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EXPO WILL ENHANCE GOLFING LINKS BETWEEN THE HIGHLANDS AND SCANDINAVIA

Stefanie Whyte, Administration & Marketing Manager, Castle Stuart Golf Links, a member of Highland Golf Links

An increasing number of Scandinavian golfers are coming to the Highlands and a visit to Finland this week will aim to enhance this trend.

EXPO WILL ENHANCE GOLFING LINKS BETWEEN THE HIGHLANDS AND SCANDINAVIA

I will be representing Highland Golf Links (HGL) at Golf Expo Finland, a three-day trade fair which will be held in Helsinki from 2-4 March.

Unprecedented numbers of golfing visitors came to the Highlands last year to take advantage of our Play and Stay packages and generated in excess of £500,000 in off-peak income for the area.

It was the sixth successive year there had been a rise in sales of Play and Stay deals to boost business during the ‘shoulder’ months of April, October and November – and advance sales for this year are continuing the upward trend.

It meant more than 3,000 rounds were played in the off-season months last year and Scandinavian visitors boosted that figure considerably. Their numbers in 2017 rose by 160 per cent on 2016, with the market share growing from 2 to 4 per cent. Already figures for this year are equal to 90 per cent of last year’s total.

A breakdown of those figures shows that the number of golfers from Sweden last year increased by 256 per cent, and those from Norway (up 112.5 per cent) and Finland (+133 per cent) also grew.

A factor in the increased visits is improved air services connecting the Highlands with Heathrow and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

British Airways flights between Inverness and Heathrow, added to existing flights by other operators to Gatwick and Luton, greatly increased options for business and leisure passengers. From this month, capacity on the route will increase from seven to ten flights a week.

KLM’s Inverness-Amsterdam service, introduced in 2016, has further enhanced the Highland capital’s access to international connections.

And, in a move which may help our Scandinavian visitors, Loganair is introducing a new three-times weekly service linking Inverness with Bergen from 10 May.

During Expo, I’ll be promoting the Play and Stay packages, which offer rounds at three of Scotland’s most renowned links courses – Castle Stuart Golf Links, Royal Dornoch Golf Club and The Nairn Golf Club – as well as accommodation at leading hotels, the Kingsmills Hotel and Culloden House in Inverness and the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch.

To highlight this, HGL is offering Expo delegates the chance to win a trip to the Highlands in a competition running during event. The package includes accommodation for two nights on a B&B basis for two golfers in either a twin or double room at Culloden House, the Kingsmills Hotel or the Royal Golf Hotel Dornoch and one round each at Castle Stuart, Nairn or Royal Dornoch. This is subject to availability and valid until November 2018.

Our partnership with former Curtis Cup player Gillian Stewart, who is now a respected coach based at Castle Stuart, offers visitors the chance to have lessons on playing links courses.

In addition, we know that a lot of Scandinavians are keen links golfers who also appreciate the connection between golf and whisky, so I’ll be promoting Castle Stuart’s strong partnership with Tomatin whisky which is made 20 miles from the course, and can arrange whisky tastings/dinners with the distillers.

That’s a warming thought at a time when it’s -11C in Helsinki.