WHETHER it was really Mark Twain who described golf as “a good walk spoiled” is much disputed. But it epitomises a grumpy cynic’s view of the sport.
It is also entirely a judgement call. One person’s waste of time is another’s ideal pursuit. Yet what is increasingly hard to refute is the huge – and growing – value of the game to Scotland’s tourism industry.
A 30 per cent rise in the number of golfers in the last10 years has been attributed to various factors: The Trump effect, is one, according to a new independent study, commissioned by VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise.
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Despite having resigned his directorships at four Scottish golf companies since he won the US presidency, the US leader’s high profile ownership of Turnberry and the Trump International course had already effectively promoted Scotland – we may even have benefited from the controversy over the tycoon’s opinionated objections to the Aberdeenshire course’s neighbouring windfarm.
The richness of Scotland’s offering for players has also been showcased by major events including the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and the 2016 Open at Royal Troon.
Boasting some of the world’s most famous courses, including four of the UK’s nine Open venues, Scotland effectively receives free advertising during such major tournaments, and can expect another boost when the Open returns to Carnoustie next year.
Scottish tourism has capitalised, with golf accounting for £286 million in visitor spending annually – an increase of £66m since 2008. The new study shows overseas visitors who come to play golf spend more than four times the daily average for tourists in Scotland – £338 per night compared with £79.
And with half of those who stay overnight when visiting to play golf coming from overseas, this market can be lucrative for more areas of the economy than just golf clubs and hotels.
That is worth celebrating, for businesses, sports fans and even the grumpiest of cynics.