The Open Championship weekend

When the Open Championship is played at St.Andrews it is a very special occasion.  From Doug Sanders missing a 3ft putt on the last to win the title in 1970, to Seve’s joy at holing the birdie putt on 18 to effectively clinch the 1984 title.   The year 2000 saw a young Tiger Woods win by 8 shots and Jack’s farewell wave on the Swilken Bridge in 2005 still lives long in the memory.

Play went on well into the night on Saturday evening
Play went on well into the night on Saturday evening

This years championship saw mixed weather conditions and strong winds on Friday afternoon resulting in 10 groups returning at 6:30am on Saturday morning to finish their rounds but not before Tom Watson said his likely farewell to St.Andrews late on Friday night to a wonderful reception from the spectators who stayed on late to see him on the Swilken Bridge and like Jack he did not disappoint with a wonderful birdie on the last.

The scene was set for a fascinating weekend’s play.  Everyone thought Louis would come back to the field and we would have a tight finish come Sunday, but this guy can play.  He held his lead with strong nerve all weekend and when the lead was cut to 3 shots after 8 holes on Sunday his response was to eagle the 9th.  Casey’s challenge fell apart at the 12th a straight forward par 4, where a visit to the gorse resulted in a triple bogey 7 and left Louis with an 8 shot lead, he would eventually win by 7 and was a worthy winner of the claret jug.

Despite shooting a 3rd round 76, US Open Champion Graeme McDowell was happy to sign autographs.
Despite shooting a 3rd round 76, US Open Champion Graeme McDowell was happy to sign autographs.

It was my pleasure to escort an exclusive group travelling with PerryGolf that were housed in the Fairmont St.Andrews during the Open before joining the Mega Yacht Harmony II on Monday to continue their tour around Scotland’s famous northern links venues.  My personal experience of the Open is one to remember.  A kind invite from an R&A member saw me in the most privileged position of watching the leading groups start out their rounds from the large window in the R&A clubhouse overlooking the 1st tee.  Tiger hit a 3 wood that never left grandstand height, a low stinger.  A wonderful lunch followed in the company of David Lema, son of champagne Tony who won the Open in 1964 in St.Andrews with Tip Anderson on the bag and Arnold’s putter in the bag.

The Championship is over for another year.  Next year Royal St.Georges.
The Championship is over for another year. Next year Royal St.Georges.

The atmosphere around the 18th green is truly electric even with a run away winner. The Old Course can still test the best players in the world as long as the wind blows (which is generally does) and long may it continue to provide historic moments that live long in the memory.

Prestwick, a great links experience

Prestwick Clubhouse
Prestwick Clubhouse and 18th Green

Prestwick Golf Club is one of the most recognized names in the world of golf.  A private members club founded in 1851 that become birthplace for the Open Championship when first played in 1860.  Indeed this year marks the 150th anniversary of the first championship being played and a members dinner is planned with past Open Champions in attendance to mark the occasion.   A recent round over this wonderful links venue reinforced my belief that the members and club staff equally provide one of the friendliest visitor experiences you will encounter on a visit to Scotland.  The Clubhouse is delightfully traditional and full of character with great memorabilia for those with a keen interest in the history of golf.

The par 5 3rd hole
The par 5 3rd hole

Prestwick is a course that needs to be played at least once in your life, it is traditional Scottish links and a monument to the game of golf.  For the first time visitor a caddie is certainly recommended as there are a number of blind shots which without local knowledge you will struggle to pick the right line or club.  The undulating greens are fast and true matching the curvaceous nature of the rolling fairways and despite a very hard winter in Scotland in excellent condition.   Following a wonderful lunch, foursomes golf (alternate shot) was the order of play.  A unique game that really tests you and the patience of your partner! On a dry chilly day with a stiff breeze blowing scoring was difficult.  The only real highlight for our pairing was at the 8th hole, a long testing par 4 at the far end of the course.  A good drive chased over the hill between the fairway bunkers onto the flat leaving a mid iron to the green.  The green was found following a good shot that deserved to chase up to the flag, but a soft bounce left a 30+ foot putt uphill, the long putt that followed disappeared into the can for a great birdie three!

For those with Prestwick on their schedule this year enjoy your day and if still in the planning stages be sure to include Prestwick as a must play.  For further information this article in Links Magazine is a good read.  Click here

Portmarnock Golf Club, a true test awaits

Portmarnock Golf Club, is arguably the most distinguished club in the Republic of Ireland.  A private members club that has a proud history and is built on the traditions of the game but at the same time is most welcoming to the visiting golfer.  I recently played the links on a soft April day in short sleeves and enough of a breeze to really add to the challenge.  A recent spell of dry weather has left the links firm for this time of year and downwind you need to allow for the ball rolling out.  This is fine as the greens at Portmarnock are vast, but you do need to have a good feel for distance and hit the right sort of approach to get it close.

Portmarnock is consistently ranked in the top 100 in the world and in the top 3 courses in the whole of Ireland.  It is a strong layout calling for accurate driving and a tidy short game.  With very few exceptions (tee shots at the 5th & 12th) what you have to do is out in front of you.

Work is nearing completion on a new green at the first.  It adds a new dimension to the approach shot as the green has been reset bringing it set closer to the water on the right.   They have also removed some trees at the back of the green which will expose the hole more to the wind.  A rough management program has recently began, allowing a little more margin for error from the tee than before, this is intended to please both the members and visitors alike as the rough was really penal last summer.  I think the only person not too happy may be Joey the Club Professional, ball sales were strong last year!

For those you visiting Portmarnock this summer you are in for a treat.  Further reading on Portmarnock can be found on this article.  Click here.