Golf to the Fore at IGTOA & Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Golf Challenge

John Shortt

The 13th hole at Glasson Lakehouse. Image: Bryan Keane / IGTOA

John Shortt

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There was great excitement around the Irish Golfer offices this week as we were able to attend our first ‘big’ industry conference in some time at the newly redeveloped Glasson Lakehouse in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

The event was for the Ireland Golf Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) which hosted its first in-person event in 18 months and they managed to combine it to highlight the incredible golfing experiences available throughout Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. For those unaware, the recently launched Fáilte Ireland brand which covers Leitrim, Roscommon, Longford, East Clare, Westmeath, Cavan, North Tipperary, Galway and Offaly.

Plenty of good golf in there you’d have to say with the likes of PGA National Slieve Russell, Galway Bay, Esker Hills, Farnham Estate, Glasson of course, Mount Temple, County Longford and many more besides and while this region was always one for Irish holidaymakers, the new regional designation will attempt to make it one that overseas tourists look to also.

Opening the show, IGTOA Chairman, Denis Kane, said: “On behalf of the Ireland Golf Tour Operators Association, I am delighted to welcome all the business partners to the IGTOA and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Golf Challenge and Business Networking Dinner in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland. I am confident that this will be the start of a very successful endeavour.”

Head of Business development  in Fáilte Ireland, Paul Mockler commented: “Fáilte Ireland have, and will continue to support and invest significantly in our golf tourism industry. This includes support of the IGTOA and their member tour operators who drive significant volumes of visitors and revenue to Ireland. Vitally, the spread of golf courses around the country offers a significant opportunity to drive sustainable tourism growth to all regions of Ireland and supports an extension of the tourism season – key focus areas of our work in Fáilte Ireland. We are delighted to showcase the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands region and the wonderful golf offering at this year’s IGTOA event – one of our many platforms to support golf providers in the region, to grow their national and international sales.”

For us it was an opportunity to reconnect with many of the industry faces that we haven’t seen in many months and there was an over-riding feeling of optimism from each of them about the season just closing and also the one to come which is a cause for hope after what has been a difficult few years for everyone in golf and tourism in general.

It was also an opportunity to run an eye over the changes made at Glasson in recent times and while the first twelve holes haven’t changed in any significant way, the holes ‘over the road’ from 13-18 are now wildly different and present a memorable challenge. The most notable change is on 18 where the hole is now a dogleg left with trees on either side and OB left at the Golf Academy. A good drive (albeit a blind one for those of us playing it for the first time) sets up a 130 yard approach to a beautifully laid out green with bunkers left and right. We’ve been reliably informed more trees are incoming for this hole and they will definitely add even more difficulty to what has become a stunning closing hole.

Irish Golfer’s John Shortt with Evan Butler (Doonbeg), Caroline Griffith (Irish Pro Golf Tours) and Jenny O’Reilly (Fáilte Ireland)

As for the event itself, it featured presentations from seven members of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands golf community; the first of several planned initiatives to showcase the region’s exceptional golf offering to national and international industry members.

The representatives from Mount Temple Golf Club, County Longford Golf Club, Farnham Estate, Slieve Russel Hotel, Ballinasloe Golf Club, Portumna Golf Club and Glasson Lakehouse were also available to discuss potential partnerships with the golf tour operators in attendance.

According to Fáilte Ireland, golf tourism attracted 200,000 tourists annually before the outbreak of Covid-19, with the sector generating €300million in revenue and accounting for 1.6million bed nights.

For more details on Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands visit

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