Golf tourism: A hole new world

Most people would spend their break in Mauritius on a sunlounger, right? Wrong. Golf tourism is on the rise, and not just in the tropics

I've been swimming in the azure sea, I've eaten freshly caught fish and I've read my book. I've even tried water skiing. But as I've been lying on a sunbed surrounded by white-powder sand in Mauritius, I've noticed a constant stream of people heading towards a golf course. It's a spectacular course, but what's the draw of a game when you could be enjoying everything else paradise has to offer?

While I've never played before, there are more than 40 million golfers worldwide – 26 million are in the US, according to the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA), with an estimated 1.7 million golfers playing more than once a month in the UK. And about 30 per cent of all golfers take annual golf holidays, according to the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), so there must be something in sun, sand and taking a swing. Not least because I'm staying at the five-star Constance Belle Mare Plage hotel, set on the idyllic eastern coast of this island, where for the first time the MCB Senior Golf Championship, the climax of the European Senior Tour season, is being held on the fabulously manicured Legend Golf Course.

As a novice, and for the sake of that spectacular course, I take a 45-minute golf lesson on the grass driving range before I head out on the green, which boasts lakes, a lagoon and even wild deer. After a few missed shots where the turf goes flying rather than the ball, I seem to get the hang of it. I am happy with my relaxed swing and I'm beaming when the ball soars through the sky and lands near my target. But I pray that I don't wake up with the obsession to improve my game like so many golfers. If you've experienced that even near-perfect shot, you can understand why people get addicted to golf.

While I'm practising my swing, there's a buzz in the air. Thanks to the Championship taking place, the place is packed with golf stars, who I'm told include Scotland's Sam Torrance, OBE and America's Tom Lehman, the winner of the 1996 Open Championship. Not only are they here to compete for a share of the €400,000 (£330,000) prize money, but they are playing with hotel guests, in a Pro-Am tournament. For the golf tourist it is perhaps as thrilling as if I'd just heard my tennis partner was John McEnroe. And after the tournament, hotel guests winning the Pro-Am tournament collect their prizes to the sound of the Rocky theme, "Eye of the Tiger", at the hotel's poolside party, along with the golf pros.

With perks such as this, it's no wonder golf holidays are booming. The eternal quest for a hole in one takes many tourists on one holiday only – a golfing holiday. IAGTO estimates that in 2009 more than 63 million golfing holidays were taken, with a total value of £16.4bn. The typical UK golf visitor is in the top socio-economic category, aged between 35 and 55 and male, with an average golf handicap of 18. His average stay is seven nights, spending £550 (excluding flights).

High-end golf destinations include the new Yas Links Abu Dhabi golf course, which is carved out of the desert in the United Arab Emirates, and The Mission Hills resort in China, the world's largest golf club, which boasts 12 courses designed by 12 golfing legends. Tiger Woods recently claimed that Pebble Beach in California "might be the prettiest place on earth". But for everyday folk, golf holidays don't have to cost the earth.

Turkey and China may currently be the fastest emerging golf destinations, but top of the European destinations is still Spain, followed by Portugal. Approximately 500,000 UK golf visitors travel to Spain annually – according to IAGTO – mainly to the Costa del Sol region, often dubbed the Costa del Golf. Golfbreaks.com, one of the leading golf-tour operators in the UK, offers discount breaks in Spain from £155 for four nights B&B in a four-star hotel and three rounds. More premium holidays include a winter-sun trip to Dubai, where five nights B&B at a five star, including three rounds costs from £1,349.

Other golf tourists buy timeshare at their favourite golf resort to save on annual holiday accommodations. Or for the dedicated golf traveller, a trip on the luxury ship The World might be the answer. With its 165 luxury berths, it is an ideal around-the-world golf trip. Since the ship's launch in 2002, it has stopped off at some of the best golf courses.

Back on my island, I head on to the lush, green fairways made out of an indigenous forest and rebuilt with special Tifdwarf grasses for a perfect surface. Having been warned that golf can never be mastered – which is its universal appeal – I soon begin to feel disillusioned. I find myself getting frustrated and depressed as I whack the ball into the trees, rather than the first hole. "Golf is like sex," Torrance, the golf champ, tells me later when we cross paths on the beach. "You don't have to be good at it to enjoy it."

After several wooded walks between holes on the back nine, it's only at the end of the round that any part of the lagoon comes into play. My golf instructor explains that the short 17th is the "signature hole" at the legend course. Built on a rocky islet in the lagoon, volcanic rock was blasted down to accommodate the green. It's only 166 yards, but it's a nice view to take in, before I head into the clubhouse for a cold mango juice, after the par-five closing hole.

I've enjoyed walking around the beautiful course, although others prefer golf carts. Top of the range is the Ferrari golf buggy, which costs £18,000. It zips around at 32kph. Not that I need to go that quickly – at least, not yet. While I have to admit that I enjoyed playing golf on the hotel's Legend Golf Course, I haven't yet caught the bug. I wish I had the determination to practice, but I can't say I will plan my next holiday with golf in mind. Still, one thing is certain: if you do play golf, it helps to do it in paradise.

The MCB Senior Tour Championship is held every December at the Constance Belle Mare Plage resort and Constance Le Prince Maurice in Mauritius. constancehotels.com; mcbtourchampionship.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor