Golf tourism in Northern Ireland is still surging

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 23, 2023 09:25

New figures from Tourism NI show that the number of tee times booked by visitors to Northern Ireland in 2022 was 30 percent higher than pre-Covid levels.

Northern Ireland hosted the Open Championship in 2019 for the first time in nearly 70 years, and the pandemic started just a few months later. Both events led to a significant increase in demand to play at Northern Irish golf courses.

There were 4,103 rounds of golf booked by tour operators at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Co Antrim – the most in Northern Ireland – through the BRS Golf tee time booking system in 2022

Research commissioned by the tourism body found Northern Ireland experienced a large increase in visitor green fee revenue particularly in 2022, with expenditure on bookings surging both during on and off season.

The report Golf Tourism in Northern Ireland: How the pandemic and recovery has impacted visitor golf, examined data from 75 golf clubs in Northern Ireland which use the BRS Golf tee time booking system.

George Diamondis pictured with the Claret Jug, alongside Aoife McVeigh, from Visit Belfast

The report excluded rounds booked by tour operators directly with golf clubs and does not include all clubs, such as the 2017 Irish Open venue Portstewart Golf Club.

The figures show that in 2022, there were 762,575 bookings made by visitors at the 75 golf clubs in Northern Ireland. This is compared to 587,199 bookings made in 2019 – a 30 percent increase.

George Diamondis pictured with Northern Ireland professional golfer, Olivia Mehaffey, and Claire Hamilton, consumer PR officer at Tourism NI

Of those who made bookings, the vast majority did so through tour operators showing a move away from a finding in 2019 that more people were choosing to travel for golf in Northern Ireland independently.

According to the report, bookings through tour operators last year were up 77 percent on 2019.

The research also found that green fee revenue at the Northern Ireland clubs increased steadily from 2019 to 2022, largely attributable to bookings from Ireland.

Almost £2.6 million was generated last year by those travelling from the Republic to the north to play golf, within the clubs examined – a 237 percent increase on 2019.

There was also a sizeable jump in bookings from Scotland, with £681,000 generated in green fees at clubs in 2022, an increase of 216 percent on 2019.

In global terms, visitor green fee revenue increased by 153 percent in 2022 compared to 2019 as international travel bounced back and clubs reverted to full pricing.

The report also revealed a consistent rise in green fees generated across every month in 2022 with the largest rise seen in December when £1.4 million was generated compared to £112,000 in 2019.

In total, £18 million was generated in green fees at the Northern Ireland clubs included in the research. This is compared to £5.5 million in 2021, £3.4 million in 2020 and £7.2 million in 2019.

George Diamondis, golf marketing manager at Tourism NI, said the country has seen significant growth in the value of visiting golfers since 2019.

“The Open Championship in 2019 raised the profile of Northern Ireland as a world class golfing destination and this can be seen through the growth in visitor tee time bookings over the last four years,” he said.

“The support to golf tour operators over the pandemic is showing dividends with a strong growth in the level of business delivered by golf tour operators.

There were 3,840 rounds of golf booked by tour operators at Ardglass Golf Club in Co Down, through the BRS Golf tee time booking system, in 2022

“Targeted campaign activity to bolster shoulder season tee time bookings has also shown strong rewards.

“The Open Championship returning to Royal Portrush in 2025 will continue to build on the status of Northern Ireland as a world class golfing destination”.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 23, 2023 09:25
Write a comment

1 Comment

  1. Craig June 29, 08:10

    That’s a really interesting article. I’d be interested to find out similar stats for England golf post pandemic as I’d imagine it’s also seen a rise. I wonder if this is only located in NI and how it compares to to overall increase in golf in total?

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact: