Placemarque

How wayfinding can help boost visitor numbers in golfing towns

The conundrum of how to capitalise on a town's most successful asset

What do Ballybunion, Carnoustie and Limerick have in common?

Well, if the answer wasn’t already obvious, our title will have given the game away.

From the world-famous links course at Carnoustie – hosting the AIG Women’s Open championship this week – to the historic and picturesque courses at Limerick and Ballybunion, the isles of Ireland and Great Britain are well renowned for superb golf courses that draw in huge crowds during the golfing season.

Trouble is, do these visitors ever venture further afield than the golf club car park?

The bunkers at Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus, Scotland

What is the challenge?

For towns that rely heavily on golf to drive their economy, the challenge is clear: how do you encourage visitors to step off the beaten track and venture into the towns that host these world-famous golf courses and links?

The people of Ballybunion, County Kerry, are proud of their golfing pedigree. So much so that when US President Bill Clinton visited the town to play golf in 1998 the town commemorated the moment with a statue in the heart of the town.

Indeed, it was such significant occasion for the townsfolk that, in 2017, Tom McEnery (Irish-American former mayor of San Jose, California) saw fit to immortalise the visit by writing a play about the event.

Statue of Bill Clinton in the centre of Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland

Yet, there is also a sense among locals that very little has changed in the town recent years and that the town has been somewhat forgotten. Whilst only a mile from the town centre, the golf attraction remains quite separate to the town and many golfing tourists travel by coach or car into and out of the resort without entering the town.

Is golf really all that Ballybunion can shout about?

And what of Limerick and Carnoustie? Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland, suffers similarly and whilst Limerick no doubt has other attractions that bring in visitors, it still struggles to capitalise on the crowds that flock to the golf courses when big events take place.

Augustinian abbey at Adare Golf Club, Limerick, which will host the Ryder Cup in 2027

What is the solution?

When towns have a single crowd pleaser – especially one that pleases so well – other areas can easily become overlooked. But as we’ve said time and again, every place has a story that sets it apart from its neighbours.

Promoting other lesser-known aspects of these towns requires intentional effort. A fact that is not lost on the local authorities that have engaged us to help draw visitors into their towns. At the latest count, we’ve worked in 15 towns across Ireland in the past five years.

These towns not only need inward investment to provide quality leisure facilities (cafés and the like form the backbone of any successful day trip in our opinion!) but proactive marketing strategies that fully promote what is on offer.

So where do we come in?

We’ve worked in all three of these towns to provide wayfinding strategies that aim to strengthen links between these popular golf courses and their host towns with the brief of uncovering the hidden stories and helping places celebrate their unique stories.

Our clients each believe in their place’s potential. It’s just a case of digging deep enough to uncover it. We use our two-pronged approach of interpretation and navigation to get to heart of the matter.

Interpretation

Quite often, visitors very well know where the town centre is; they’re just not interested in going.

It’s our job (and our privilege) to convince them otherwise.

We take the time to research a place’s history, uncover the local stories (and local legends too) and think about a place from the perspective of a first-time or regular visitor.

When we’re designing interpretation boards, we think about how to enhance the story we’re telling. And we carefully choose the right materials and overall design to reflect the character of the place such as its maritime or mining heritage. We select the right level of information to keep visitors engaged without getting lost (metaphorically speaking).

And navigation

Of course, there’s no use visitors having good intentions of reaching a destination if it’s too difficult to get there. If it looks like it will be hard work, they simply won’t try.

That’s why wayfinding will always incorporate clear and easy navigation at its heart.

We conduct audits to understand where people want to get to and where are they coming from. In the case of golfing towns, that much is clear at least. We identify the destinations of interest and use our graphic capabilities to design maps that help even the least proficient map reader to get around.

Time for an action plan?

Golfing towns are not just one-trick ponies. We are convinced that there is always an interesting angle to highlight.

Wayfinding strategies form a key part of town action plans:

First, get your visitors to WANT to visit.

Alongside inward investment, interpretation wayfinding can support your tourism and marketing strategy to get people to take notice.

Then, make it easy for them to get there.

Our wayfinding strategies will encourage them to walk a little further and stay a little longer.

If your place needs a little TLC we can help uncover what makes it unique. Get in touch on 0161 241 3174

18.08.2021
Hannah Southwell