Best courses to visit in summer Article Image

PGA Show 2024

By Cameron Black

Connoisseur Golf recently vacated the St Andrews office to attend the 2024 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida. Our business is built on strong relationships and ‘The Show’ allows us to swap the icy temperatures of January in Scotland for a week of sun and an opportunity to strengthen ties with important industry partners. It also allows us to meet and assess new suppliers so that we can continue to offer our clients the very best hospitality and golf the world has to offer. The Orange County Convention Center (the 2nd largest building of it’s type in the United States) is the annual meeting place for over 30,000 golf industry professionals from 90+ countries.

The trip got off to a less than auspicious start when our pilot apparently forgot that tasers are banned from personal luggage. With the flight cancelled and said pilot on his way to enjoy a few days of Edinburgh’s finest correctional facility, we joined 200 other passengers on the escalator back to the United desk. Under the circumstances, the non-imprisoned airline staff did a sterling job and must be applauded for re-routing so many travellers. After heading to London, then an overnight pit-stop in Washington DC, the team were finally back on track towards Orlando, just 18 hours later than planned!

Best courses to visit in summer Breakout Image

Upon arrival, it was straight to the golf course for a round at Disney’s Lake Buena Vista as part of The Gleneagles Golf Day. The course has in the past co-hosted the Walt Disney World Golf Classic on The PGA Tour. It was the perfect introduction to Florida golf with large water hazards lining the fairways and some fast, undulating greens. The round also provided Sales Manager, Laura Baxter, the opportunity to play one of her first rounds of golf. Despite her inexperience on-course, she hit some shots that would not have been out of place on The PGA tour, especially around the greens! As the sun set at Buena Vista, the ferry boats started shuttling families from the theme parks back to their hotels. The 5pm finish to our round saw some brisk temperatures that wouldn’t feel out of place on an early season Scottish golf trip. Many thanks to Andrew Jowett, Alan Pirie and Billy Murray for hosting us. Gleneagles have been wonderful supporters of Connoisseur Golf over the past 18 years, and we are very proud to work with Scotland’s leading 5* hotel.

On Day 2 the team split up to attend different events. Jim Stewart departed for Reunion Resort & Golf Club to attend the Irish Golf Day – hosted by Tourism Ireland. It was great to see many of Connoisseur Golf’s friends at this event after a long and busy 2023 season. Jim, unfortunately, just missed out on the prizes by placing 26th, with the top 25 teams receiving a prize and only 27 teams taking part. Meanwhile, Cameron Black and Fiona Fleetham attended a pairs competition hosted by Golf Genius at Shingle Creek Golf Club. Connoisseur Golf use Golf Genius as preferred tournament software for Invitational events in the Spring and Fall. It was great to hear from the Golf Genius team on their innovations for 2024 as well as some tips on how we can better use their system for future events.

While it made sense for us to golf separately through the day, it was great for the team to come together in the evenings and dine as group with a series of industry partners. We were delighted to host representatives from Prince’s, Royal Cinque Ports and Royal St George’s for the first time and hear about their exciting and innovative partnership. The culmination of the partnership is the ‘Hagen 54’ - a 2 night, 3 round package, which will allow guests to play all 3 clubs while staying on-site at The Lodge at Prince's. The name takes its inspiration from Walter Hagen’s 1920 Open Championship practice round, where he played parts of each course, jumping over the fences as he went. The Open Championship has visited this area of Kent 18 times, with Royal Cinque Ports hosted in 1909 and 1920, Prince’s in 1932 and Royal St George’s a remarkable 15 times between 1894 and 2021. The Hagan 54 is certainly an experience that would enhance any trip to England.

Best courses to visit in summer Breakout Image

The following night, the team were hosted by a collection of our partners from Ireland. The group consisted of representatives from Galgorm, Doonbeg, Lahinch and the exciting new Dunluce Lodge. No expense was spared by our hosts during a sublime Steak & Seafood dinner at Morton’s. Conversation was in full flow, and it was particularly interesting to hear from Wilma Erskine, OBE, BEM, who is the newly appointed brand ambassador for Valor Hospitality. Valor are the management partners of Dunluce Lodge in Portrush and Seaton House in St Andrews. Both hotels will be fantastic 5-star offerings in major golfing destinations, and we are incredibly excited to begin sending clients to both venues when they open in Autumn 2024. These hotels are set to embody the Connoisseur Golf service level and will be a jewel in the crown of both Portrush and St Andrews upon completion.

Wednesday saw our annual PGA Show tradition of hosting Ballybunion take place yet again at the wonderful Del Friscos on International Drive. It was easy to see that the relationship between Connoisseur Golf and Ballybunion has developed from being industry partners into a wonderful friendship. We can't wait to catch up with them in Kerry during our SW Ireland site visit in March.

Best courses to visit in summer Breakout Image

The team then attended The OCCC for 2 days of The PGA Show. Our first meeting was with Club Glove, who are the #1 golf travel bag on Tour. We are very excited to begin partnering with Club Glove to offer our clients customisable golf travel bags as part of their trip packages from summer 2024. This was followed by a thoroughly enjoyable chat with the President of Links & Kings, Adam Heindorff, who supply premium leather goods to many of the world’s best golf clubs. Links & Kings will be providing exclusive welcome gifts for our Spring and Autumn Invitational events in St Andrews. We were also lucky to meet some incredibly talented and knowledgeable people. None more so, than Graham Hesketh of Grey Nickel Sales & Marketing. Grey Nickel respresent a very attractive collection of luxury resorts and golf courses across the globe. It was very exciting to hear updates on Graham’s exclusive collection of properties. Puente Romano in Spain, Borgo Egnazia in Italy and Puntacana Resort in Dominican Republic stood out in Graham’s presentation as fantastic host venues for many client trips in the future. All 3 resorts offer incredible luxury, while being within reach of many excellent golf courses. If you are interested in a trip to any of these destinations, please Contact Us.

On our final day in Orlando, we were graciously hosted at the stunning Isleworth Club. This was a great chance for us to debrief on our takeaways from the week as well as to contest for the annual Connoisseur Golf Club Championship. While we experienced some world-renowned hospitality, the standard of our golf left a lot to be desired. Jim Stewart ran out the eventual winner, closely followed by Cameron Black who finished a point behind. Even with a triple bogey on the last hole, Jim was not able to throw away his lead that he had held following on from a good start to his round. With some course improvements taking place in the next year, we are excited to return in the near future to enjoy one of the premier clubs in the US.

Best courses to visit in summer Breakout Image

It's now time to begin final prep for the first groups of clients arriving in early April. Our season opening Spring Invitational has a full field, but a few spaces remain in our Autumn event on The Old Course hosted by Iona Stephen. For more details click here, and we look forward to seeing you on the links very soon.