Golf trips are a Gimme

There’s above par commission earnings on offer for agents who can get to grips with the world’s top golf destinations, suggest Steve Hartridge and Peter Ellegard

The ball starts its journey towards the hole, rolling slowly at first but then accelerating as it drops off the top of one of the green’s crafty undulations.

It tracks inexorably towards its target and drops into the bottom of the cup.

I am on the par-3 third hole at Mid-Ocean Club in Tucker’s Town on the north-eastern tip of Bermuda and this birdie is as good as it is going to get for me today.

But fretting about posting a good score comes a distant second to the privilege of just being here.

I am reminded of Mark Twain’s quote that “Golf is a good walk spoiled” but have to disagree. I take time out between shots to appreciate the beauty of the setting, pausing awhile to gaze out to the shimmering Atlantic Ocean that provides a stunning backdrop on a number of holes.

Accentuating those views are several elevated tees that lead the eye to the pretty white houses dotting the hills and the colourful boats in the harbour.

Then there are the timeless pines, the pretty glades, the inland water hazards and the mangrove bushes.

golf bermuda
Mid-Ocean golf club, Bermuda

With its original design dating back to 1924, Mid-Ocean is Bermuda’s oldest and arguably still its top course, but there are other candidates on an island that has squeezed in more golf holes per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

In fact, with seven top courses that sculpt swathes of challenging green across its 21 square miles – including the fabulous Port Royal and Tuckers Point, a scenic challenge linked to the Rosewood Hotel – this could just be the ultimate ‘must visit’ destination for golfers who like to travel.

Mark Twain also said “You die and go to heaven, I’ll stay here in Bermuda.” Those who love golf and visit the island would surely agree.

Score big

Golf holidays are a commission goldmine – as more agents are discovering.

With golfers typically being older and having more disposable income, it means that golf holidays are above par when it comes to their value.

Golfers often take more than one golf holiday a year and many travel in groups, upping the commission opportunity considerably.

Agents don’t need to be a golfer or even have much knowledge about the sport, either, as there are experts who can guide you and help get bookings.

Participation in the sport surged during Covid and has remained high since then, both at home and overseas.

Research by Sporting Insights unveiled at the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Lisbon last October shows that 59% of British and Irish golfers go on domestic golf holidays and 51% take one abroad.

The main overseas holiday hotspots for British and Irish golfers, says Sporting Insights, are Spain, including the Canary Islands and Balearics as well as the mainland, followed by Portugal. Other popular locations are France, the US, Turkey, Morocco, South Africa and Italy.

More importantly, just 25% of British and Irish golfers book holidays independently while 48% book a package. Three-quarters book either four-star or five-star hotels.

Trade operator

ABTA member golf tour operator Tee the World works exclusively with the trade and can dynamically package golf breaks with flights for clients.

It recently acquired another tour operation called Golf to a Tee, specialising in escorted, social and coaching trips, that agents can now also book.

Tee the World’s Sales and Product Manager Tim Worrell says the operator has commercial agreements with trade consortia including Hays, Barrhead, Co-op, TTA and TTNG. It also has about 1,500 travel agent followers on its dedicated Facebook page.

“As we don’t promote packages on our website, this is where travel agents will see the latest offers with news, quizzes and images that they can share on their own pages,” he explains.

“We provide marketing material that they can customise with their own calls to action. We are also quite happy to talk to the clients on the agent’s behalf if it is a very detailed or specific enquiry.”

Tee The World’s website has a page of questions for agents to ask clients, such as whether they are regular golfers, if they want to take their own golf clubs and how many rounds they would like to play.

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Finca Cortesin, Spain, image by Steve Carr

The operator generally pays 10% commission on overseas holidays and 5% on UK breaks.
Several agents the operator works with send groups of as many as 40 to overseas destinations including La Manga in Spain, Slovenia and Mauritius.

To counter rising flight costs, the operator is promoting more midweek travel for agents to suggest as well as lesser-known golf destinations such as Lisbon and Spanish areas Girona, Reus, Murcia.

Another alternative for agents is to book a holiday where the golf is just part of the stay.
All-inclusive and adults-only Caribbean resort group Sandals has free green fees for guests at its resorts on the islands of Grand Exuma in the Bahamas (playing Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course), Jamaica (Upton Estate Golf & Country Club) and Saint Lucia (St Lucia Golf & Country Club) along with free transfers and a free weekly golf clinic.

Leah Marshall, Director of Sales at Unique Vacations UK, an affiliate of the exclusive worldwide sales and marketing representative for Sandals and Beaches Resorts, says: “When selling a golf holiday, it’s important for agents to check out the costs of items such as equipment and green fees, along with air carriage charges to carry golf clubs overseas, so that clients can budget accordingly. This, along with the quality of the course is often the priority for guests travelling on golfing holidays to Sandals Resorts.”

Top golf destinations

golf mauritius
The New La Reserve golf course, Mauritius

Mauritius: Ten 18-hole courses make Mauritius an evergreen golf holiday choice. A great sell for agents is ‘free golf’ for those staying in several island hotels.

A second course, La Reserve Golf Links, opened in late 2023 at Heritage Resorts. The links-style course, with rolling fairways and panoramic ocean views from every hole, runs alongside a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Verandah Resorts has five properties on the island: Veranda Pointe Aux Biches, Veranda Paul and Virginie, Veranda Grand Baie, Veranda Tamarin and Veranda Palmar Beach. Golf can be arranged at the Heritage Golf Club.

Free golf is also on offer at Constance Hotels’ Belle Mare Plage resort’s two courses and at Anahita Golf & Spa Resort.

Guests of Sunlife hotels’ three resorts benefit from unlimited golf on some of the best golf courses on the island: Ile aux Cerfs (set on a privately owned island and reachable only by a ‘special golf’ boat shuttle from its private jetty), Anahita and Tamarina Golf Courses.

Spain: The Costa del Sol remains the favourite sunshine golf holiday destination for Brits. Among golf resorts are La Cala in Mijas and Villa Padierna near Marbella, both of which have three 18-hole courses. Finca Cortesin, in Casares, has a luxury boutique spa hotel and hosted the women’s version of the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, in September 2023.

Portugal: The Algarve is also hugely popular for winter and spring golf escapes. Among its top golf resorts are Quinta do Lago, Penina, Monte Rei, Vale de Lobo, Dona Filipa, Palmares and Vilamoura, a luxury leisure destination with several hotels and six courses. The Lisbon area has its own collection of quality resorts, including Penha Longa and Praia D’El Rey.

Caribbean: Opened in December 2023, the spectacular Cabot Saint Lucia rolls across a 375-acre peninsula at the northern tip of the island. With magnificent ocean views, it is set to become one of the world’s ‘must play’ courses. The Dominican Republic has more than two dozen golf courses, three of them by famed designer Pete Dye at Casa de Campo resort.

North Carolina, USA: Pinehurst, North Carolina, is known as the ‘Home of American Golf’ and offers nine 18-hole golf courses as well as four hotels. Its famous No 2 course will host the U.S. Open for the fourth time in June 2024. A popular resort course is the Omni Grove Park Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Cabot Cliffs Golf Club, Nova Scotia, Canada, image by Cabot Cape Breton

Atlantic Canada: Cabot Cape Breton in northern Nova Scotia has the country’s number-one rated course, Cabot Cliffs, and sister course Cabot Links with lodge and villa accommodation on-site. Prince Edward Island has the most golf courses per capita in Canada and includes the Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort. Newfoundland weighs in with golf venues including Humber Valley Resort.

Turkey: Purpose-built seaside resort Belek on Turkey’s Antalya coast has more than a dozen luxury hotels that have associated golf courses. Green fees are included as part of the hotel packages.

Morocco: The country has courses on the Mediterranean, Atlantic and in cities including capital Rabat and Marrakech, which alone has 12 courses. Golf resorts include the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech, Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay Resort near Agadir, the Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort on the Atlantic coast and Michlifen Golf Resort in the Middle Atlas Mountains.

golf south africa
Fancourt Montagu, South Africa

South Africa: South Africa offers great-value golf and accommodation at resorts such as Sun City, with several hotels and two Gary Player courses. On the Garden Route choices include Fancourt, with three Gary Player courses, the Fairmont Zimbali Resort, the Wild Coast Sun Resort and Arabella Hotel, Golf and Spa. Or clients can let the train take the strain on a Rovos Rail golf safari, staying in opulent restored carriages and playing golf en route.

France: Golf choices in France include Terre Blanche Golf Resort in Provence, Golf du Medoc Resort near Bordeaux, Chateaux Des Vigiers in the Dordogne and Le Manoir hotel in Le Touquet, all with two courses, as well as Evian Resort in the Alps.

Where to book it

Seven nights at the five-star Heritage Le Telfair, Mauritius, on an all-inclusive basis with daily golf including a round on the new La Reserve Golf Links costs from £4,275pp,
with direct flights and airport transfers.