How the Northern Irish golf industry is fostering female inclusivity

With only 1.88 million inhabitants, Northern Ireland is the least populated country in the UK. Even so, it is home to almost 100 golf courses, has some of the best links in Europe and entertains golfers from all over the world. For these reasons, it has been the target of organisations looking to increase the inclusivity of golf for everyone’s enjoyment. 

Little by little, the golf industry is taking steps to be more gender-inclusive by offering dedicated tuition for women and girls or trying to make easier membership requirements to increase their ladies’ sections. 

In Northern Ireland, organisations such as the R&A’s Women in Golf Charter are developing a more inclusive culture within golf as well as making more opportunities for women and girls in the golf scene. 

These initiatives are seeing positive results in the industry, since the latest full report of the Irish Sports Monitor, unveiled in May 2018, showed that the number of women actively participating in the game increased from 0.9% in 2015 to 1.2% in 2017, while overall golf participation rose from 2.3% to 2.5%.  

Under the claim “Made for golf”, Northern Ireland is taking advantage of its natural green charm and is investing in the golf industry. Whether you’re seeking a championship experience, dramatically scenic settings, a slice of history, links or parkland, or simply idyllic tranquillity, Northern Ireland has it all. 

If you are going to the north of the emerald island, there are two golf courses everyone should visit: Portstewart Golf Club and Royal Portrush Golf Club.

 

Portstewart Golf Club (Strand)

At Portstewart Golf Club, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Belfast City Airport

Located at the seaside, Portstewart Golf Course has been hosting golf games since 1889 and had significant development in the 1980s to divide the link into three mighty courses: The Old Course, The Strand and The Riverside. The Strand course opened in 1992 following the designs of the architect Des Giffin, who updated Willie Park’s original layout mixing the new and the old concept. 

Keeping the essence of the Northern Irish coast, with gigantic dunes and a beautiful panoramic view of the Atlantic, Giffin placed strategic challenges to make a golf course with many excellent holes and thoroughly enjoyable. The first hole is an intimidating downhill 425-yard par four. Additionally, the 3rd hole is a long single shot of 207-yards; and the 6th, with a plateau green, will stay in your mind for a long time.

 

Royal Portrush Golf Club

At Royal Portrush Golf Club, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Belfast City Airport

Portrush is a charming and colourful small town where many Northern Irish people go for a coastal break from city life. Not far from the city and near to Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway, you’ll find the Royal Portrush Golf Club. The link is blessed with an ocean view and, if it’s clear, you can see the Paps of Jura. 

When it was founded in 1888, the link used to have 9 holes but, after a few reformations, it ended up having 18 holes. The last redesign of the course was by the architect Harry S. Colt in 1932, making many relevant modifications such as the two new holes in an area known as “The Triangle”. Also, the 5th hole, called “WhiteRocks”, is one most praised holes in the link, a downhill par four with a left to right dogleg.  

How will Brexit affect my golf holiday?

With Brexit, the United Kingdom and the European Union have a new political relationship, which establishes new agreements and arrangements. These new policies change the way we’ve been travelling and visiting European golf courses and might make you wonder how Brexit will affect your next golf holiday.

Even if since the 31st of January the UK is no longer part of the EU, British golf players travelling abroad haven’t experienced any critical changes in their holiday arrangements yet. You won’t have needed a visa to enter an EU country or had to pay extra charges, and it’s because travelling conditions will stay the same until the end of the current transition period. 

 

What is the transition period and how long it will take?

The transition period goes from the 31st of January 2020 until the end of December 2020, meaning that the UK is considered an independent country from the European Union. However, many agreements decided before this stage will still be active, especially the ones related to travellers. After the transition period, the United Kingdom and the EU will have new rules and agreements that haven’t yet been defined.

 

Do British citizens need a visa to travel to the EU?

The first question that comes to the mind of many British golfers planning their golf break in a European country is: will I need a visa to travel to Europe? The answer is no. Well, not for now. During the transition period, British citizens won’t need to get a visa if they’re going to stay as a tourist for up to 90 days in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Therefore, if you’re planning to travel after the 1st of January 2021, it’s likely that you need more requirements that the ones you have required for now and British citizens might have to pay for ‘visa-exempt travel’. Also, the European Union will implement the European Travel Information and Authorization System (Etias) by 2022, a specific programme for non-EU citizens that would like to travel in Europe, including British citizens. The application for Etias will cost 7 Euros.

 

Do I need a new passport?

After the transition period, if the expiration date is shorter than 6 months or if it’s more than 10 years old, you’ll need to renew your British passport. Keep in mind that replacing your passport usually takes 3 weeks. 

 

What will I need to travel after Brexit?

Currently, many non-EU citizens need to show their return ticket and prove that they have enough money for their stay and it’s possible that Britons will have to fulfil the same requirement after the transition period. Once at border control, British citizens will have to queue in different lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. Besides, when travelling between the UK and the EU, you’ll need to declare cash of £10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency).

 

How long can I stay in the EU?

If you are planning to live in an eternal golf break, you might keep in mind that British citizens will be able to stay as a tourist for up to 90 days in any 180 days in an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

 

How will Brexit affect travel insurance?

Until the end of 2020, citizens with the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) are entitled to have healthcare in any EEA member state as well as Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. 

Therefore, it’s always recommended to have travel insurance that covers your healthcare and pre-existing medical condition.

 

What will happen to roaming charges after Brexit?

After the transition period, the guarantee of free-roaming for British mobiles in EU countries will stop. We recommend you check the new terms with your phone operator to avoid any weird bills from getting that perfect photo for the ‘Gram. However, a new law protects you from getting phone charges over £45 without you knowing.

 

Brexit brings new policies when it comes to crossing borders, but once you arrive at the golf course, the enjoyable golf rounds with your friends will be the same. 

We hope we’ve covered your questions about travelling or planning a golf break after Brexit. In case you need more details, you can find more advice here: https://www.gov.uk/visit-europe-1-january-2021

If you are going on a golf holiday after the 1st of January 2021, we recommend visiting gov.uk to check the latest news about Brexit. 

Aphrodite Hills Golf Club, Cyprus

5 great links: Golf courses near the beach

When you’re going on golf holidays with your friends or golf club, you want to make the most of your break: test yourself on the greens, enjoy a stunning view and get some vitamin D at the beach maybe. With spring and summer in your mind, you might want your next location to be close to the sea, so you can dive into the water and relax on the sand after improving your swing the golf course. For this blog post, we’ve selected some amazing and sunny courses near the coast that you should visit on your next golf break.

 

Vale do Lobo (Royal), Portugal

At Vale do Lobo, approximately 30 minutes away from Faro Airport

The Vale do Lobo is the most photographed golf course in Portugal and it’s one of the most beautiful courses in the Algarve. Right next to the Atlantic, the 18-hole link is the closest course to the sea in the south of Portugal, you can even see the golden sand of the beach right at the end of the green. Although the views are mesmerizing, being so close to the beach might add an extra difficulty: the wind. Sometimes you can have a nice and refreshing breeze from the Atlantic or the strong wind can give you a hard time and change the trajectory of the ball.

Established in 1997, Vale do Lobo (Royal) was designed by the American architect Rocky Roquemore, based on the original layout of Sir Henry Cotton. The link was built at the edge of a cliff on top of the Vale do Lobo beach and it extends further inland. The most remarkable hole in the course, and probably in the Algarve, is the par-three 16th, located on the top of the cliff.

 

Aphrodite Hills Golf Club, Cyprus

At Aphrodite Hills, approximately 15 minutes away from Paphos Airport

Named after the Greek goddess of love that emerged from the sea, Aphrodite Hills Golf Club is located near the Mediterranean shore, at the sunny island of Cyprus. A little bit further from the coast than Vale do Lobo, the view of the sea from this course is still stunning, being only 5 minutes away from the Ranti Forest Beach. 

The golf course was designed by the American architect Cabell B. Robinson and he considered Aphrodite Hills the culmination of his work. The golf course was built on two-level landforms separated by a canyon, two difficulties that the architect took advantage of to create memorable holes such as the 3rd and the 7th. In Aphrodite Hills Golf Club, Robinson integrates hazards and ponds on the greens with the local Mediterranean nature of the landscape. 

 

Finca Cortesin Golf Resort, Spain

At Finca Cortesin, approximately 1 hour away from Málaga Airport

The Finca Cortesin is situated between the Estepona Mountains and just a few metres away from the Mediterranean shore: an 18-hole link surrounded by an outstanding landscape. Located in the south of Spain and with an average temperature of 20C in spring, it’s a great destination to enjoy a sangria at La Galera beach (just 10 minutes away) after an enjoyable golf game with your friends. 

Therefore, not only do the views make Finca Cortesin a magnificent course, the abundance of details in the greens round off an elegant and challenging course. The link keeps the balance between the natural characteristics of the Mediterranean forest and high-quality Bermuda grass. The course is designed with white marble sand bunkers and water hazards placed strategically to make every hole a different and exciting challenge for the golfers.

 

Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, Bulgaria

At Thracian Cliffs, approximately 1 hour away from Varna Airport

Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort is the most photographed golf course in Europe. Built on the top of a cliff and with a stunning view, the Thracian Cliffs is a unique golf experience: Golfers can see the sea from every hole of the course. Sitting on the top of the cliff and with the Black Sea behind, the 6th hole will be the most memorable hole for any player, not only because of its difficulty but for the impressive views of the waves.

Gary Player designed a course suitable for all levels, but still challenging enough for the expert golfers, it requires analysis of the green and careful planning of each stroke. Hazards of sand, narrow fairways and even the edge of the cliff are some difficulties that will make players prove themselves.

 

Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Ocean), USA

At Kiawah Island Golf Resort, approximately 50 minutes away from Charleston Airport

On the coast of South Carolina, the ground slinks into the Ocean making parcels of land almost independent islands that disappear in the water. Between these parcels of land, the architects Pete and Alice Dye designed the Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Ocean), a delightful link where the green blends into the sand of the beach. 

At this majestic spot, Alice Dye wanted the players to enjoy the Ocean view while they were playing in the 23,028 feet golf course. Narrow greens, hazards and oaks are strategically placed to keep the game exciting, but once again, the wind is the biggest challenge the golfer will have to overcome. It has a key role when it comes to making a successful stroke and makes each round different and stimulating.

Thracian Cliffs, Bulgaria

9 European golf courses that rival Augusta National

Located in Georgia, USA, near to the border of North Carolina, Augusta National Golf Club is considered one of the best golf courses on Earth and one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world. Augusta is the home to the Masters Tournament and notable members of the club include Bill Gates, Jack Nicklaus, Warren Buffet and Ginni Rometty, amongst other successful personalities. Entrance is exclusive, but we’re constantly seeing in magazines and TV the incredible layout of this 18-hole course and golfers daydream about testing their technique in the 1st hole, the Tea Olive. 

However, on this side of the Atlantic, we have some amazing, unique and challenging golf courses that don’t need to be jealous of the Augusta National Golf Club.

 

Golf de Chantilly, France

36-hole course

At Chantilly, approximately 20 minutes away from Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

Tradition and etiquette are two of the most used adjectives to describe this remarkable golf course. Located in the forest of Ile de France, the English architect Tom Simpson strategically designed Golf de Chantilly to challenge the brains of golfers. The placement of the fairways, the many bunkers and the forest will test the players to find the right angle to shoot.

 

St Andrews (Old Course), Scotland

18-hole course

At St Andrews, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Edinburgh Airport

Established for over six centuries, St Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses in the world and, regardless of the international recognition and status, the course is open to everybody.

Mother Nature has been the main creator of this golf, although, Allan Robertson designed the wide fairways, created the challenging Road Hole green and the famous giant double green. Also, the Swilcan Bridge, the Hell Bunker and other strategic golf features have inspired the layout of many golf courses, such as the Augusta National.

 

Monte Rei (North), Portugal

18-hole course

Near Tavira, approximately 50 minutes away from Faro Airport

Located near the Algarve and the Spanish border, Monte Rei North is a golf course you should definitely add to your itinerary if you are planning to visit several courses in this area. In contrast to St. Andrews, Monte Rei is one of the newest golf courses on this list, having been established in 2007. Despite its recent beginnings, Monte Rei is already one of Europe’s top-ranked destinations because of the great conditions of the course and the superb holes.

 

Real Club Valderrama, Spain

18-hole course

At Sotogrande, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Málaga Airport

The Real Club Valderrama is among our favourite golf courses in Spain and one of the best golf courses in the world. The 18-hole course has hosted many international golf competitions, such as The Ryder Cup, Volvo Masters and WGC-American Express Championship.

This highly-exclusive golf course located in the south of Spain is known as “The European Augusta”. Entrance is mainly for members of the club, however, a limited number of other golfers can enjoy the course.

 

Campo de Golf El Saler, Spain

18-hole course

At El Saler, approximately 30 minutes away from Valencia Airport

Just 30 minutes away from Valencia Airport, in the middle of the Albufera Nature Park and next to the Mediterranean coast, El Campo de Golf El Saler is a great destination for a golf weekend get-a-away. 18 holes, with a par of 72, to test your golfing skills while you feel the Mediterranean breeze.

Considered one of the best golf courses in the world, The Saler has also hosted important international competitions such as the European Tour.  

 

Golf de Fontainebleau, France

18-hole course

At Fontainebleau, approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes away from Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

Golf de Fontainebleau, located in the Fontainebleau forest, is considered one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. The course is integrated with the nature of the Fontainebleau forest, where it’s located, with fairways surrounded by oak, pine and beech trees. For that true at-one-with-nature feel, sometimes, you can even spot deer.

 

Carya Golf Club, Turkey

18-hole course

At Carya Golf Club, approximately 25 minutes away from Antalya Airport

Thomson Perrett & Lobb Golf Course Architects designed Carya Golf Club as the first full-lighted golf course in Europe. Golfers can play at the 18-hole course until late at night without losing sight of the flag-stick. Certainly, the illumination won’t be a problem to the player, who will have to strategically plan each stroke and keep in mind the bunkers with heather-covered edges and the lakes.

 

Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, Bulgaria

18-hole course

At Thracian Cliffs, approximately 1 hour away from Varna Airport

Built on the top of a cliff and with a stunning view, the Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort is a unique golf experience: Golfers can see the sea from every hole of the course. Because of this, Thracian Cliffs is the most photographed golf course in Europe. 

Gary Player designed a course suitable for all levels, but still challenging enough for the expert golfers. Sitting on the top of the cliff and with the Black Sea behind, the hole No. 6 will be the most memorable hole for any player, not only because of its difficulty but for the impressive views of the waves.

 

Troia, Portugal

18-hole course

At Troia, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Lisbon Airport

Located in the peninsula of Troia, south of Lisbon, this course was designed by the American architect Robert Trent Jones. Also in this golf course, the player will find some of Jones’ famous trademarks: narrow fairways, bold bunkers protecting the holes and raised greens that will engage the golfer in each hole.

Hole 15 at Real Club Valderrama © Real Club Valderrama

The top 5 golf courses in Spain

With a wonderful Mediterranean climate and an average temperature of 20C in spring, Spain is a well-known destination for sun, sangria and golf. In our favourites golf magazines and TV programmes, we constantly see this sunny country hosting some of the most important golf competitions, such as The Ryder Cup, Volvo Masters,  the Spanish Open or previous events such as the Gene Sarazen World Open. We know what you think when these amazing green courses appear on your screen: What course is that and how do I get there?

Well, we’ve put together the best 5 golf courses in Spain so you don’t have to wander around the internet anymore searching. All of these amazing Spanish golf courses have 18 holes and huge fields full of challenges for the most ambitious players. But probably the biggest challenge the golfer will have to face is to keep focus and don’t get distracted by the beautiful scenery of the fairways.

Getting there is easy peasy with Golf Drives: 

  • You get an instant quote
  • Golf bags are included in all journeys
  • We take you from the airport to the resort
  • And if you want to visit the 5 of them, we can take you from one course to another!

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1. Real Club Valderrama

18-hole course

At Sotogrande, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Málaga Airport

The Real Club Valderrama is one of the best-known golf clubs in the world and the best golf course in Europe according to the magazine Golf World. Located in a prominent hill at Sotogrande, in the south of Spain, it has a single 18-hole course, along with a 9-hole par 3 course.

The golf club was built in 1974 following the designs of the renowned American golf course architect Robert Trent Jones. In 1984 Jaime Ortíz-Patiño acquired the golf club and recalled the original architect to expand and redesign the gold course. Since then, The Real Club Valderrama has just collected ovations and awards for fun.

Also, you are probably familiar with The Real Club Valderrama as the host for some of the most exciting and relevant competitions in Europe, such as The Ryder Cup, Volvo Masters, WGC-American Express Championship or Ladies Spanish Open, amongst others. 

 

2. Campo de Golf El Saler

18-hole course

At El Saler, approximately 30 minutes away from Valencia Airport

El Saler is located in the Albufera Natural Park, 30 minutes away from the centre of Valencia and right next to the shore of the Mediterranean. The biggest challenge for the Spanish architect Javier Arana was to design The Saler in a protected landscape. Still, the course will test the skills of the golfers with a mix of links and forest holes, being split into 18 holes, with a par of 72. Also, the golf club has two putting greens, a practice area, golf school, driving range and pro shop.

Considered one of the best golf courses in the world, El Saler has also hosted important competitions like the Spanish Open and the European Tour. 

 

3. Real Club de Sotogrande

18-hole course

At Sotogrande, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Málaga Airport

Number 3 brings us another course designed by the American architect Robert Trent Jones. The Real Club Sotogrande was the first golf course he designed in Europe in 1964 and after 36 years his 622-metre layout still fascinates the selected golfers that visit it. The golf course is located in the province of Cádiz and it was built only 150 metres from the Mediterranean.

The 18 holes of the golf course have been precisely designed, making the player plan each stroke carefully. Wide fairways lined by eucalyptus, oak, cork, pine and palm trees, and bunkers and water hazards strategically placed are some examples of the obstacles the golfer will have to overcome.

 

4. PGA Catalunya Stadium Course

18-hole course

At PGA Catalunya Resort, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Barcelona Airport (El Prat)

PGA Catalunya Resort has been considered the best Golf Resort in Spain, having one of the best golf courses in Europe: The PGA Catalunya Stadium Course. The convenient location is one of the reasons why The PGA Catalunya is a great decision for your golf holidays, just one hour away from the Pyrenees and 20 minutes from the delightful Costa Brava. Also, during the summertime, the cooler temperatures of the northeast mainland, makes it a suitable alternative to the intense heat of southern Spain.

The Stadium was designed and planned by several architects for more than a decade and, since it opened in 1998, has been ranked one of the 100 best golf courses in Europe. Just a few months after its opening, the PGA Catalunya Stadium Course hosted the Gene Sarazen World Open in 1999 and the Spanish Open in 2000. The ups and downs of the course create many memorable holes, like the first tee with an elevated drive where the player will prove themselves from the very beginning. 

 

5. Finca Cortesin Golf Resort

18-hole course

At Finca Cortesin, approximately 1 hour away from Málaga Airport

The Finca Cortesin is located between the Estepona Mountains and just a few metres away from the Mediterranean: an 18-hole course surrounded by an outstanding landscape. Also, as a golf resort, the Finca Cortesin is ranked one of the world’s top 50 hotels, delivering great customer service to all of their players. 

The course has one of the longest layouts in Europe with almost 7.000 metres of extension. Finca Cortesin was designed by Cabell Robinson and landscaped by Gerald Huggan and keeps the balance between the natural characteristics of the Mediterranean forest and high-quality Bermuda grass. Every hole is different and an exciting challenge for the golfers that will have to overcome bunkers full of white marble sand that are strategically placed around the golf course.

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