Golf 2017: Golf trippers
Phil Gilboy of Charlotte, shown above on the first tee of the Old Course at St. Andrews, arranged for himself and seven friends to travel to Scotland in 2015 with PerryGolf.
By Bill Hensley and David Mildenberg
For more than three decades, a travel business run by brothers Gordon and Colin Dalgleish has fulfilled the bucket-list desires of golfers to play some of the world’s most famous courses. Starting in 1984 with trips to their native Scotland, Wilmington-based PerryGolf now arranges excursions to more than a dozen destinations including Australia, Italy, South Africa and Spain.
In 2016, more than 2,500 golfers went on PerryGolf trips, and billings at the 20-employee company were about $20 million. Tours have ranged from a single person to hundreds of guests who play at renowned courses and stay overnight in elegant hotels and lodges.
When Charlotte municipal-bond trader Phil Gilboy and seven buddies decided to take a golf vacation, friends at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte urged them to hire PerryGolf. “It was the trip of a lifetime,” says Gilboy of his 2015 visit that included rounds at famed Scottish and Irish courses such as Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal Troon Golf Club and the Trump Turnberry (yes, owned by a certain president). “We all joked that we spent more than we wanted to, but everyone had a great time. It is something that I’ll always remember.”
The Dalgleish brothers took up golf early in life and both received college scholarships tied to the sport. Colin had a notable athletic career, playing on the British-Irish Walker Cup team in 1981, the same year he was Scotland’s amateur champion. While Colin lives overseas, Gordon is a longtime U.S. resident who moved to Wilmington in 2005. A graduate of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., he has been named among the top U.S. travel specialists by Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
Many PerryGolf clients are corporate executives seeking relief from daily pressures, Gordon says. “We have a client list, but we usually don’t know what the participants do until they arrive, and then sometimes we discover that one of the party members is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They just want to enjoy camaraderie with good friends in a nice place.”
A key to PerryGolf’s success was a 20-year agreement in 1997 with operators of St. Andrews Links that guaranteed a specific number of tee times at the world’s oldest course. Called the Old Course, it has hosted The Open Championship — or British Open — 29 times.
St. Andrews “needed to do it in a way that enabled them to invest in capital improvements and, in the process, we have been able to offer some significant access to the Old Course,” Gordon says.
To differentiate itself from other golf-travel companies, PerryGolf has expanded to offer new destinations and styles, such as cruises across the Irish Sea with daily stops for golfing. Prices vary, with a 12-night trip to Italy in August selling for about $8,300 per person or an 11-night visit to Argentina costing about $7,400. (Airfare is additional.)
“We’ve prided ourselves on doing the right thing by delivering a high-end service level, and I’m pretty satisfied that we’ve delivered,” Gordon says.