The IAGTO Awards 2014

14 November 2013
The IAGTO Awards 2014

Recipients from South Africa, California, Florida, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Sweden, Costa Rica, Portugal and Dubai have been honoured in the prestigious IAGTO Awards for 2014.

The IAGTO Awards sponsored by Etihad Airways are the official annual awards for the golf tourism industry. The 14th gala Awards evening took place on Thursday 14th November 2013 in front of 1200 golf industry professionals at the spectacular Tarragona Placa De Toros (Bull Ring), Tarragona, Costa Daurada, Spain at the end of the 2013 International Golf Travel Market.

New for the 2014 Awards were four award categories recognising excellence in environmental sustainability and social responsibility at IAGTO member golf courses around the world. These Sustainability Awards were coordinated in partnership with the Golf Environment Organization. See separate press release for details.

Also new for the 2014 Awards was the headline sponsorship by Etihad Airways, which was the first airline to sign up to IAGTO’s Preferred Airline scheme back in 2005 that recognised golfer-friendly airlines that carried golf bags free of charge in addition to standard baggage allowance.

World-renowned golfer and 2011 Open Champion, Ernie Els, became IAGTO’s 14th Honorary Award recipient.

IAGTO’s Chief Executive, Peter Walton, said: “The annual golf holiday is the highlight of the golfing year for many of the world’s 55 million players, and the IAGTO Awards serve to reward a few exceptional contributions to this world of golf travel. There is certainly no shortage of candidates worthy of recognition. Many individuals, companies, organisations and destinations have excelled in delivering a great golfing experience to the golf traveller – the ultimate goal for all involved in golf tourism.  The Awards serve also to encourage private and public sector organisations to work closely together in the development and promotion of new and existing golf destinations, making them accessible to and enjoyable by the widest range of golfers. Each year we recognise the performance of three of the world’s leading Golf Resorts, the flagships of our industry, together with one outstanding golf destination in each of the following five regions:

  • Asia & Australasia
  • Africa, the Indian Ocean & the Gulf States
  • Latin America & the Caribbean
  • North America
  • Europe

“There is also an award for the Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year, voted for by members of the International Association of Golf Travel Writers, with over 180 member journalists from 35 countries. IAGTO has extended the awards beyond resorts and destinations to include an Outstanding Supplier of the Year award for our other categories of golf tourism suppliers, including golf clubs, hotels, transportation companies and ground handlers. The ceremony culminates in the presentation of our Honorary Award in tribute to the achievements of one extraordinary individual.”

The winners of the 2014 IAGTO Awards were:

Golf Resort of the Year – Europe: Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, Bulgaria
Golf Resort of the Year – North America: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, California
Golf Resort of the Year – Rest of the World: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand
Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year: Sweden
Golf Destination of the Year – Africa, the Indian Ocean & the Gulf States: The Garden Route, South Africa
Golf Destination of the Year – Asia & Australasia: Hua Hin, Thailand
Golf Destination of the Year – Europe: The Algarve, Portugal
Golf Destination of the Year – Latin America & the Caribbean: Costa Rica
Golf Destination of the Year – North America: Naples, Marco Island & The Everglades, Florida
Outstanding Supplier of the Year: Dubai Golf
IAGTO Honorary Award: Ernie Els

Quotes from Award Winners:

Europe Golf Resort of the Year – Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort
Dragomir Stoynev, Minister of Economic, Energy and Tourism of Bulgaria
“It is a great honour for Bulgaria that the prestigious 2014 award, European Golf Resort of the Year, goes to the Bulgarian Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort. We are excited that Thracian Cliffs is so highly valued for the members of the International Association of Golf Tourism Operators in the competitive world of today’s golf industry. This award shows that even a young golf destination such as Bulgaria can be positioned first among the luxury ones. Thracian Cliffs experienced fast growth in international golf tourism during the last three years and this award is a sign that the golf industry in Bulgaria is moving further. This recognition is of a great benefit, not only to Thracian Cliffs, but also to the development of tourism in the South East region of Europe. We are fully aware of the responsibilities and obligations that this award carries. It is our ambition for Bulgaria to become a well-recognised ‘signature’ golf destination with a proven reputation. We will definitely work hard to develop our golf courses with high-level services provided to golf players from all over the world.”

Georg Tsvetanski, Owner, Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort
“I would like to express my gratitude to the golf tourism industry for their recognition of Thracian Cliffs as one of the best golf courses in the world. I can honestly say that Gary Player created a unique piece of land that can challenge every golfer. Over 1.5 billion people watched the Volvo World Match Play, held in May this year at Thracian Cliffs, on television. This popularity creates great potential for the travel industry to attract more golfers to visit the course and appreciate the beauty of this picturesque piece of land.”

Krassimir Guergov, President, Bulgarian Golf Association
“It is a great honour for us to receive this globally-recognised award after more than 10 years’ development of golf tourism in Bulgaria. It is an expression of our achievements as a result of hard work in the creation, development and improvement of our golf courses. Over the last years, Thracian Cliffs has achieved an acknowledgement to be a world-class course, where professional golf tourism has been developing. The Volvo World Match Play Championship 2013 is a proof of all this. Bulgaria was Undiscovered Golf Destination for 2012, but now with this award our country appears to find a place on the world golf map as a prestigious and luxury golf destination. Thracian Cliffs will be a must-play golf course in Europe for 2014 for all the golfers, looking for a challenge!”

Perry Einfeldt, General Manager, Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort
“Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort is extremely proud to be awarded as European Golf Resort of the Year 2014 Europe. From all five awards Thracian Cliffs has received since its opening in 2011, this is without a doubt the most important one for us. Being selected as the winner of this award is clearly showing that Thracian Cliffs and its staff are on the right path, and that the services are appreciated by our guests. On top of that, and no less important, it also shows that Bulgaria is on the right course in becoming a very popular golf destination in the very near future.”

North America Golf Resort of the Year – The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
George Munz, General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
“We are honoured that IAGTO has recognised The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay as North America’s 2014 Golf Resort of the Year, as voted for by their 500-plus tour operator members from 62 countries. The resort features two amazing oceanfront courses – The Old Course and The Ocean Course – as well as exceptionally-priced golf packages. Couple that with the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of past champions including KJ Choi and Tiger Woods and it makes the resort truly a one-of-a-kind golf destination for those with a passion for the game.”

Rest of the World Golf Resort of the Year – The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Ryan Brandenburg, Director of Golf for Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri
“This honour from IAGTO came just a few weeks after Cape Kidnappers (and our sister property, Kauri Cliffs) were named to GOLF Magazine’s World Top 100. But we are particularly pleased to be singled out as IAGTO’s Golf Resort of the Year because of what ‘resort’ implies: that elusive blend of superb golf, accommodation, cuisine – all on site, in an exotic setting. Someone should compile a top 100 golf resort list, because these are the factors travelling golfers value most. We are humbled to be singled out in such a competitive category.”

Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year – Sweden
Per Svensson, Project Leader Golf Tourism/Key Account Manager, Swedish Golf Federation
“Sweden is well-known to the international golf community for having produced many incredible golf stars who've been winning tournaments all over the world. What is not so well-known about Sweden is that in order to produce many great star golfers, golf courses of the highest standard are a necessity, and Sweden has many! This award will help to propel Sweden to an international respect. Winning this award helps our country attract further financial support for marketing Sweden as a leading golf destination. We believe the reason we have been awarded this recognition is not only due to the high quality of our golf courses and facilities (even with five months of winter!) but also because Swedes speak fluently in English, making it welcoming to foreign English-speaking visitors, which is a huge factor for a great travel experience. Our culinary specialties, spectacular scenery and wonderfully-clean environment adds greatly to the Swedish golf experience and further gives credibility to why we have won this award.”

Golf Destination of the Year Africa, the Indian Ocean & The Gulf States – The Garden Route
Nils Flaatten, Chief Executive, Wesgro
 “The Garden Route is known for its idyllic beaches, fantastic weather, whale-watching and, of course, its world-class golfing establishments. It is fantastic that, through the IAGTO Awards, even more of the world’s 50 million-strong golfing community will now be informed about what is on offer in this beautiful part of South Africa, which offers so much in terms of tourism including unique land, mountain and sea experiences. The award will surely boost tourism in the Western Cape.”

Golf Destination of the Year Asia & Australasia – Hua Hin
Tanes Petsuwan, Executive Director of Europe, Africa and Middle East Region Department, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
“With the rise of golf tourism in Thailand, TAT has been developing many destinations such as Hua Hin to become some of the best golf destinations in the world. Hua Hin has significant tourism appeal besides having the finest golf courses, with its superb hotels and resorts, variety of international cuisines and the richness of its historic sites and natural resources. This award not only recognises Hua Hin as the Best Destination of the Year but also as a paradise for golfers from all over the world.”

Golf Destination of the Year Europe – The Algarve
Desidério Silva, President, Algarve Tourism Association
“Golf tourism is of the most importance to the Algarve, with nearly one million rounds played per year. Such demand requires a wide variety of both golf courses and facilities, which the Algarve is proud to offer. With a choice of 40 golf courses, the Algarve is the perfect place for players to indulge their passion. Year after year, the organisational capabilities and the professionalism from the local golf industry have enabled us to respond to the trust placed in us by the international golf tour operators, who have greatly honoured us by selecting the Algarve as Europe’s number one golf destination.”

Golf Destination of the Year Latin America & Caribbean – Costa Rica
Daniel Kung, President, ARA Tours
“Winning the award is a great honour for Costa Rica and definitely helps to boost the awareness on the destination. It is also a tribute to the pioneers who started long ago to promote the country as a golf destination. Costa Rica has grown tremendously as a destination in the past years and is a world leader in sustainable, eco-friendly tourism. The world-class golf courses, resorts and lodges embedded in rainforests and along coastlines reached a status of exclusive nature experiences, first in the US market and now also in Europe. Costa Rica is a ‘boutique’ destination for nature lovers and this captures the spirit of a growing amount of golf travellers.”

Golf Destination of the Year North America – Naples, Marco Island & The Everglades
Jack Wert, Executive Director, Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau
“We are extremely honoured to be designated Golf Destination of the Year for North America by the IAGTO membership. We were thrilled to host this year’s IAGTO North American Convention, to showcase our breathtaking golf and beach resorts to the best golf tour operators in the world. With 90 world-class golf courses, 1,620 golf holes, half a million yards, and designer names like Jones, Norman and Player, it is no wonder that we are known as Florida’s Golf Paradise. This award will greatly enhance our ability to showcase world-wide all that Florida’s Paradise Coast has to offer golfers and their families year-round.”

Outstanding Golf Tourism Supplier – Dubai Golf
Christopher May, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Golf
“In a year when Emirates Golf Club, the Middle East’s first grass golf course, celebrated its 25th anniversary and its sister course, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club marked its 20th year, it is fitting that
we have also been recognised by IAGTO members for services to the golf travel industry. Our courses continue to welcome international visitors from around the world – we have seen a strong growth in visitor numbers in 2013 ¬–¬ and the significant, and on-going, investments made by Dubai Golf underline its continued commitment to giving every guest a five-star experience to remember.”

IAGTO Honorary Award – Ernie Els
“I would like to thank IAGTO for this wonderful award – the golf tourism industry award for this year. I know there have been some wonderful winners of this award, with the likes of Palmer and Nicklaus etc. So I am really honoured to be on that list of past winners. The Garden Route is where we have our home and I hear that the Garden Route has been named as the destination of the year. As a South African, that’s quite a proud moment for us. We have got busy with golf design around the world.  We have done golf courses in Hawaii, the Bahamas, Middle East, South Africa and now we’re busy in the Far East and Malaysia. “


The Golf Destination and Golf Resort awards are voted for by IAGTO’s specialist golf tour operator members that now number 516 from 62 different countries. Each was asked to vote for what they considered to be the best-performing golf resorts of the year. They considered these criteria: customer satisfaction; quality of golf courses and accommodation; value for money; support from suppliers, tourist boards & airlines; professional conduct of suppliers; and accessibility to tee times.

The Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year Award is voted for by the 180 golf travel journalists from 35 countries of the Golf Travel Writers Association, who consider the following: to what extent is the golf destination undiscovered; qualities that make for an interesting golf destination; attractiveness of the region and of the courses; golf course quality & accessibility; standard of accommodation; friendliness of the staff; value for money; speed of play; and climate.

IAGTO is the global trade organisation for the golf tourism industry, comprising more than 2100 companies in 95 countries. IAGTO operators control over 85% of golf holiday packages sold worldwide and their combined annual turnover exceeds €1.5 billion. In 2012 they made the golf holiday arrangements for over 1.6 million golfers.

Photos and logos can be downloaded from:

Carlton Carugati - General Manager
IAGTO, 1 Trafalgar House, Grenville Place, London NW7 3SA, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8906 3377
Fax: +44 (0) 20 8906 8181