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Will ‘grand old man of golf’ help drive a recovery in Scottish tourism?

l-r Bonnie Wee Golf managing director Dave Harris, tour specialist Cam Howe and director Stew Morrison show off commemorative coins golfers can get on the Old Tom Morris Trail.
l-r Bonnie Wee Golf managing director Dave Harris, tour specialist Cam Howe and director Stew Morrison show off commemorative coins golfers can get on the Old Tom Morris Trail.

A new Scottish golf trail named after legendary course designer “Old Tom Morris” is expected to boost north and north-east tourism.

Players from far and wide can follow a route showcasing the work of Mr Morris, also known as “the grand old man of golf”, who was born in St Andrews in 1821 and also died in the sport’s spiritual home in 1908.

All 18 courses on the trail, which starts at Askernish on South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, and ends at Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre, were either designed or enhanced by Old Tom.

The Old Tom Morris Trail.

The Old Clubhouse Pub at Machrihanish is the official “19th hole”, where golfers completing all or part of the trail receive an Old Tom Morris Trail collector’s edition commemorative coin for each course played.

Those who play the whole trail get a commemorative wall display for all 18 coins.

The Tom Morris Bar & Grill in St Andrews is the official halfway house.

The trail starts at Askernish golf course on South Uist.

VisitScotland has backed the initiative, with the national tourism body seeing it as an ideal way of boosting golf tourism and helping to lure more visitors to Scotland, while also providing the perfect excuse for this country’s golfers to get out and about more.

While some people from overseas may be tempted to complete the trail on one trip to Scotland, it is hoped others may visit more than once to eventually play all 18 courses.

VisitScotland senior golf manager Alan Grant said: “Golf is such an integral part of Scotland, with no other country able to match our history or heritage in the game.

“The Old Tom Morris Trail provides an excellent focus for golf visitors – from home and overseas – to sample some of our most iconic golf courses, as well as those more off the beaten track.

“By featuring some hidden gems as well as traditionally well-known courses, the trail supports our commitment to responsible tourism, to spread the benefits of golf tourism across our regions.”

The Nairn championship golf course.

Mr Grant added: “Tourism is a force for good, with both economic and social benefits.

“Golf tourism accounts for approximately £286 million annually, supporting around 4,400 jobs.

“Playing golf in the great outdoors, relaxing and unwinding with friends, and enjoying the magnificent scenery and hospitality that our country offers, is an unbeatable proposition for tourists the world over.”

Golfer Robert MacIntyre during last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie.

VisitScotland invests more than £3m annually to support golf events and to market
Scotland globally as the home of golf.

St Andrews will host the 150th Open this July, delivering a further boost to tourism.

As well as Askernish and Machrihanish, the new trail takes in Dornoch, Tain, Nairn, Lossiemouth, Cullen, Cruden Bay, Montrose, Carnoustie, St Andrews (two courses), Crail, Luffness, Muirfield, North Berwick, Dunbar and Prestwick.

Old Tom Morris.

Old Tom, who charged clients just £1 per day plus expenses to design a course, is globally recognised as the most important person in the history of golf.

During the 19th Century he did more than anyone to spread the appeal of the sport, travelling the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland designing course after course.

The new trail in his honour is the brainchild of Aberdeen-based luxury golf holiday specialist Bonnie Wee Golf, whose managing Director, Dave Harris, said: “Old Tom Morris was such a huge figure.

“What better way to pay tribute to the legend than to create a unique trail in his honour?

“It was something we felt inspired to do during the pandemic to mark the 200th anniversary of Old Tom’s birth.

“We carefully selected some of the finest courses – some iconic and others hidden gems – that have all been designed or enhanced by Old Tom.”

The Old Course in St Andrews, Fife.

Mr Harris, who launched his business 20 years ago after working as a caddy for American tourists,  added: “Everyone’s travel plans were sadly put on hold for the last two years.

“Through the worst of the pandemic, we were repeatedly forced to postpone our clients’ trips, but now Scotland is well and truly open for business, we know the appetite for golf here is greater than ever.”

US-based golf historian Stephen Proctor, author of Monarch of the Green: Young Tom Morris – Pioneer of Modern Golf, said: “The trail is a brilliant idea and I’m sure it will be a smash hit for Scotland.

The 14th green at Cruden Bay.

Describing Old Tom as a “colossus” of golf, Mr Proctor added: “He was instrumental in spreading the Scottish game around the world, and it was his character that helped shape the reputation of golf as a game of honour.

“It is so wonderfully fitting that golfers from all over the world will now be able to retrace his steps. I can’t wait to visit.”

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