I recall attending the 1970 Open at St Andrews and sitting in the stand behind the 17th green, just a very short time after starting to play golf. With my son of similar age to myself some 45 years later, and accompanied by my wife, we arrived in St Andrews on the Sunday evening prior to the Championship…
I took the above image with my phone around 9pm that evening with the expectation and hope that almost exactly 7 days later we would have witnessed the crowning of a new “Champion Golfer of the Year“, as the Open Champion is officially described.
As it turned out, my script was off by one day and we were mid-flight back to the USA as the final group approached the 72nd hole. Regardless, we had a terrific week and in no particular order I have made some observations on both the Championship and travel in general;
- The Tented Village at The Open
- One way spectator crossing
- Bleacher seating
- Access / road / rail (Getting to The Open)
- Undated logos
- WiFi Connectivity/SIM Card
- Very light (or light) user – If you want to remain in touch with friends – AT&T have a Passport option for $30 for 30 days with unlimited texts and 120MB of data. Calls are charged at slightly discounted rates but are still relatively expensive. Easy to activate with AT&T.
- Mid to heavy user – If you have an unlocked phone, get a SIM Card in the visiting country and add a time & data package. Surprisingly inexpensive, plus the right carrier provide inexpensive calls to the USA.
- Virgin Atlantic
- Day flights to the UK
- Autograph hunting
The Open Championship remains the most accessible, community minded “Major” in golf. While the Old Course, St. Andrews is a unique venue, due to its logistics and geographical position in town, you have this sense that everyone is engaged in the event regardless of whether they have a ticket or not…and anyone can buy a ticket at any time during the event.
It is far more than a merchandising arena. There are interactive displays, games and a myriad of activities which both golfers and non-golfers will find interesting…a theory which was put to the test on Saturday when high winds caused almost a complete day of suspended play.
30 or so yards apart….rather than jostling across a fairway with two different sides trying to reach the other on the same turf, a sensible one way crossing operated. While it may require twice the manpower, it is a spectator enhancement.
The Old Course at St Andrews, as is the case at most links courses, it not a great course to follow one specific group on, least of all a marquee group with a throng of thousands. Far better to find seats in a bleacher from where you can most likely watch at least two greens and one tee or more. Well organized, suitably comfortable and let the players come to you.
While we were very fortunate to stay extremely close to the course, from all discussions I had and what I witnessed, the transport access was as smooth as ever. Possibly because The Open is such a community affair, the R&A enjoys strong support and cooperation from transportation agencies and a cohesive, integrated transportation plan is developed – or as a result of the Open rota only visiting certain courses – the previous Open’s plans are updated with a continual, ongoing improvement as opposed to “one-off” event management.
The updated “Open” logo is terrific. Importantly this year all items identified “144th Open”….no year to date your shirt, sweater or hat. I believe it makes the logo more valuable from a merchandising standpoint, wearing that hat 10 years later does not suggest it is 10 years old.
I think I have finally figured out some basic rules of thumb for international connectivity if you are an AT&T customer.
To supplement both of the above options, you will find that WiFi in restaurants, hotels, etc. provides free or inexpensive access to data and phone service. On this occasion I also rented a WiFi hotspot from a US based company (Cello Mobile). Unfortunately the area of St. Andrews in which I was staying is notoriously quirky for coverage, and the support & service provided by Cello Mobile was even worse. To that note I could not recommend them.
I am a great believer in the simple fact that your overall opinion of a service provider is based on multiple touch points. In this case I was keen to see the much touted Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow, their premium lounge. It was extremely impressive on a variety of levels and was a wonderful sanctuary for 90 minutes between flights. Sadly for Virgin, their ground staff at both Heathrow and JFK (90 minutes for bags to be unloaded) left a lot to be desired. On board service was very good, but the cabin configuration is awkward if travelling with someone, and their “bar” is big service galley.
This is a terrific way to beat jet lag. With family in tow it will be my preferred mode of travel moving forward. They liked it and enjoyed a good night’s sleep at the other end of the eastbound journey. If the opportunity exists, even if it requires an extra hotel, I would highly recommend you consider this option.
My 9 year old son was quite the autograph hunter at the Open. I was delighted to see that so many of the professionals were cooperative with the children. I know it brought a lot of joy to my son.
[Tweet “If you have a chance to witness only one Open Championship, St Andrews is a very special venue. #TheOpen”]