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FINNISH EVENT WILL HELP START NEW YEAR FOR HIGHLAND GOLF

Murray Maclean, Deputy General Manager, Culloden House Hotel, a Highland Golf Links partner

As 2016 draws to a close, we are reflecting on a fantastic year for golf in the Highlands, but we are also looking forward to next year and how we promote our region on the international stage.

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In March, I will be representing Highland Golf Links at Golf Expo Finland, a three-day industry event which showcases everything from courses to equipment to players ranging from the complete novice to experts.

The event from 17-19 March is another opportunity for HGL to raise awareness of the Highlands as a leading golf destination, as well as our partner organisations; the three outstanding links courses, Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch and Nairn and three leading hotels, the Kingsmills, Royal Golf and Culloden House.

Scandinavian golf is on the up. In all, 23 players from Scandinavia took part in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart this year, won by Swedish player Alex Noren. Another Swede, Henrik Stenson’s Open Championship win at Troon has also raised the profile and, perhaps as a result of this, more golfing visitors from the Scandinavian countries are coming to Scotland, and the Highlands, to seek out our links courses.

Golf in Finland is still an emerging sport, but already some of the courses being developed are of the highest standard. The Linna Golf and Hotel is one of these – a stunning forest venue that now ranks in the Top 100 courses in Europe.

Helsinki Golf Club wasn’t founded until 1932, and the Finnish Golf Union only established in 1957. The sport has been growing in popularity ever since, and there are now 132 clubs with over 142,000 members – 7,000 new members joined Finnish golf clubs in 2008 alone.

So, it is an emerging market and one that the Highlands is well placed to benefit from.

We experienced an outstanding series of golfing events in 2016, with Castle Stuart staging the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open for the fourth time in six years; Nairn hosting the Fairstone Men’s Home Internationals and Royal Dornoch being the venue for another Tartan Tour event, the Northern Open and the biggest gathering of ‘royal’ clubs ever organised as part of the celebrations to mark 400 years of golf being played in the town.

We need to continue that momentum and make 2017 another successful year. Golf Expo Finland will be one of a series of events Highland Golf Links will be attending in the coming months to promote the region.

What will help us is the uncertainty over Brexit has led to a decline of Sterling against European currencies, including the Finnish Markka, during 2016, meaning the cost of travel, accommodation, food and drink are lower for visitors.

It is a prime time for European visitors to come to our shores and we will be ready to show what we can offer, including our Play and Stay packages, to give golfers the best possible experience.