If you’re a links lover like me — someone who might hyperventilate on the first tee of the Old Course and salivate at the thought of Ballybunion — then it’s time for that British Isles dream trip you’ve been promising yourself. Yes, I’m well aware of the credit crunch and the dwindling state of our 401(k)s. But if walking the hallowed sod of the greatest courses is on your bucket list, now is the time to go.
Thanks to the growing strength of the dollar against the British pound and the Euro, greater availability due to decreased demand and great incentives from hurting businesses, the value of an overseas golf vacation is the best it’s been in a long while. “The same trip you took to the U.K. in 2008 will be 25 percent cheaper in 2009,” says Gordon Dalgleish, president of Perry Golf, a leading golf travel tour company.
By the end of 2008, the dollar was the strongest it had been against the pound since August 2002, meaning you have significantly greater buying power than you did even last summer. The dollar is also gaining strength against the Euro (though to a lesser extent), which means Irish bargains abound. And with oil prices down from a mid-July high of $150 barrel, the costs of flying and fueling your rental car have come down as well.
Another silver lining of the worldwide recession is that there’s more availability on top courses abroad, and better deals on rounds and hotels. At Scotland’s exclusive Muirfield, visitor times for the following year go on sale May 1 and are usually snapped up by September. Today, you can go to the website and find tee times for this summer. Demand remains high at Ireland’s Ballybunion, but the club is offering a “two rounds for the price of one” special to fill up off-peak times in April, May and October. A “pay for three nights, stay for four” promotion is an incentive at the stately new 36-hole Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt near Dublin.
As deals go, this is just the tip of the iceberg — there are plenty more out there. So if you’re craving a dose of wind, rain and history, break open your piggy bank and get on a plane. You won’t regret it.