Ireland has the best links golf courses in the world according to Mr. Buddy Darby, CEO of Kiawah Development Partners and the man behind Doonbeg Golf Club in West Clare.
According to Darby the combination of Irish links golf, five star accommodation, superb food and the “craic” in Ireland should make Ireland the number one destination for the US golf market that annually spends in excess of US$26 billion on golf travel.
Mr Darby was speaking at Golf Business Conference held in the Convention Centre, Dublin, on Friday, 19 November, 2010.
In his address to the conference Darby said that Ireland represents real value to the US golfer and particularly those living on the East coast of the US. He said that the West of Ireland was in fact easier and quicker to reach than many of the US courses that are today marketing themselves as ‘links style courses’ offering a ‘links golfing experience’.
In that context he cited Whistling Straits, Bardon Dunes and Pebble Beach. He said such courses while on American golfers ‘must play’ lists were in fact far more expensive to play than the Irish links courses which are steeped in the history of the sport.
He said that the fact that US golfers were willing to pay premium prices for a links experience was a major opportunity for Ireland. “Ireland needs to better communicate not only the value available to the US golfer but also the unique experience awaiting them in Ireland,” he said
In that context he noted the marketing efforts of Doonbeg which he said had seen a 10% increase in US visitors to the course this year. He said that Doonbeg had worked hard at creating an ever better value proposition over the past two years and that this had seen room nights increasing by 60% in 2009 and by a further 30% this year.
He said that Ireland not alone need to market its links product more aggressively but that it also needed to have the infrastructure in place to make it easier to access the country and in particular the west coast.
He contrasted the experience in Shannon where there has been a strong decline in the number of flights available since Doonbeg opened its course in 2002, to that of St Kitts where his company is involved in another project and where the Government subsidises flights bringing tourists to the island.
He concluded his remarks by again noting the opportunity for Irish golf – an American market of 27 million golfers that annually spend US$26 billion on golf travel.