Golf’s traditional short-haul markets may be in danger of losing business to the pro-active ‘new kids on the block’ if they don’t reconsider their pricing strategies.

That’s the verdict of the co-founder of leading golf club rental agency Clubs to Hire (CTH), Tony Judge, who has witnessed a boom in non-traditional golfing hot-spots, such as Morocco, Turkey and Cyprus.

Judge explained: “A recent domestic report in Portugal highlighted that, for the first time since records began, the number of Portuguese visitors to the Algarve outnumbered British travellers in 2018.

“And, while 18 per cent of respondents to the report – published by the Hotel Association of Portugal – cited the possible impact of Brexit as a concern, I feel the tendency to over-inflate green-fee prices in areas that have been, previously, a magnet for British and Irish visitors, has seen significant chunks of business moved elsewhere.

“For example, some resorts in these regions have not reacted to the resurgence of golf in Turkey, which is priced very competitively, or the growth in other areas like Cadiz, Agadir, Paphos and Porto.

“And these resorts show no signs of changing their policy, which would suggest that, as people increasingly look for ‘more bang for their buck’, places like Turkey and Greece will continue to reap the benefit.”

That was certainly the trend experienced by CTH in 2018, which saw its business grow steadily in other areas in Portugal, such as Lisbon and Porto – the latter seeing such significant growth that the Dublin-based company opened a new outlet there in January.

Judge added: “We also saw significant growth as a business in Belek, Morocco, Alicante and Cyprus, and, while the peaks and troughs of CTH business are not the ultimate method of measurement, it provides a pretty good snapshot at any given time and is a decent barometer over any 12-month period.

“Our advance bookings suggest that, once again, if certain resorts look to maintain their unrealistically inflated green-fee rates, footfall will continue to drop off in favour of the ‘new kids on the block’.”

Belek’s golf offering is certainly back on the A list for travelling golfers after its well-documented security fears of previous years, with CTH year-on-year business up by a staggering 115 per cent. Cape Town was also up an impressive 68 per cent, while Alicante (18), Marrakech (17) and Cadiz, with 15 per cent, also exceeded 2017 levels at a noteworthy rate.

Clubs to Hire handles more than 300,000 annual visits to its website and more than 80,000 bookings for rental clubs at 29 locations worldwide, including popular golfing regions in the USA, Thailand, Australia, South Africa and five countries across the Mediterranean, offering the latest clubs on the market, from leading brands such as TaylorMade, Callaway and Mizuno – for men and women, left- or right-handed – from just €35 per week, a potential saving of up to €193, with none of the hassle.

Tony Judge of
Photography by Daragh McDonagh