Salmond drives home golf message



By Karrie Gillett

GOLF legend Sam Torrance has congratulated the First Minister on his putting skills.

Alex Salmond joined the former Ryder Cup captain for a quick lesson before re-launching a campaign to attract visitors across the world to Scotland’s golf courses.

And the SNP leader managed to impress the golfing hero by sinking a winning putt on the 18th hole at Dalmahoy golf course in Edinburgh.

The pair met to issue a call to golf clubs across the country to join a campaign which offers visitors from around the globe a free round of golf.

The first phase of the Visit Scotland ‘Drive It Home’ promotion saw golfers from as far as Canada registering for a four-ball game every five minutes.

And tourism chiefs predict that as a result there is potential for the golf scheme to add £14.3 million to the Scottish economy – with the average international golfer spending £1,790 per trip.

The first phase of the campaign enticed 100 Scottish courses to offer the free play and it has been a sell-out.

More than 2,000 slots were snapped up by golfers from the USA, Canada and across Europe.

Now, the First Minister and Sam Torrance have called on more clubs to get involved in the second phase of the campaign which will open in March.

Torrance said: “Golf is a great way of enticing people to come to Scotland; it is the home of golf after all.

 “The four-ball scheme is fantastic. They come here and experiment with golf; they love it so much that they want to come again and spend more money here and enjoy Scotland.

“It’s not just the big courses like Muirfield and Troon which bring visitors here. We’re good people in Scotland; we’re very friendly and just make people feel at home.

“There are hundreds of small golf courses in this country which are just a delight to play on.”

And after giving a quick lesson to the First Minister, Torrance said: “Alex Salmond’s golf isn’t bad at all. His swing was very good and he hit a lovely drive earlier. The first shot of the day is never easy but he did it well.”

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland director, said: “We’re delighted with the success of the campaign so far – it proves people want to come and play golf here and we’re just making it easier for them.”

Alex Salmond insisted the scheme played an important part of the 2009 Homecoming drive.

He said: “Golf is an enormous strand of the Homecoming campaign given that Scotland is the undisputed home of golf.

“This campaign sold out in five days and that’s 8,000 more visitors coming to Scotland in this year.

“The appeal of playing golf in Scotland is very strong for people all over the world and that’s great for the country as a whole.”