compete over the same course for a single purse, while female professionals now have an opportunity to join their male counterparts at the European Tour’s GolfSixes tournament, and there are currently two Tour events, one in Morocco and the other in Australia, where men’s and women’s competitions are run side by side. Compared with continental Europe, where golf is centred heavily on families, women and girls, golf clubs in the UK have been slow to embrace an allinclusive culture, but the above is progress. It marks the taking of meaningful steps that in particular help to shake off the men-only and elitist perception of the game that has been so firmly cemented within its traditions. Indeed, helping to grow the sport in the UK through women, girls and family has already
seen a positive effect on the golf travel industry. In 2017, having recognised female golfers’ appetite for travel, and with a good understanding of holiday expectations, Women & Golf magazine launched an annual golf holiday guide. In today’s modern and busy world, travel plays an important role in a person’s lifestyle and, as holiday and leisure time is extremely precious, if golf is a game that the whole family can enjoy, it’s a win-win situation. It’s becoming increasingly common to see groups of women waiting to collect their golf bags from an airport carousel because, like male golfers, they enjoy nothing more than a break in the sunshine with friends who share the same interest. The latest research shows that there are more than four times the number of people experiencing golf as opposed to being club members, and a third of these are women. Combine this with the fact that we know women like to travel – and solo female travel is on the rise – and we can see that golf is clearly a potential growth area in more ways than one.
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The year ahead
14 January 2020
ELLEGARD Japan Â© PETER ABTA Golf
The year ahead ABTAmag.com
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The year ahead
olf holiday bookings from the UK are expected to see modest gains in 2020 as the sector remains buoyant despite the continuing Brexit uncertainty. According to Carlton Carugati, general manager for Londonbased global golf tourism industry organisation IAGTO, which has more than 50 specialist golf tour operator members in the UK out of 716 in 63 countries worldwide, UK operators take most of their bookings in January. Having spoken to a number of them, Carugati says the general feeling is that “hopefully bookings will be good and that there will be no negative growth” this year. “2019 saw small growth of 3-4%,” he adds, while sounding a note of caution. “We have seen eight years of continuous growth so the likelihood of seeing large yearly percentages increases is not realistic.” Destinations he expects to
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fare well for 2020 include Spain’s Costa Blanca, Morocco – which had a strong year in 2019 and recently hosted the International Golf Travel Market in Marrakesh – and Portugal, while Northern Ireland “will see some flow” on the back of hosting the Open at Royal Portrush last July. The country is leading neighbours Scotland and Ireland in terms of the growth rate in bookings, although not in the number of golf visitors. The resurgence of Turkey and Morocco in 2019 is likely to affect some mainstream European golf destinations. “However, the Iberian Peninsula is limited by capacity during the most popular months and is already doing very well,” Carugati points out. On the long-haul front, Vietnam repeated gains it made the previous year in 2019 and, he says, has been joined by Japan, “which is beginning to see interest peak as its many and varied golf destinations position themselves
to attract international golf visitors following the Rugby World Cup and the next Olympics.” Cambodia, host of the 2019 Asia Golf Tourism Convention, is also seeing rising interest for golf bookings. Interesting new destinations promoting golf are Romania, Azerbaijan and Oman, Carugati adds, with Egypt trying to gain some North African market share by promoting its Pyramids Golf Trail. West Country-based B2B specialist golf tour operator T the World works exclusively with travel agents and is an offshoot of three-branch travel agency C the World. Product and sales manager Tim Worrell says: “We have seen a big uplift in agent enquiries, particularly from homeworkers who have promoted our suggested packages through their local golf clubs. Groups of 16 plus seem to be growing and, as usual, the Algarve is strong. For winter sun golf break destinations that are proving
popular, he highlights the Canaries for short haul and South Africa for long haul, South Africa’s appeal bolstered by the fact that it is great value and has plenty of non-golf experiences on longer holidays. Echoing IAGTO’s Carlton Carugati, Worrell says: “In the Far East, we feel that Vietnam and Cambodia will be hot topics in the coming months. Again, there is scope for a superb holiday taking in great sights and enjoying some time on the golf courses.” Golfing clients who really want to push the boat out are prepared to travel even further, he adds. “Bucket list trips seem to include New Zealand with some spectacular options including Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers and Gulf Harbour, all on the North Island.” A popular option for golfers is to play on courses that host top international tournaments. “We have also seen a positive increase to Morocco, Abu Dhabi and Oman with clients choosing
to watch the pros and stay on and play,” says Worrell. Key events in the 2020 golf calendar include the four Major Championships: the Masters, held annually each April at its permanent home, Augusta National in Georgia; the PGA Championship, taking place in May at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco; the US Open, being held at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York State in June; and the Open Championship, which returns to Royal St George’s in Kent in July. The Players Championship, held every year at Florida’s TPC Sawgrass and taking place in March, is often called the “Fifth Major”. The Ryder Cup is back in the US again this year and takes place in September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Tee the World’s Tim Worrell says US bookings tend to focus around the main tournaments – notably the Masters, Players Championship and Ryder Cup in 2020 – “with many
requests to play the courses seen on TV watching the pros”. “Closer to home, Scotland, Ireland and Northern France are working really well for the long weekend, with people keen to play the Ryder Cup and Open host courses,” he adds. Worrell sees scope for bookings in Canada, too. “We feel that there is great potential for East Coast Canada, especially Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.” • A golf tourism trends survey of Europe’s four largest golfing markets unveiled at the 2019 International Golf Travel Market by Sports Marketing Surveys shows that British and Irish golfers are more likely to take a golf holiday abroad than a domestic trip, the 76% who went on overseas trips in the last 12 months behind Germany’s 84% but ahead of golfers from Sweden and France. They stay an average 6.4 days on non-domestic trips, playing 4.3 rounds on 3.3 courses.
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18 January 2020
Peter Ellegard visits the North African country that is aiming high with its golf tourism ambitions
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orocco has done a lot to get on the golf tourism map. The North African country has been greening the deserts with a slew of new golf developments in recent years. From just a dozen 18-hole courses and five nine-hole facilities 15 years ago, the country now has 45 golf courses – a figure expected to reach 50 in 2020 – many of which are by famous designers. It is also out to double golf visitor numbers from the current estimated 120,000, a target revealed when Marrakesh hosted the International Golf Travel Market in October. During IGTM, the Moroccan National Tourist Office signed a three-year deal with global golf tourism industry organisation IAGTO to help it grow international golf tourism. Seven different golf clusters have been identified around Morocco and the aim will be to highlight those, in addition to focusing on a series of golf tourism themes that will resonate with international golf travellers.
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Golf first arrived in Morocco in 1914, when what is now the Royal Country Club of Tangier opened in the country’s northernmost city, pre-dating Spain’s oldest courses. By 1933, two more courses included the Royal Golf Marrakesh, which was built on the orders of the Pasha of Marrakesh and which has hosted luminaries such as Winston Churchill and Dwight D Eisenhower. Morocco’s King Hassan II set the ball rolling for Morocco’s golf boom when he commissioned Robert Trent Jones Sr to create Royal Dar Es Salam in the capital, Rabat. A single-figure handicap amateur golfer, his personal instructor was Butch Harmon, later coach to stars including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The momentum has increased under King Mohammed VI since he succeeded his father in 1999. Although Marrakesh has seen the bulk of golf course building, Morocco has also seen new projects spring up elsewhere as part of government efforts to spread golf around the country.
MARRAKESH Boasting 14 golf courses, one-time capital Marrakesh is Morocco’s main golf destination and is popular for winter golf breaks on fairways framed by the snow-covered Atlas Mountains. They include: desertstyle layout Assoufid Golf Club (assoufid.com), which was named Africa’s best course in the 2017 World Golf Awards; Al Maaden Golf Resort (almaaden.golf), where the Kyle Phillips design is studded with monumental sculptures; Samanah Country Club (samanah.com), with a Nicklaus Design layout hosting a stage of the PGA Champions Tour in late January; PalmGolf Marrakech Ourika (palmgolfmarrakechourika. com), surrounded by palm and olive trees; 27-hole PalmGolf Marrakech Palmeraie (palmeraieresorts.com), featuring a Robert Trent Jones Sr course and three hotels; Noria Golf Club (noriagolfclub.com), incorporating traditional Moroccan features such as reflecting pools; Royal Golf Marrakech (royalgolf-marrakech.com), its historic Old Course and nine-hole New Course now augmented by a lavish
clubhouse; and the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech (fairmont. com/marrakech), managed by Fairmont along with the on-site luxury hotel. All the courses are within easy reach of the city centre and attractions including the colourful Jemaa el-Fnaa square, medina souk and Bahia Palace. ATLANTIC RESORTS Agadir is Morocco’s main beach resort, the cooling Atlantic breezes allowing golf year-round on its four courses. Three are next to each other: Golf Les Dunes Agadir (golflesdunesagadir.com), owned and operated by Club Med, and Golf de l’Ocean (golfdelocean. com), both of which offer 27 holes, and Golf du Soleil (tikidagolfpalace. com), adjacent to Relais & Châteaux hotel Tikida Golf Palace and with two 18-hole courses. Tazegzout Golf Club (tazegzout.com) is 15 minutes north of Agadir and offers panoramic Atlantic views from its elevated Kyle Phillips layout. Golf de Mogador (golf-mogadoressaouira.com), close to historic city and resort Essaouira, has
two Gary Player courses, while Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort (mazaganbeachresort.com), near port city El Jadida, has another Player course skirting the beach. All three have on-site hotels. RABAT Morocco’s vibrant capital is home to the country’s largest golf complex, the 45-hole Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (royalgolfdaressalam.com) that possesses two 18-hole parkland courses. The Red Course is rated the best course in Morocco and hosts the European Tour’s Hassan II Trophy each spring. That coincides with the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meyrem Cup, which takes place on the Blue Course. HISTORIC HEARTLAND Morocco’s other former capitals, Fez and Meknes, both have golf. There are two 18-hole courses in Fez, the Cabell B Robinsondesigned Royal Golf de Fès (madaefgolfs.com) and Oued Fès Golf (ouedfes.ma), which has a new club house. After their rounds,
golfers can soak up the colours and sounds of the city’s Unescolisted medina. Nine-hole Meknes Royal Golf Club (royalgolfmeknes. com) is Morocco’s most unusual course as it is set inside the walled gardens of the city’s royal palace. An hour away in the Middle Atlas Mountains lies the alpine town of Ifrane, known as “Little Switzerland” and home to Morocco’s newest golf facility, Michlifen Resort & Golf (michlifen. com) that features a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and a luxury chalet hotel. With occasional snow in winter, its seasons are reversed compared with Marrakesh. NORTHERN MOROCCO Besides having Morocco’s oldest golf club, the Royal Country Club of Tangier (royalgolfdetanger. com), the north has some of its newest facilities. Among them, Lixus Beach Resort (lixusbeachresort.com) features an 18-hole course and 224-room Atlantic-facing hotel. There are also golf developments along the Mediterranean coast.
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22 January 2020
Cambodia With accolades and titles in the bag, the Southeast Asian country is making a mark in golf, writes Peter Ellegard
t is famous for its historic Angkor temples in Siem Reap that attract more than two million visitors from around the world every year. However, Cambodia is now also making its mark with golfers. In the golf tourism industry’s prestigious IAGTO Awards for 2020, held at the end of the International Golf Travel Market in Marrakesh in October, the country was named Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year, an honour voted for by worldwide golf journalist members of the International Golf Travel Writers Association. The awards event also saw Siem Reap’s Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort given the title of 2020 Asia Pacific Golf Resort of the Year, as voted by global golf tourism industry organisation IAGTO’s golf tour operator members, making it a notable double for a nation with just half a dozen internationalstandard golf courses. The twin accolades came during a year when Siem Reap hosted the eighth annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention, attended by 420 IAGTO member buyer and supplier delegates from 45 countries. Golf first arrived in Cambodia in 1996, when the Cambodia Golf & Country Club opened in capital Phnom Penh. Its latest facility, Vattanac Golf Resort, is 45 minutes
from the city. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are its two golf hubs, allowing single-stay or twin-centre options for visiting golfers.
Club (siemreapbooyoung.com) has a course by Japanese designer Kentaro Sato and features tea houses in which golfers can take breaks during their round.
SIEM REAP Cambodia’s main tourism destination has three golf courses, all close to its centre and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Angkor that include the world’s largest temple complex, Angkor Wat, the Ta Prohm Temple – overgrown by trees and used as a location in the Tomb Raider movie – and the Angkor Thom and Bayon temples. The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort was the country’s first international golf resort when it opened in 2000 and incorporates the 18-hole Phokeethra Country Club course (phokeethraangkor.com), a former Asian Tour venue that hosted the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open four times. Five minutes from Angkor Wat, it has its own Khmer Empire ruins in the form of the restored 11th century Roluh Bridge between the ninth green and tenth tee. The 18-hole layout at Angkor Golf Resort (angkor-golf.com) was named Cambodia’s best golf course in the 2019 World Golf Awards and was designed by six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo. Siem Reap Booyoung Country
PHNOM PENH The debut of Vattanac Golf Resort (vattanacgolfresort.com) in late 2019 gives the capital three international-standard golf facilities and five overall. An integrated resort development, Vattanac will eventually have two 18-hole Faldo Design courses. The first phase comprises the East Course, a 7,467-yard layout open to the public that features scale models of famous Khmer architectural sites such as Angkor Wat and Bayon. The West Course will be reserved for members. The Grand Phnom Penh Golf Club (grandphnompenhgolf.com) course by Nicklaus Design opened in 2011 and is 20 minutes from the city. The IMG-managed Garden City Golf Club (gardencityclub. com), which opened in 2013, has a five-star, 250-room hotel and spa on site. It was named Cambodia’s best course in the 2018 World Golf Awards. Phnom Penh has its own tourism sites and attractions, among them the Royal Palace and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a stark reminder of Cambodia’s brutal past.
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