Hogan’s Alley: Top-8 List – Where To In ’22?

In this edition, Bill Hogan lists some “still available” golf travel options for 2022

Vaccination rates are up, Covid-cases are down, and with that comes a general excitement and eagerness to start traveling again. However, the impact of the pandemic lingers, even when looking ahead to 2022. We are experiencing a “pent-up demand” for golf travel due to the pandemic, and many famous courses and resorts are already fully booked for 2022. In addition to the normal reservation volume, there were many groups from 2020 and 2021 that have transferred their reservations to 2022 because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, leaving available inventory at all-time lows. Which leaves us with an obvious question: where can we still plan a great trip for next year?

Below are ten excellent travel options from Pioneer Golf, in no particular order, that will satisfy any golfer’s wanderlust in 2022:

1.The Scottish Highlands – Any itinerary that includes Royal Dornoch GC is a winner! Dornoch is certainly one of the top golf courses in the world (ranked #10 by GOLF Magazine) and we would tack on nearby courses such as Castle Stuart, Brora, Nairn, Golspie, Boat of Garten and others. A couple hours away is also the Aberdeenshire links courses like Cruden Bay, Trump International, Murcar and Royal Aberdeen GC. Luxury accommodations are not a problem either with the superb Links House Dornoch and the new Ness Walk Hotel capturing the 5-star market, plus an array of other lower priced options including Kingsmills Hotel, The Royal Golf Hotel and many charming smaller hotels and guesthouses. 

Bill’s Tip: If you can arrange it, play Royal Dornoch twice. It’s so dang good!

Royal Dornoch

2. New Zealand – It is expected that international travelers will be allowed back in New Zealand in early 2022 after a remarkably successful Covid lockdown, and the courses should be in fantastic shape given the relatively light play for almost two years. New Zealand is one of those “sooner or later you have to” destinations because of the incredible natural environment and scenery, plus a plethora of world-class golf courses and luxury lodges. Cape Kidnappers and  Kauri Cliffs top the list of Kiwi luxury experiences, followed closely by Jack’s Point, Kinloch and Millbrook, among others. The highly acclaimed and world top 30 ranked Tara Iti GC by Tom Doak is also making waves as they are building a second course (Coore-Crenshaw) and accommodations which will further raise the bar for your New Zealand golf trip. Plan your trip well ahead because these luxury lodges and best courses are limited in availability. Wise travelers will also allocate about two weeks to adequately explore both the North and South Islands, because there is so much more to do in New Zealand than just golf.

Bill’s Tip: Splurge on the luxury lodges such as at Kauri Cliffs because who knows when you might ever get back to New Zealand.  And spend at least 3-4 days in Queenstown; you won’t regret it!

3. Northwest Ireland – With the opening of the highly anticipated St Patrick’s Links at The Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort, the northwest is the best value in Ireland with top courses costing about half that of the rest of the island. Ballyliffin, Carne and Enniscrone are three more of my favorites and should be considered “must plays”, along with Nairn & Portnoo, Portsalon and Connemara which can round out a wonderful Ireland golf vacation. Make sure that Pioneer Golf includes some nights at the fabulous Mount Falcon Estate for an added touch of class. You’ll be surprised how attractive the value is for a NW Ireland trip and the courses will all exceed your expectations!

Bill’s Tip: One of the best days you can have in golf is 18 in the morning on Ballyliffin Glashedy Links, then lunch, followed by 18 in the afternoon with cart across the Ballyliffin Old Course. Both are so much fun and simply beautiful.

St. Patrick’s Links

4. Portugal – Want an exotic, sun-splashed golf vacation that will not break the bank?  Consider a week to ten days in beautiful Portugal and golf along the coastlines of Lisbon and The Algarve. My favorite courses include Monte Rei (best in the country), Oitavos Dunes, San Lorenzo, Troia, Quinta do Lago, and West Cliffs.  There is at least another dozen worthwhile golf options too, plus gorgeous resorts that cost a fraction of other European locales. My ideal trip would be 3-4 days in the Lisbon area, followed by 6-7 days in The Algarve, playing golf every morning and enjoying the scenery or beaches in the afternoon. I would stay at The Oitavos or Penha Longha near Lisbon, and at Quinta do Lago in The Algarve, all of which are truly superb! The fresh seafood, excellent wines and casual vibe throughout the country makes Portugal a great vacation option from April to November.

Bill’s Tip: On the drive between Lisbon and The Algarve, make sure to stop and play the RT Jones Sr classic at Troia. It just oozes old school charm.

Monte Rei

5. England’s Golf Coast – Liverpool and Southport are great bases to play the top English links including Royal Lytham & St Annes, Royal Liverpool and Royal Birkdale, all Open Championship venues. But don’t pass on Formby, Southport & Ainsdale, West Lancashire and Hillside GC, which in my opinion boasts one of the best back nines in all of links golf. We always recommend a Beatles Tour of Liverpool after golf one day, and you can even stay in the Hard Days Night Hotel. A fun option is choosing a night or two in the Dormy House at Royal Lytham & St Annes, the chic digs at The Vincent Hotel in Southport, or the best value Bliss Hotel overlooking the coastline. This is an easy trip in and out of Manchester airport, and a lower price option than the more famed Open Rota courses in Scotland, for instance.

Bill’s Tip: Make sure to visit The Cavern Club in Liverpool and check out all the Beatles and Rolling Stones memorabilia.

6. Southern England – If pomp and elegance is what you seek, then nothing is more royal than the courses surrounding London. Personally, I’ve been to London many times and getting in and out of town can be burdensome and costly, so I would choose to stay west of town in Windsor and to the east in Deal for about four nights each. From Windsor you can play both world top-100 courses at Sunningdale GC, the exquisite Swinley Forest GC, the Old and New courses at Walton Heath, and either of the Red or Blue courses at The Berkshire GC. Of course, there are many others to choose from, too. East of London I would check into the Princes GC Lodge and play Royal St Georges (site of the ’21 Open Championship), Princes and Royal Cinque Ports. Every day would include fantastic golf, followed by a traditional summer drink of Pimm’s on the patio, and a relaxing stroll through the quaint villages in the evening. Timeless, traditional, and terrific, Southern England has it all.

7. The Spanish Coasts – Everyone knows of the famous coastline along the Costa del Sol and its beach resort towns from Malaga to Gibraltar. Golfers there will want to play Valderrama, Finca Cortesin, Sotogrande and La Reserva, although there are dozens of other options in the vicinity too. But what often goes unmentioned is the beautiful Catalonian coast north of Barcelona to include The Costa Brava. Here, the top golf facilities include PGA Catalunya (my favorite), D’Aro, Emporda, Peralada, De Pals, and Torremirona, all of which are fun, beautiful and a great value. But it’s the ancient towns including Girona, Pals, Platja d’Aro that make a well rounded vacation, wandering through the medieval streets and outside dining experiences. My favorites places to stay? A Relais & Chateaux property called Mas de Torrent Hotel & Spa, the wine-themed Hotel Peralada, or the boutique cliffside Hotel Aigua Blava with it’s stunning Mediterranean views. It’s an interesting, mostly undiscovered area for most North American golfers.

Bill’s Tip: Spend an afternoon at the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres:  Awe-inspiring. 

PGA Catalunya

8.Australia – Similar to New Zealand, golfers should allocate at least 12-14 days to make good use of a trip down under, and more if you have it! You’ll need two days minimum in Tasmania  to play Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm, then a day on King Island for Cape Wickham Links. The famous Sandbelt courses include the two gems at Royal Melbourne, the elegant Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria and many more.  The recently refurbished Peninsula Kingswood also has two great tracks, so it’s easy to spend 6-7 days in Melbourne alone. Sydney is also a must stay because not only is it stunningly beautiful, but New South Wales GC is one of my favorite of Alister MacKenzie’s layouts. Longer trips could take in some Mornington Peninsula courses and wineries and perhaps a flight up to Queensland for some tropical beaches and snorkeling on The Great Barrier Reef.

Bill’s Tip: Between Melbourne and Sydney is Canberra, the Capital of Australia. Of course, the town is very interesting, but the best part is golfing the pristine Royal Canberra GC with the many kangaroos on the golf course.