What does Britain’s vote to leave the European Union—the so-called “Brexit” referendum—mean for American golfers thinking of crossing the Atlantic and playing some of the game’s most famous courses?
Their leaving might be the impetus for our going.
“In the short term, for U.S. travelers going to Britain, there will be a bonus,” says Gordon Dalgleish, president of PerryGolf, one of the leading golf-tour operators, which will take 2,500 American golfers to the UK this year. “I don’t see a negative to the vote as it affects traveling golfers right now.”
The biggest effect, certainly for the immediate future, is the significant drop in exchange rates, which has the British pound at its lowest rate against the American dollar in many years. On the day I spoke to Dalgleish—less than a week after British citizens voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the EU—the pound, which had been worth roughly $1.48 before the vote, opened at $1.32 and was poised to drop further.
“The practical ramifications are that traveling to Britain will be cheaper,” explains Dalgleish. “If you’re going to spend, say, $5,000 on a trip, based on the currency movement it might become a $4,500 trip for you instead. If your caddie at St. Andrews is getting 70 pounds, last week that was a little more than $100; right now, it’s $90 for you.
“Regardless of what the geopolitical impacts are, just from a simple golf perspective and for those looking to take a trip, it’s a positive.”
While the effects on currency are immediate, further out and far less certain are other changes that could occur if Britain no longer follows open-border rules throughout Europe or if other parts of the UK—such as Scotland and Ireland—choose to go their own ways and re-up with the EU.
“I don’t think we’ll see a border crossing on the M1,” says Dalgleish, referring to the major highway running between England and Scotland. “It would be impractical. Same for a golfer who leaves Dublin for Royal County Down [which is in Northern Ireland and, therefore, part of England]: I don’t see that guy being impacted. It’s not in anyone’s interest to make that travel more challenging.
“Now, if in a few years Scotland has its own referendum and leaves England to rejoin the Euro Zone, you might use pounds to pay your caddies in England and Euros in Scotland. There are 101 ways this could play out. Right now, nobody knows.”
But one thing the golf traveler should know: With the dollar strong and the pound weak, “it’s a pretty handy time to make the crossing.”