Le Diamant ~ PerryGolf’s Floating Hotel less than 5 miles from Ryder Cup 2010

We have always sought “innovation” at PerryGolf and tried to offer interesting and unique ways to enhance the golf travel experience.  Our exclusive charter of the 226 passenger Le Diamant (formerly Song of Flower of Radisson Cruise Lines) for Ryder Cup 2010 is one such example.  Set against a backdrop of limited accommodations in South Wales, and with the alternative of long road journeys from England along the invariably congested M4 corridor (and that is in normal traffic times), we arranged to charter and berth Le Diamant in a quiet area of Newport Docks less than 5 miles from the venue.  All packages include official Ryder Cup tickets and transportation in association with Ryder Cup Travel Services.  Regular shuttle transportation, available exclusively for PerryGolf passengers, will operate from the ship directly into the official transportation area and bypass the public park and ride facility.  The ship offers cabins and suites from 200 to 400 square feet.  If you have plans to attend the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort then this solution really does by far provide the most comfortable and convenient accommodations available.

Ryder Cup - Le Diamant
Ryder Cup - Le Diamant

Packages are available from $4,795 per person, and include 5 nights accommodation onboard Le Diamant with all meals including house wines with dinner, general admission tickets to the 2010 Ryder Cup (Friday to Sunday inclusive) plus Thursday practice round and Opening Ceremonies, daily shuttle transportation to and from the matches, captain’s cocktail party, all shipboard gratuities and port taxes.

We also offer two exciting pre Ryder Cup tours to Scotland to whet the appetite in advance of the matches.  We encourage you to join us for 3 nights in Scotland at either Turnberry Resort  (with golf at Royal Troon, Western Gailes, Ailsa Course Turnberry and St Pierre Wales) or Gleneagles Hotel (with golf at Kings Course, PGA Centenary Course, Kingsbarns and St Pierre Wales), in advance of the event.  All tours are VERY inclusive of accommodations, all breakfasts, almost all dinners, wine with dinners, greens fees or alternative sightseeing program, ground transportation plus air transportation between Scotland and Ryder Cup Wales, and all taxes and gratuities on included items.

Another event operating immediately in advance of the Ryder Cup is the Heritage Fourball in the Highlands of Scotland.  Teams of three amateurs and one PGA pro are invited.  Why not arrange to bring your golf pro?  Following on the success of our event in 2008 which saw teams competing from Scotland, Europe and the USA, the 2010 Heritage Fourball Championship will again be played over 54 holes September 26-29. 2010 courses will comprise Royal Dornoch, Nairn  and two rounds over the much heralded new links (rated #1 best new international course 2009 by Golf Magazine) at Castle Stuart.  Gross and Net Champions will be awarded but, as always, we expect the most memorable prize will be the unique camaraderie enjoyed with old friends and new.  Several evening social functions are naturally included in the entry fee of $2,895 per amateur with complimentary entry for your PGA pro.  The tournament format will also mix teams on one of the days. Spouses or non-golfing guests are also most welcome, the cost for them fully inclusive of two full days sightseeing program and all tournament social functions is $1,450.  

Whichever combination you might choose, we hope you will make a date to join us in Scotland and Wales at the end of September for one of the world’s greatest sporting events!

Race to Dubai

While Dubai made headlines last week over its rescheduling of massive debt, from a golf travel perspective it remains an exciting and vibrant city to visit with outstanding hotels and golf courses, plus of course beaches, bars and restaurants. Their state airline, Emirates, covers the globe and offers direct service from a huge number of the world’s principal cities. The weekend before last I made a trip there for the 2009 Dubai World Championship, the final event of the European Tour’s inaugural “Race to Dubai”. We stayed in the Westin Hotel on the beach. It was excellent and I can recommend it highly.

The Race to Dubai is effectively a ramped up version of the European Tour Order of Merit, taking some inspiration from the PGA Tour Fedex Cup, and which brings the leading sixty players together for a season ending event in Dubai with large bonus money at stake.

There was concern expressed in advance in some quarters over the Dubai World Championship due to the level of economic crisis affecting Dubai even before the recent announcement. It did ultimately turn out to be a significant success for the European Tour, although it may have been a little fraught in the lead up in that much of the infrastructure, roadways included, were constructed only shortly before the Tour rolled into town. The tournament itself was splendidly staged with spectators extremely well catered for, the media centre unusually enjoying a grandstand view over the 18th green, and fabulous hospitality also available (I was fortunate to have been a guest of the European Tour for hospitality on the Saturday-:). TV cameras beamed pictures around the world of an exciting contest staged on a beautifully presented golf course, and gave little sight of the massive number of newly built, or half built homes which lay empty and unsold nearby and along the edges of a number of the holes. Vast swathes of empty desert for the remainder of the planned golf courses (Wind, Fire, and Water being the three courses planned to join the current Earth Course) and accompanying hotel and home developments, were also conveniently out of view.

My personal interest in attending the event was in watching a few of the players who have played under my captaincy of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team over the past 4 years. Of the 58 players in the final starting lineup, four had played or been involved in the squads (Chris Wood, Danny Willett, Ross McGowan and most notably Rory McIlroy) proving that the highest performing amateurs can very quickly go on to compete at the higher levels of pro golf).

Going in to the Dubai World Championship there were four possible Race to Dubai winners in Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher. Leading the race was 20 year old Rory McIlroy seeking to become the youngest winner of the European Order of Merit (now the Race to Dubai) since Seve Ballesteros way back in 1976 won it as a 19 year old. Quickly it became a two horse race between McIlroy and Westwood. Despite a highly creditable third place finish, McIlroy was overtaken by an extraordinarily on form Lee Westwood who shot a final round 64 to carve out a six shot victory and secure the inaugural win of both the Dubai World Championship and the Race to Dubai, taking his 2009 European Tour earnings to €4,237,000 Also playing outstanding golf in the company of Lee Westwood on the final two days, and quietly finishing in second place for the tournament as well as securing 12th place in the Race to Dubai, was the highly impressive Ross McGowan, whose finish here coupled with his win of the Madrid Masters in September, opens up many new doors for him in the golfing world. As our houseguest in July for the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond I was delighted to be in Dubai to witness his success.

On the final evening we attended a small beach party at the Mina A’Salam Hotel hosted by Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, Managing Director of International Sports Management (ISM) to celebrate Lee Westwood’s win. In as much as ISM managed the first, second and third placed players (Westwood, McGowan, McIlroy) it was certainly a night of celebration!

It was a weary group which then took their places on the following morning’s British Airways flight back to London. A few glasses of champagne were however raised in the toasting of the new champion -:)

Late Autumn Golf in Scotland

The Captains; Royal County Down, Walker Cup, Portmarnock and Gullane conclude their round on the Old Course
The Captains; Royal County Down, Walker Cup, Portmarnock and Gullane conclude their round on the Old Course

Golf in late autumn is not something that many from overseas tend to travel to Scotland for, but for sure you may be missing a great experience! …. by necessity my personal 2009 golf season kicked off late, but threw up some great treats … let me tell you more;

During 2009 in addition to trying to carry out my “day job” at PerryGolf, almost all my spare time was consumed as Captain of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team travelling the length and breadth of the British Isles, plus Europe and the USA, to major amateur events watching potential candidates for the team for our match against the USA at Merion Golf Club September 12-13. Simultaneously I was working on arrangements for what would be our ten days together as a team, including details of preparation, travel, team clothing, special team events (as a team send-off we were even fortunate to enjoy an audience with the Duke of York in his private study in Buckingham Palace, himself a very keen golfer and recent Captain of the R&A, prior to our departure to the USA).

While the result (16.5 USA, 9.5 GB&I) was bitterly disappointing, with so much work and effort put into it by so many people, it was none the less an extraordinary shared experience for us as a team, that none will ever forget. The USA were worthy winners under the excellent guidance of Captain Buddy Marucci, and they were unquestionably fine ambassadors for the United States. It was certainly all a very high intensity time.

So, it was a welcome quiet time in late October and early November when I had the chance of playing some golf in Scotland. And, boy, did we pick some unbelievable days.

First up mid October I hosted the Chairman of Selectors of the GB&I Team, and two members of the selection committee who I have worked with these past few years, at Loch Lomond Golf Club only 15 minutes from my home. The day began clear with blue skies, the course was simply superb, and we enjoyed a 24 hole day with a great lunch taken outside. On a fine day there can be no more spectacular place to play golf, and it more than made up for my many missed rounds there during 2009.

Later in October I was fortunate to join a number of teams playing in an event on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry to mark the retirement of the Head Greenkeeper, the almost legendary George Brown. George has overseen Turnberry Links for 24 years including the hosting of three British Open Championships (1986, 1994, 2009). This event, the George Brown Invitational, was arranged by the hotel almost unbeknown to George, and included teams comprising many whom George had dealt with over the years, from the local Club, greenkeeping association colleagues, the R&A as British Open organizers, travel companies etc. Fittingly the Ailsa Course was in magnificent condition, shirt sleeve weather, and a most enjoyable day was had by all ….. again I thought can there be any finer place to play golf!

Two days later I joined three good friends on the Old Course of St Andrews on the second last day of October. We were celebrating an unusual occurrence. During 2009 one was Captain of Portmarnock Golf Club, one was Captain of Royal County Down Golf Club, and one was Captain of Gullane Golf Club, and I was Captain of the GB& I Walker Cup Team. Brendan Cashell, Captain of Portmarnock Golf Club, despite extensive golf travels had never before played the Old Course, and thought this would be a great way to conclude his golfing year. It was duly arranged and again we enjoyed a warm and sunny day on the Old Course. My “highlight” of the round was on the Road Hole where a badly blocked drive surely had to hit the right side of the roof of the Old Course Hotel, yet a few bounces later (hotel roof, Jigger Inn, wall, and roadway perhaps … all unseen-:), and suitably covered in black tar, it reappeared well down the fairway leaving a simple six iron to the green. As we walked off the 18th green I thought … can there be any finer place to play!

Ten days later and now moving towards mid November, I was back at St Andrews for a meeting of The Golf Industry Golf Society (GIGS), and association bringing together a number of senior people from throughout the golf industry in the UK (hotels, equipment, golf and golf event management etc) where we stayed at Fairmont St Andrews, the preferred hotel of PerryGolf in St Andrews which consistently gets excellent review by our clients. We played the newly redesigned and rerouted Torrance Course which enjoys a spectacular setting overlooking the town of St Andrews, and which has now been selected as a final qualifying venue for the British Open. The routing works well, the golf course is excellent, and again what a fantastic day … we could not believe it was to get better the next!

Following a fabulous dinner that evening in the Esperante Restaurant, we were out on Kingsbarns the following day, which almost invariably receives great accolades from our clients. A marvelous days golf in almost shirt sleeve weather, the course in exceptional condition, and looking out over a glassy North Sea as far as the eye could see. Again I thought can there be any finer place to play!

So, now my clubs will not likely reappear until the New Year … well aside of the occasional game perhaps. While Scotland cannot guarantee you these conditions in late autumn, based on my recent experiences it is surely worth a slight roll of the dice! … even if the weather doesn’t always match up you can still be sure of a warm welcome!

The Perfect Hebridean Golf Trip

Honesty Box for gren fee payment
Honesty box for 10 pound green fee with "honest golfers"

In the course of a golfing lifetime I have been extraordinarily privileged to have played at a great many of the world finest golf courses. All of these have been fantastic experiences. Not to detract from these in any way, quite often however the most memorable trips are not necessarily defined by the absolute quality of the golf courses.

For instance I can specifically remember a trip which four good friends made in April 2004. It involved us playing the five golf courses on the “Long Isle”, the slightly misleading name given to the collection of outer Hebridean islands off the north west coast of Scotland which run from the isle of Lewis in the north to the isle of Barra in the south, separated by various bodies of water. Of the five golf courses, one is 18 holes, and four are 9 holes. Our trip involved four ferry journeys (two of which were between rounds), and three overnight stays at small B&B’s. We completed the five courses in 53 hours, possibly a record, only as much as no one would have perhaps much bothered before-:) We saw a total of eleven other golfers during our time there, and the biggest planning aspect was not booking the starting times …clearly! … but rather working around the ferry times. Most of the 9 holers had “honesty boxes”, some more advanced than others. Isle of Harris GC had an organized system of envelopes and receipts …. Isle of Barra GC on the other hand had a bird nesting in the box!. But it was a spectacular trip with friends. The courses were fun, if some a little more “rough” than most of us grow used to, but it did not and would not detract from our enjoyment in any way. Take a look at the site Golf Hebrides and indeed then google some of the courses for some great imagery. The newly “found” Old Course of Askernish stands out as the strongest layout.

I just love to plan a golf trip with friends. The more the challenge of the logistics the better! Enjoying a well thought out, well planned and well executed trip at enjoyable golf courses, combined with comfortable accommodations, good food and hospitality, and in good company, has to be one of the highlights of the game. Trains, planes, and automobiles … and golf … what a great combination!

The recent addition of some outstanding links courses in Scotland, got me thinking regarding the logistics of tracking many of them down in one trip. Most of our clients have time limitations, and of course love to play the “name” golf courses as we all do, but equally many are possibly even more drawn by the particular lure of links golf, and the challenge of stepping out of the “normal” zone, and the satisfaction that comes from being one of a more select group who have experienced something a little out of the ordinary. So …..

I’ve penciled together a potential schedule, from which many variations would be possible to suit particular preferences, which I think is exciting but convenient, and affords the opportunity to play a number of these new but diverse (both in geographic location and style) golf courses, plus some of the older classics and fun venues. The schedule makes good and economic use of several modes of transport, incorporates comfortable accommodations and gives variety in excellent dining, plenty of local malt whisky along the way, and always assures a warm welcome.

In the near future a link will be provided to a brief but compact schedule, but for the time being here are the details;

My starting point would be to ideally assemble a group of 8 friends. Gather in Troon on the Ayrshire Coast of Scotland. Charter the Kintyre Express, a highspeed and comfortable fully enclosed private boat service over to the island of Arran. Play the marvelous 12 hole Shiskine Golf Club, before continuing by Kintyre Express to Machrihanish. Spend two nights in a cottage at the Village at Machrihanish Dunes. Play Machrihanish (possibly also Dunavertythe same day) and the new David Mclay Kidd designed Machrihanish Dunes over the two days. After golf the second day make the one hour road transfer and two hour comfortable ferry crossing to the famous malt whisky isle of Islay. There stay at the Machrie Hotel for two nights, and enjoy a full day on the absolutely wonderful Machrie links, full of humps and bumps (and plenty blind shots). You will love it. I do -:) Then a private charter in a comfortable turbo pro from Islay up to the outer Hebridean island of South Uist to play what is undoubtedly the most remote course on the schedule, the “uncovered” Old Course at Askernish. A spectacular location, a warming story of an island community asset, and a golf course that all true lovers of the game should try and experience. Forget course conditioning. Get back in the plane and make the short onward flight to Inverness. Spend three nights here with a choice of accommodations in this small but vibrant city. Two days golf; one at Royal Dornoch, simply not to be missed. My suggestion is to make Castle Stuart, opened July 2009, your final round. It occupies a stunningly beautiful location with 360 degree views over water and mountain, the routing and layout are outstanding, the condition is excellent, the attention to detail by the management team second to none. It is certainly worthy of the star billing! … if you have time left it is well worth nipping down to St Andrews to play the new Castle Course .. or save that for the next trip?

I can assure you would certainly return from this trip with plenty tales to tell. Further, you would certainly be in little danger of being upstaged or even contradicted in the Grill Room at your home Club!

Naturally PerryGolf is best suited to bring this all together for you, ensuring all the preplanned arrangements are seamless, and providing a PerryGolf concierge to travel with you smoothing your journey as you go. If the trip has appeal to you please drop me a line at Colin.Dalgleish@PerryGolf.com and we would be delighted to take it from there!

PS: An entirely separate thought … you might also consider a private charter of the luxury 12-guest 189 foot mega yacht Harmony II to take you around some of these island gems.