The Ryder Cup in Scotland may still be over a year away but a Scots-American match-up is being planned with a lucrative prize on offer.
A two-man team from the Highlands is heading across the Atlantic this week on a fact-finding and promotional visit with the aim of attracting more golfing visitors from the US to the north of Scotland.
The delegation will be representing Highland Golf Links (HGL), a partnership of three leading Highland venues – Castle Stuart Golf Links, Royal Dornoch Golf Club and Nairn Golf Club- as well as the Kingsmills Hotel and Culloden House Hotel, Inverness; the Royal Golf Hotel and Links House, at Royal Dornoch; and the Golf View Hotel in Nairn to promote destination breaks.
Together they offer attractive packages for visiting golfers to enjoy some of the finest links courses and luxury accommodation in Scotland with the aim of increasing the number of golfers to the Highlands by 5,000 a year and an additional £130,000 annually in income.
The playing ambassadors will be Fraser Cromarty, the HGL chairman, and sales and marketing director at Castle Stuart Golf Links; and Neil Hampton, general manager at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, who will be visiting six, and playing four, courses in and around Chicago as part of their five-day tour from 16-20 September.
Chicago has 22 golf courses and the state of Illinois has 637, including the Medinah Country Club which hosted the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Fraser Cromarty said: “America is an exceptionally important market for us as 25 per cent of our golfing visitors and 35 per cent of spending comes from the US.
“We hope this trip will help us learn more about American golfers and the sort of facilities they demand as well as promoting the Highlands and what we have to offer here.
“While Scotland is well known among golfers in America we want to ensure that the Highlands is seen as a golfing destination in its own right.”
The tour itinerary includes Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, the oldest 18-hole course in North America and was one of the five clubs which founded the United States Golf Association in 1894. Its founder, Charles B. Macdonald, who attended St Andrew’s University, was tutored by the legendary Old Tom Morris and won the first official U.S. Amateur Championship in 1895.
The following day they will visit Shoreacres, located in LakeBluff, north of Chicago and ranked 51 in the world, as well as the Glen View Club which dates from 1897.
From there they will head to Old Elm in Highland Park, Illinois, which was designed by Donald Ross, the Dornoch-born golf course designer who was responsible for famous lay-outs including Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina. The HGL pair will meet golf professionals from 24 other clubs to discuss the attractions of Highland golf.
They will move on to Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois, another Donald Ross course and former US Open venue, and the final day of the visit will be spent at Wynstone Golf Club, designed in 1989 by Jack Nicklaus.
Neil Hampton said: “Many of our members at Royal Dornoch are American and there are many connections to the Highlands, including Donald Ross, which make our wonderful courses so attractive to American visitors. We hope we can build on that and help encourage more golfers to stay and play in the north of Scotland.”
HGL was formed in summer 2011 and since then 1,497 stay and play packages for ‘shoulder’ months of April and October-November have been booked as a result of the campaign. This represents 4,491 rounds of golf, 2,994 bedroom nights and spending worth £441,615.
In the last 18 months the partners have spent over £10 million upgrading facilities to help attract more visitors.
Highland Golf Links www.highlandgolflinks.com