As some of the world’s best golfers pitch up this week for the Scottish Open, a new study is being planned to calculate the economic value of the tournament.
The event, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, started today (Thursday 9 July) at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian, before moving next year to Castle Stuart Golf Links near Inverness.
As well as being a valuable event for the players ahead of The Open Championship, it is also lucrative for businesses near the host venue.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) aims to conduct a new economic impact study on the event when it returns to Castle Stuart in 2016 for the fourth time in six years.
A previous study by HIE, following the 2011 tournament at Castle Stuart, showed that 51,340 spectators attended the event and a pre-tournament Pro-Am, helping to contribute more than £5 million to the Scottish economy, including £4 million to the Highlands and Islands.
The event has grown in the interim. The 2013 competition at Castle Stuart broke new ground by being the first regular European Tour event to be shown live on a major United States TV broadcast network following a landmark agreement signed with NBC which complemented coverage on the Golf Channel.
Phil Mickelson’s play-off triumph reached a worldwide television audience of more than 500 million and generated exposure estimated to be worth more than £53 million.
Martin Johnson, HIE area manager for the Inner Moray Firth, said: “The Scottish Open is a prestigious tournament due to it attracting some of the world’s leading players in its own right and also by being played just a week before The Open championship.
“The influx of players and fans can have a real economic impact on local business, including hotels, restaurants bars, shops and taxi firms. There are also spin-off benefits from having the host venue beamed across the world on television.”
Castle Stuart has been attracting international interest recently with news that golf legend Arnold Palmer is collaborating on a second course at the Moray Firth site – his first in Scotland.
The Arnold Palmer Group is investing in the current partnership at Castle Stuart and the group’s Arnold Palmer Design Company will assist in the lay-out of the new course, to be called the Palmer Tribute as his salute to Scotland and links courses.
Palmer will visit Castle Stuart this week to see the site for himself before travelling to The Open at St Andrews.
Stuart McColm, general manager of Castle Stuart Golf Links, said: “The build-up of interest around the Scottish Open this week is a timely reminder of how important this event is to Scotland in both sporting and economic terms.
“It has grown significantly since the previous study and the new HIE assessment will provide a valuable insight at a time when the Highlands is increasingly attracting attention as a golfing destination.
“The area is ideally placed to capture a bigger slice of that growing market and the opportunity provided by the Scottish Open returning in 12 months is one we need to embrace and work hard now to fully benefit from.”
Overall, golf tourism is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy and is estimated to be worth close to £220 million annually, with forecasts of reaching £300 million by the end of the decade.
Earlier this year the partnership body Highland Golf Links, which includes Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch Golf Club and The Nairn Golf Club, as well as three leading hotels, sent a delegation to China whose golfers made 34,000 visits to Scotland in 2013, spending £34 million.
Castle Stuart Golf Links www.castlestuartgolf.com