Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Final Final Open Qualifier for Ayrshire

The Open Championship Final Qualifier tees up for the final time in Ayrshire this morning at Gailes Links, just outside Irvine. The Ayrshire course previously known as Glasgow Gailes, has been hosting the Scottish round of final qualifying for the past couple of years since the format was changed. From 2018, it is heading to The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.

An old colleague of Wilkinson Travel Services sent this through to owner Gary Wilkinson,
I found the article quite thought provoking actually and it did remind me that almost all itineraries we did a decade or more ago would include a list of Open Qualifying courses to play alongside the Championship standards. It was most definitely a badge of honour. This article captured it pretty well.

Call me a Luddite or maybe just an old romantic but I kind of miss the old qualifying format. Growing up in Ayrshire saw The open being played every five years or so over Troon or Turnberry and the 36 hole qualifying events being held the week before over four local courses in the end these were Kilmarnock Barassie. Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes (now Gailes LInks and Irvine Bogside and as far as I can recall Lochgreen and Prestwick St Nicholas were also featured on the list.

There seemed to be a greater romance about those days when as a junior you would sit waiting to pick up a bag as a caddy for the visiting golfers (I was fortuante enough to qualify with one back at Troon!) and it really was a genuine event before an event with good crowds and real tension and many top players without exemptions looknig for their passport to the main event.

Now it's gone all global and after this year's event there will be no more Final Qualifying for Ayrshire at all.

Many of the Qualifying Courses across Scotland built their visitor numbers on the cache of being a Final Open Qualifying Course and it is a shame that this has diminshed now.

Just some of these great courses included Crail, Ladybank , Leven Links, Lundin Links (St Andrews); Gullane, Kilspindie and Longniddry (Muirfield) and Downfield, Scotscraig and Panmure (Carnoustie).

Golfers visiting Scotland could take any (or all!) of the courses in Fife, Angus, East Lothian or Ayrshire that hosted the Final Qualifiers and put together a golfing tour to Scotland that would be both historic and entirely fulfilling.

It is a shame that the format has gone but we wish all of the golfers stepping onto the first tee today at the five courses the very best of luck in their quest for the elusive final slots.

I'll be heading over to Gailes Links to see if anyone needs a caddy!

Monday, 3 July 2017

US dream as youngsters get to take part in Solheim Cup handover

Who says golf has no appeal for today's youths?

Well six young Scottish female golfers are about to savour the opportunity of a lifetime as part of the handover ceremony for The 2019 Solheim Cup coming to Scotland, the Home of Golf – after launching their own bid to qualify for the PING Junior Solheim Cup.


Through the support of the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, Scottish Golf and the Ladies European Tour, the female group have been selected for a dream trip to this year’s Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf & Country Club, taking place in Iowa from 18 – 20 August.

The initiative was borne from a Whatsapp group started by some of the girls following Scotland’s successful bid to stage The 2019 Solheim Cup. Entitled #Project19, the group began as a way of the girl’s motivating each other to climb the amateur golf rankings and qualify to represent Team Europe at the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup, taking place at Gleneagles.

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events, said: “Hearing the story of how the girls got together with the aim of playing in the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup really inspired us and underlined the very reason we worked so hard to bring The 2019 Solheim Cup to Scotland. We are delighted they are joining the team in Des Moines to celebrate the moment that Scotland becomes the next host nation of The Solheim Cup and we look forward to following their journey over the next few years on the road to Gleneagles.”

You can read the full article and find out more about the girls' plans - Click here

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

McIlroy Confirms Entry to Scottish Open in July

It's been confirmed that Rory McIlroy is set to make a return to Scotland to play at the Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open from July 13th - 16th at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire.



He will join a line up of "major" stars including Open Champion Henrik Stenson, 2013 Masters Champion Adam Scott and defending champion Alex Noren when they tee it up at the west coast golf course next month.

McIlroy’s season has been affected by a rib injury but as he prepares to make his second return from the sidelines this season at the US Open, the World Number Two revealed he has added the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open to his summer schedule.

The Northern Irishman had success at the 2014 Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen finishing tied 14th going on the following week to win his first Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. The Scottish Open is viewed as ideal preparation with four of the last five Open champions having played in the Scottish Open the week before.

McIlroy said,
“I'm going to play Scottish, so I'm going to play Irish, Scottish and The Open,” said the 28 year old. “That’s a great run of three weeks of links golf and will be a great way to get ready for the Open. I’m excited about that run and to be able to play a lot of links golf in that short time frame.
“Having had such stop-start season with the injury means I need to, and really want to play golf. One thing you realise when you are injured is how much you want to play and miss playing and I need to play in events to get some momentum and hopefully knock off a couple of really big wins over the summer.”
Gary Wilkinson from SIGTOA commented,

“It's great to see someone of the stature of Rory McIlroy choosing to play in the Scottish Open. It is always positive when the stars are seen playing courses that are not normally seen on TV by golfing fans and it will highlight just how good a golf course Dundonald Links is and what a diverse destination Ayrshire itself offers.
All of our Tour operators have been singing the praises of the links at Dundonald for many years and it is always impressed first time players from across the world. We ourselves offer it as part of a great three day links golf pass which is ideal for visiting golf groups and societies."
This Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will be the fourth event in the European Tour’s new Rolex Series, a premium category of tournaments on the Race to Dubai with minimum prize funds of US$7million.

Find out more about The Ayrshire Golf Pass here

Carnoustie Appoints first Chief Executive

The Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators Association have a new name to work with in the future with the appointment of the first every Chief Executive at Carnoustie Golf Links with the appointment of Michael Wells.

As part of an ambitious drive to further its reputation as one of the world’s top golf destinations, Wells joins the Carnoustie team from The R&A in St Andrews, where he was the Director of Championship Staging at The Open.

The Open Championship, will return to Carnoustie in July 2018 and SIGTOA are looking forward to both the appointment and the return of the championship to Scotland.

A SIGTOA spokesman said,
"We'd all like to wish Michael Wells the very best of luck in his new position at Carnoustie and we are all looking forward to helping work with the new CEO in maximising the opportunities for developing the golf travel trade side of the business over the years ahead. Such a high profile appointment is good news for Scottish golf as a whole and reaffirms the importance of the sector to the economy"

He won the post over an impressive field of candidates from all over the world and Carnoustie Chairman, Pat Sawers, said, “Michael has extensive knowledge of all facets of golf administration, particularly in relation to staging major tournaments.

“He has done a great job as a Director at The R&A and I believe he is the right leader to entrust with developing our brand and ensuring that Carnoustie Links continues to be recognised as one of the most challenging Links golf courses in the world.”

Michael Wells already knows Carnoustie Links well. During his time at The R&A, he has been involved in The Open on two previous occasions there, including his first Open in 1999 when Paul Lawrie lifted the famous Claret Jug, and in 2007 when Padraig Harrington won the first of his back-to back victories in the Championship.

He is expected to take up his post shortly after The Open at Royal Birkdale and said,

“I feel privileged and honoured to be selected to become Carnoustie Golf Links’ first Chief Executive. Carnoustie has a reputation for being one of the toughest courses in the world and one that every golfer should aspire to play. I am very excited about the opportunity to work alongside the fantastic team at Carnoustie and to help develop its reputation as a world-class golfing destination.”

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

There were certainly concerns raised at the time about the decision of the R&A to give the contract for live coverage of The Open to Sky Sports over the tradition of the BBC. Whether the argument has been settled or not the level of coverage and style of delivery of The open clearly went up a notch or two at Troon in 2017 and this has been recognised in awards.



SkySports’ innovative coverage of The 145th Open at Royal Troon in July 2016 has earned them a BAFTA after being named best sports production during the awards ceremony in London.

The Sky Sports team won the award for best sports production for their enhanced coverage of the championships, including the thrilling climax when Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson were embroiled in a sensational final-day battle watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The Open was named the winner ahead of BBC's coverage of the Rio Olympics and the Six Nations clash between England and Wales, while the Paralympics on Channel 4 was also nominated.

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events, said: “This is a tremendous accolade, not only for the team at Sky Sports but for golf in general to have beaten off competition from so many top-class sporting productions. It is also a triumph for the stunning Ayrshire coastline which provided the perfect backdrop for the high-class drama that unfolded on the course.

“I’m especially delighted for our Golf Events Executive Katy Mathieson, who was part of the Sky Sports team producing coverage from Royal Troon before joining EventScotland last year. We have a great relationship with Sky Sports through the world-class portfolio of golf events taking place in Scotland and we look forward to working with them on many more in the coming years.”

However, we all know that regardless of how good the TV coverage may be there's nothing to beat watching the pros in action in real time whether it be in searing sunshine or from under an oversize golf umbrella!

SIGTOA members are already booking ahead for clients for Carnoustie 2018, Portrush in 2019 and of course the return to The Old Course for the 150th anniversary in 2021.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Tickets are now available for the 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open to be played at the wonderful Kingsbarns Links jsut south of St Andrews in Fife and with the world’s top five players already confirmed, golf fans can be assured of witnessing some world-class play between the 3rd and 6th of August.

The Women's British Open is renowned as one of the world’s most international Majors, with players from 30 nationalities competing last year, the 2017 Championship makes its welcome return to Scotland playing over Kingsbarns for the first time and 21-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn will be looking to defend her title over the challenging layout.

There is a special advance purchase offering there is 20% off general admission one-day tickets and season tickets for all purchases online until Midnight 10 June 2017. If you are playing nearby at that time or looking to plan a trip around the event why not give one of the SITOA members a call or email and they will advise you on golf, accommodation, transfers and tickets for your Scottish golf trip.

Upgraded Clubhouse tickets and Official Corporate Hospitality packages are also available in the Champions Club overlooking the 18 green and these areas of upgrades and VIP add ons is for certain one of the areas of expertise of every golf tour operator in SIGTOA.

The Ricoh Women’s British Open was founded by the LGU in 1976 and has been staged in conjunction with IMG, a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, since 1984. The event has been co-sanctioned by the LPGA and LET since 1994, and gained Major status in 2001. The LGU merged with The R&A in January 2017.

Kingsbarns has hosted the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship since 2001, Final Qualifying for The Open in 2010 and the 2013 Ricoh Women’s British Open Final Qualifying. The course has been widely acclaimed by players and media alike since opening 14 years ago and has fitted seamlessly into the famous golfing area of St Andrews.

Purchase Tickets Online

Select a SIGTOA member

Thursday, 27 April 2017

What are Scotland's Best Golf Holes

Maybe one of the most subjective questions you could pose for any golfer with every single one likely to have an entirely different collection in their preference lists. However VisitScotland recently ran a poll to get a snapshot of their consumers and found the following results. 


Like any best of lists it will divide opinion. What do you think?
  • Tom Morris, the 18th hole on St Andrews’ Old Course voted best golf hole in Scotland
  • Old Course also awarded best closing hole and best Par 4, the 17th
  • Postage Stamp voted best Par 3, with Machrihanish taking title of best opening hole
  • The 9th hole at Cruden Bay’s Championship Course took the award for Scotland’s best view
The closing hole at St Andrew’s Old Course has been voted as the best golf hole in Scotland, after a poll of 3,000 golfers chose it ahead of a formidable selection from the country’s world-class courses.

The poll, undertaken by VisitScotland, set out to discover which golf holes in Scotland exhibited #ScotSpirit – a feature of the national tourism organisation’s Spirit of Scotland campaign. It asked golfers to vote for the best opening and closing holes, a best Par 3, 4 and 5, as well as a best view and a best overall hole from a selection of shortlisted holes across the country.

Tom Morris, St Andrews’ iconic final hole and home to the Valley of Sin, took the award for the best hole and best closing hole, while its neighbouring 17th hole was voted the best Par 4 in Scotland.

The 9th hole at Cruden Bay Golf Club on the Aberdeenshire coast claimed the award for best view. The course, which boasts stirring views across the Bay of Cruden and Slains Castle, beat out competition from the Castle Course at St Andrews, Machrihanish Dunes and Gullane Golf Club. The category included nominations for more than 300 individual holes, testament to the wealth of stunning views across Scotland’s courses.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “We’re thrilled that the golfing public have taken the time to put their support behind their favourite courses in Scotland, from local favourites to the home of golf itself, St Andrews. Every club plays it part in making Scotland the essential golfing destination, so we’re proud to honour such a diverse range of our spectacular courses.”

The Machrihanish Golf Club confirmed its status as the owners of the best opening hole in the world. The Battery, whose tee box already features a plaque to that effect, received over 1,000 votes as the best opening hole in Scotland.

Machrihanish and Cruden Bay weren’t the only local courses to perform better in the poll than some of their more well-known compatriots. Moray Golf Club’s closing hole, overlooking the Moray Firth, came second in its category, ahead of both Carnoustie and Turnberry. The 12th hole at neighbouring Hopeman Golf Club, received more than 120 votes for the best view, despite not being shortlisted.

The Postage Stamp (8th) at Troon was voted the best par 3 in Scotland, while the 12th hole at Kingsbarns Golf Club on the Fife Coast was voted the best Par 5. The neighbour of St Andrews finished ahead of holes from Castle Stuart (18th), 2014 Ryder Cup venue Gleneagles (16th) and the recently redesigned Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry (10th).

The final results of the poll were as follows:

Best Hole – Tom Morris, 18th at the Old Course, St Andrews (799 votes, 27% share)

Best Opening Hole – The Battery, 1st at Machrihanish Golf Club (1025 votes, 30% share)

Best Closing Hole - Tom Morris, 18th at the Old Course, St Andrews (825 votes, 24% share)

Best Par 3 – The Postage Stamp, 8th at Royal Troon (891 votes, 26% share)

Best Par 4 – Road, 17th at the Old Course, St Andrews (1176 votes, 36% share)

Best Par 5 – Orrdeal, 12th at Kingsbarns Golf Club (654 votes, 19% share)

Best View – 9th at Championship Course, Cruden Bay Golf Club (662 votes, 20% share)

For more information on the poll and the breadth of courses Scotland has to offer, visit https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/golf/best-golf-holes/