In the wake of United Kingdom's vote to break away from the European Union, pundits have been grappling with the social, political and economic implications. But we've been pondering a more specific question: What impact might Brexit have on the golf-travel landscape?
1. More Bang for Your Golf Buck Across the Pond
"At this point there are many more questions than there are answers," says Gordon Dalgleish, president and co-founder of tour operator PerryGolf, referring to the long-term repercussions. In the short run, though, this is certain: Financial markets have been shaken, and the pound has plunged to its lowest level in some 30 years, down nearly 9 percent against the U.S. dollar. For American travelers, that means money now goes farther on greens fees, caddy fees, post-round pints of Guinness and other golf-related outlays in the UK, including British Open merchandise.
2. Fewer British Golf Travelers on These Shores
They call it an exchange rate because it cuts both ways. Or, as Dalgleish puts it, "a stronger dollar against the pound certainly doesn't make it any cheaper for golfers in the UK to come play in the United States." For golf courses and tour operators in this country, that could mean lighter inbound traffic from across the Atlantic. And fewer sunburnt Brits in Myrtle Beach.
3. Different Plans for a 36-Hole Day?
For golf-mad U.S. travelers, it's a popular daily-double: Play a marquee course in Dublin, Ireland, like, say, Portmarnock or the European Club, then breeze up the motorway to North Ireland for an afternoon round at Royal Portrush or Royal County Down. "Right now, that's a very easy and very appealing trip," says Sam Baker, founder and chairman of Haversham & Baker Golfing Expeditions. The drive, after all, takes less than two hours. But that might change if Brexit winds up leading to a newly beefed up border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. "If they were to put back a border there with passport control and security checks, and now you've got long queues to get across, all of the sudden, people start thinking twice about whether they really want to combine those two destinations on their itinerary."
4. A Continental Divide
United as a team in the Ryder Cup, the UK and the rest of Europe are now splintered on a different front. It's hard to know exactly how the game will be affected. But for golfers in Germany, Scandinavia, France and other continental European countries, it might mean more staycations, and fewer UK getaways. "There's still so much uncertainty," Dalgleish says. "But it does raise questions. Do you start to lose some travelers from the continent because they want to stay within their own currency? Is there a level of political resentment that keeps them away? These are the sorts of questions that will take time to answer."
5. Course Ownership Changes?
Economies rise. Economies fall. And, invariably, a lot of real estate gets bought and sold along the way. In recent decades, Turnberry alone has changed hands multiple times, snatched up at a fire-sale price on each occasion, most recently by Donald Trump. What's next? The Trump Old Course at St. Andrews? Not likely. As Baker points out, many of the top-flight British courses that Americans long to play are private clubs, and there's little chance that those would go on the blocks. But that doesn't mean there won't be other changes. "For American companies," Baker says, "there's little doubt that real estate in the UK is going to be more attractive."