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Power Over Me

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Is golf in the Republic next to fall in the COVID-19 battle?

Those in charge of grassroots golf in the UK and Northern Ireland have called on courses to temporarily close their gates to the casual golfer. Is the Republic of Ireland next?

Failte Ireland commenced their new ‘staycation’ advertising campaign during last Friday’s Late Late Show. It is a sweet ad, running for 60 seconds with powerful imagery of Ireland’s beauty, a voice over by Lisa Hannigan, and the song ‘Power Over Me’ by Dermot Kennedy as the backing track.

There’s surfing, driving, dolphins, a boat to Fastnet Lighthouse, Sliabh Liag, Knowth, cycling, canoeing, the Shannon… it’s a lovely mix. No golf of course but that’s hardly a surprise.

Too elitist? Too expensive? Too badly dressed? Who knows. Given how much the average golfer spends on holiday (50 per cent more than other holiday makers) you’d have thought golf would have been worthy of inclusion. I’d have thought an aerial view of Dooks or Killarney Golf Club, rising to the MacGillycuddy Reeks would have been majestic but then I would, wouldn’t I.

It does drive home a certain truth, though, that Ireland is a beautiful place to go on holiday. So many of us thinking of a golf holiday immediately think of somewhere hot – Portugal, Spain, Turkey are top of the pile – because we want the weather. We want to wear shorts, enjoy a beer in sunshine halfway round… and do the same when we finish. That warmth on your back is intoxicating and you can enjoy that same warmth as you head for a restaurant late in the evening.

I won’t deny that it’s alluring and I can recommend many destinations in Portugal… but it’s not ‘home’.

Golf on this island offers such rich pickings that I don’t think a lot of golfers appreciate what’s here. I know links courses are not to everyone’s taste but the scenery from places like Dooks, Portsalon, Co. Sligo, Tralee, Waterville – to name five – is indescribably beautiful. The golf, too.

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There are perfect golf ‘centres’ all over the country: Tullamore (Esker Hills, Tullamore, New Forest, Birr), Waterford (Faithlegg, Tramore, Waterford, Waterford Castle), Sligo (Strandhill, Co. Sligo, Castle Dargan, Enniscrone), Carlow (Bunclody, Mount Wolseley, Carlow, Rathsallagh). You get the idea. To be honest, there’s too much choice.

Failte Ireland is spending €6 million with the aim of increasing home holiday business by €100 million.

“Tourism gets into every parish in the country. That’s the power of it. The economic importance of that domestic holiday to rural Ireland is huge,” said Niall Tracey, Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Marketing.

When you consider how some golf clubs are holding on by their fingertips, you would be doing communities and their golf clubs a huge favour by taking your next golf break in Ireland. It doesn’t have to be big: it could be a three day break that includes two rounds of golf. Look at any hotel’s ‘special offers’ and you’ll find there is a package that fits those criteria. And boy do we have a lot of hotels out there, never mind the B&Bs.

If you don’t want to play golf then by all means go surfing, cycling, canoeing, hiking, general sightseeing with the family – or do them all – but aim to do them here.

A few stats to get stuck into:

Holidays taken at home are worth €2.4 billion to the State, which represents one third of all tourism revenue generated each year. Fáilte Ireland’s research, however, found that even though 92 per cent of people said they’d take a holiday in 2020, only 56 per cent said they’d do so at home. You only have to increase that number by 2 per cent and revenues would rise to €96 million over three years.

The campaign will run on TV, radio, print, cinema and online. The €6 million budget is a 50 per cent increase on 2019, which will enable Fáilte Ireland to stretch the campaign over 40 weeks, and not 26 as in 2019.

You’ll find the ad here:

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