February 20, 2015
PGA Magazine invited me to a reception at the PGA Merchandise Show Jan. 21, featuring representatives of several major golf resorts. These operations share several things in common with the Cape Region tourism economy.
I first spoke with Mike Jones, General Manager and Director of Golf at the Kapalua Resort in Maui, home of the PGA TOUR’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions event.
As with the Cape Region, resorts such as Kapalua are not immune to the ups and downs of the world economy. For example, Hawaiian destinations are sensitive to foreign exchange rates, because a strong U.S. dollar makes a trip to Kapalua more expensive for their Japanese and other Asian guests. On the other hand, Jones agreed that the recent drop in fuel costs could spur Americans on the continent to splurge on a Hawaiian vacation.
The resort also was affected by the golf course construction boom and bust of the last two decades. Jones said Kapalua once featured three golf courses in the late 90’s, with over 175,000 rounds played. They currently host about 80,000 rounds on the two remaining courses.
Playing Kapalua’s courses is not cheap, of course, although there’s a nice discount if golfers also stay at the resort’s Ritz-Carlton hotel or other housing options. The famous Plantation course charges $295, or $235 for resort guests, with a $175 twilight round option. The Bay course, which Jones said is “more fun” for a lot of their guests, charges $215/$185, or $145 for the twilight rate.
The new Cabot Links resort is much closer to the Cape Region, situated on the west coast of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton. I had a pleasant conversation with Ben Cowen-Dewar, the marketing director.
Opened in 2012, the links-style golf course is already ranked No. 42 in the recent Golf Digest top 100 in the world. Their season runs from late April to November, and the 60-room oceanfront resort hotel also proudly offers four miles of sandy beaches. Direct flights to Halifax International Airport from Philadelphia or Washington, DC make it a relatively short hop from the Cape Region, followed by a pretty drive through the Nova Scotia countryside to Cape Breton.
Cowen-Dewar also said the resort is opening another golf course this spring, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Their renovation of Pinehurst No. 2 was on display at last year’s U.S. and U.S. Women’s Opens. The two-course option should make the resort even more appealing for avid golfers.
The area’s visual appeal is hard to top. Cabot Links is less than a half-hour’s drive to the Cabot Trail, a wonderful all-day tour of the Cape Breton coast, and a nice break from all that golf.
For those who might enjoy a distillery tour with their golf, you might consider the Village of Machrihanish Dunes, on the west coast of Scotland, a few hours’ drive south of Glasgow. During my meeting with David DeSmith, the marketing director for the owners, I think we were both pleasantly surprised when I pronounced the resort’s name correctly on the first try.
Two golf courses beckon.
Old Tom Morris designed the Machrihanish Golf Club, It is recognized as one of the best links courses in the United Kingdom, with the opening tee shot requiring a drive over a bit of the Atlantic Ocean.
David McLay Kidd designed Machrihanish Dunes, carefully locating the holes on a environmentally sensitive area, and shaping only the tees and greens. The rest of the course appears as it looked before construction, except that the fairway turf is now closely mown.
The resort features two small beautiful hotels, along with eight restored cottages suitable for golf groups. Several on-site pubs should help keep thirst at bay, and tours at the nearby Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries should aid in the appreciation of Scottish cultural traditions other than hitting little white balls.
Cape Golf Team Sign-Ups
Cape Henlopen High School Golf Coach Claudio Smarrelli sent a note reminding current and future Viking golfers to sign up for the 2015 season, at the sheet posted in the school. The team had a very good season last year with a crowd of juniors and sophomores, and the returning squad may be joined by equally talented newbies.