Golf tourism has been a huge economic benefit to host clubs, the nearby cities and their surrounding regions after every modern-day Ryder Cup since the mid-1980s.
Thousands of golfers want to play the latest course on the Ryder Cup roster and they will spend money on travel, accommodation, food and merchandise even years after the event was staged. It all adds up to millions of pounds, dollars or euros of income, writes Ross Biddiscombe.
But there is a question mark over the impact at Le Golf National because golf’s most successful team tournament has never before been played in a country with such a limited amount of golfing history and culture.
There has been no pre-match research into the potential tourism benefits for the club, Paris or even nearby Versailles, so the best estimates are based on Europe’s previous match at Gleneagles in Scotland. If visitors to the French capital and surrounding region come in the same numbers, then there could be over £100 million in extra spending by golf tourists in and around the week of the match and the following months.
With Scotland’s golf heritage offering many more iconic courses, it seems unlikely French golf tourists will reach 2014 numbers. However, Paris is a more expensive city to visit, plus daily attendance at the Gleneagles match was around 45,000, yet for Le Golf National that number increases to 51,000. So, the final revenue figure for the 2018 match – if one ever emerges – might still be close to £100 million.
Whatever the impact of visitors to France, a worldwide TV audience will see the area as a golf destination. It is estimated that a Ryder Cup host club receives around £40 million worth of free advertising from its global television coverage.
And any TV coverage is good coverage – just ask Sir Terry Matthews, the man who brought the Ryder Cup to Wales in 2010, a match that seemed to have suffered because of very heavy rain that meant a fourth day of matchplay was needed.
“I had business colleagues from Canada and the United States and all over the world ringing me up to say how sorry they were about the weather,” Sir Terry told Walesonline.co.uk. a few years after the match. “I said, are you kidding me? We got an extra day of global coverage for all the sponsors. Can you imagine signing up for an event as big as the Ryder Cup and getting 33% extra for free?”
But the question remains for Le Golf National will be how many of those TV viewers or of the on-site match fans will put the course on their golfing bucket list for a future visit.
In 2014, Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) stated that the Gleneagles match attracted more than 63,000 visitors from outside Scotland. The £100 million spend was spread across the whole country and included £22 million worth of extended stays by Ryder Cup attendees in Perth & Kinross, where Gleneagles is situated.
Economic benefits for France will certainly be more than the first ever match played on continental Europe, the 1997 contest in Valderrama, Spain.
This area of southern Spain had long been a destination for golfers in search of good weather and research at the time indicated an economic impact of around £52 million, an amount certainly on a par with a corresponding event like the Open Championship at that time.
The next three impact numbers from European Ryder Cup venues all saw an increase: The Belfry generated as much as £62 million in 2002; the K Club managed £95 million in 2006; and Celtic Manor £85 million in 2010. The Belfry’s figure was affected by the 12-month postponement of the event due to 9/11, while the Irish match had the benefit of thousands of Irish-Americans simply extending their trip a little more than usual because they were visiting ‘the homeland’. Even though Wales’s numbers were down, they were still ahead of original targets.
By comparison, the benefits the Ryder Cup offers in America are based on regional rather than national numbers. Brookline was the first host club to generate an economic measurement – their study estimated $150 million worth of benefit to the Greater Boston area. The figure for the Oakland Hills match near Detroit in 2004 dropped to $77 million, but the Louisville numbers bounced up again to $115 in 2008 and the study for Medinah showed the highest ever impact of $135 million for Chicago.
While there was no official economic impact report after the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in Minnesota, the PGA of America estimated the state drew in $135 million from the match, but that figure was based simply on estimates from Chicago’s hosting four years earlier.
Politically speaking, a Ryder Cup match cannot go wrong in terms of awareness of a region. Scotland’s First Minister at the time of the Gleneagles match, Alex Salmond, said the Ryder Cup provided the warmest of welcomes to thousands of people from around the world. “There can be no better advert for Scottish tourism,” he said.
For Le Golf National, the local and national governments plus the tourist authority have all been very supportive. Even Eurostar has paid for Official Supplier status in the commercial family because of the anticipated number of fans travelling from the UK by train. As part of their commitment, Eurostar changed its luggage carry-on policy last year so that normal-sized golf club bags can be carried through the regular check-in area rather than be taken in advance to a separate oversized luggage desk. Eurostar also says that there’s no plans to change that policy once the match is over.
Another piece of good news for Le Golf National is that there is no threat of Celtic Manor-style rain, the American team includes the sport’s biggest draw – Tiger Woods – and the city of Paris is the first capital city in the world to play a hosting role, albeit that the golf course is 23 kilometres from the centre of the capital, beyond Versailles and so technically more “near Paris” than in it.
However, hopes are high that Paris will now become a true golf destination and, with the 2024 Olympic golf tournament being played at Le Golf National and a capacity for as many as 80,000 spectators, the reputation of this iconic course and the beautiful capital city nearby is set to continue to grow for the golfing tourist.
Ross Biddiscombe’s acclaimed book Ryder Cup Revealed is a source of information for this feature and is available at amazon.co.uk via this hotlink: https://tinyurl.com/y9w75whd