Links courses are some of the most highly prized destinations for golfers, with their unique landscape and limited numbers, they draw visitors from all over the globe to Ireland.
Based in Moycullen, Co. Galway, North & West Coast Links is one of the premiere Marketing and Destination Management companies for the golf industry in Ireland. Now in its 31st year of business, they help create bespoke holidays for overseas visitors who want to experience the best of the golf world in style. Their customised tours help promote Ireland’s championship courses, and provide a welcome boost to local economies by bringing visitors back time and again, and drawing their friends in to boot.
North & West Coast Links represents many of the gems of the links golfing across Ireland, including Carne Golf Links, Enniscrone Golf Club, Donegal Golf Club, Portsalon Golf Club, Ballyliffin Golf Club, Castlerock Golf Club, Portstewart Golf Club and Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Associate course members include: Westport Golf Club, Lough Erne Resort and County Louth Golf Club (Baltray).
Links courses are always in high demand for overseas tourists, and North & West Coast Links ensures that visitors to our emerald isle get introduced to these courses and get an opportunity to play them. The itinerary is not just about transporting them from course to course, but with full package holidays that include accommodation of every level, from the most luxurious castle to our fine hotels, tours or our great coastline, visits to distilleries, culture and heritage sites, our famous landmarks and other activities are included as requested.
John McLaughlin, CEO of North & West Coast Links for the past 20 years, says that regardless of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, “we’ll be ready” with a céad míle fáilte to welcome golfers back to Ireland.
Globe Trotters & Staycations
North & West Coast Links has a strong international presence at some 30 plus locations around the globe each year. These include the prestigious PGA show in Orlando, Florida in January, The Honda Classic PGA Tour event in the US in Feb and the LPGA’s ShopRite Championship further north in New Jersey, now planned for October this year. The Galway company also attends many other trade shows in Canada, Germany, and Scandinavia.
There has been a dramatic shift in the way companies do business thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and even though North & West Coast Links are no longer able to travel to tournaments and trade shows for the time being, they haven’t dropped their commitment to promoting Irish golf in the least. Getting back to basics has meant a lot of time on the phone, sending emails, zoom calls, and speaking with tour operators and journalists to keep Irish golf to the forefront of people’s minds as the world starts to reopen.
The company’s business is divided roughly 50/50 between customers brought to them through tour operators, and those they deal with directly. Through the period of the closure, North & West Coast Links have been communicating with their customers who were booked for trips from April onwards to help them reschedule their trips.
“Basically, we are trying to help them re-plan with rescheduling with that aspect being the big part of what we are trying to do, so the vast majority of our rescheduling work has been for 2021,” John McLaughlin says.
“The good thing is that the golf courses have been very accommodating and not just our own membership golf courses but golf courses throughout Ireland, as we do have some bookings throughout Ireland.”
For those who already had a holiday booked, John says that golf courses have been extremely accommodating, with most offering a 24-month window for people to reschedule their trip.
Tour operators, hotels, and all parties invested in the industry have been “working together in this crisis” to help keep things running smoothly. This is particularly the case with overseas tourists, which make up more than 70% of North & West Coast Links’ business, and require a bit of extra coordination among partners to help them rebook their package holidays.
Though the company’s original purpose was to market to International visitors, a goal it will continue to pursue, this crisis has changed the way people will be holidaying for some time to come. So, during these times when every booking counts, North & West Coast Links have been working hand in glove with their partner courses and hotels to entice Irish golfers to play this great stable of courses. With hotels and more reopening on June 29, they have been working hard to get people to pick from the region’s many incredible venues when planning their staycations for the summer.
Old club, New game
The months of course closures and travel restrictions have no doubt left many frustrated. Unable to get out and play 18 on the weekends in the case of local’s, or get in larger trips that may have been a long planned dream for overseas visitors, this has led to a pent up demand. The one advantage of time away from the course this lockdown has brought, is that returning golfers will get to see improvements and changes to many courses, with additions and new works completed.
Across the west and north of Ireland, and further afield, links courses have undertaken an incredible amount of work over the past winter. Work which was completed before the stay-home-period was given time to grow in during the time that golfers have been away.
Carne Golf Links in Belmullet has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis, merging the 9-hole course with the Hackett course to create a new experience. Evocatively named the ‘Wild Atlantic Dunes’ routing, this 18-hole course will be opening to golfers this summer. New golf courses do not come on stream very often so it’s exciting to see what this course will bring to the Carne experience.
In County Donegal, Ballyliffin has added a new 9-hole course, The Pollen Links, courtesy of architect, writer, and all-round renaissance man of the golf world Pat Ruddy. With his signature view that any good game of golf contains greater complexities than chess, this new course is a welcome addition to the club’s other two. The club has also undertaken bunker maintenance and added new tee boxes to keep the entire package fresh.
Both Enniscrone and Donegal Golf Clubs have been maintaining and improving and these two courses are in mint condition.
Portsalon have also been doing work on both their course and clubhouse, to provide the best experience during play and for relaxing afterwards. Baltray in Louth have re-seeded all of their fairways and undertaken a fresh round of bunker and tee box maintenance.
Castlerock has gone through a lot of work completing the second phase of their course redevelopment under architect Martin Hawtree. This course has changed dramatically and the new additions have elevated it on par with their neighbours. It does not take a massive change to bring a breath of fresh air to a course, as Portstewart has shown by removing the Sea Buckthorn from their course and adding new bunkers to change things up.
Royal Portrush have been maintaining all of the changes that have happened there over the past few years in the run up to The Open.
With the spring growth adding maturity to these new additions, and months of maintenance by groundskeepers shaping it all to design, these are sure to be welcome new experiences for golfers eager to get back on the course.
John is confident that the golf industry will rebound once restrictions are fully lifted, believing that there is a “pent-up appetite” not just to get back on the course, but to travel, and experience the many incredible locations Ireland has to offer.
The message, once again, to everyone is that Ireland is ready, and a huge welcome awaits our International visitors in the West, Northwest and Northern Ireland when it is safe for them to travel again. In the meantime, us Irish golfers get to experience these great courses this summer. North & West Coast Links have some great packages on their website so please visit and give them a call if you need any help.