Golf’s best end major year with The 148th Open at Royal Portrush

This week, for the first time since 1951, The Open returns to Northern Ireland. The field tees off Thursday at The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush beginning at 1:35 a.m. EDT (6:35 a.m. local time).

This marks the second time golf’s oldest championship has been held outside Scotland and England. Modifications have been made to the venerable links, which was designed by Harry S. Colt. Starting their project in 2015, esteemed architects MacKenzie and Ebert used land from the adjacent Valley course to build two new holes – the 7th and 8th – specifically for the tournament.

Francesco Molinari is the defending champion. Rory McIlroy, who grew up in nearby Hollywood, is the betting favorite and shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush in the 2005 North of Ireland Championship. Since his victory in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy hasn’t finished outside the top-5 in The Open, either.

Brooks Koepka, seeking his second major title of the year and fifth consecutive top-2 finish, has loyal caddie – and longtime Royal Portrush member – Ricky Elliott on the bag. Tiger Woods hasn’t played since Pebble Beach. He’s paired with Patrick Reed and Matt Wallace and tees off at 10:10 a.m. EDT on Thursday. Dustin Johnson hopes to bag an elusive second major after a series of close calls.

Expect to see chilly temperatures in the 50s and 60s, daily rain and of course, wind. Severe changes in elevation enhance the challenge at Royal Portrush and experience is a vital tool for those hoping to hoist the Claret Jug. The average age of the past 10 champions is 35 years, 3 months. The competitors won’t be able to get away with purposely overshooting the 18th green, either. They’ll face a devilish lie in the drop zone on the 474-yard-par 4 that finishes a diabolical three-hole closing stretch that’s certain to finish The Open hopes of more than one competitor.

PerryGolf is an Authorised Ticket Provider for The Open and proud to escort guests to the final round of this year’s championship after they’ve played some of the finest links in the British Isles such as Royal County Down, Royal Birkdale and Castle Stuart. There’s time to reserve your spot on a variety of Cruises, Escorted Tours and Customized offerings available for 2020 and 2021.

The 150th Open at St. Andrews in 2021 is certain to be a special experience in the Home of Golf. On one particular Escorted Tour, PerryGolf guests will play memorable rounds on a quartet of courses that have combined to host The Open on 35 occasions and wrap their trip by attending the final two rounds of the championship. PerryGolf is also pleased to take golfers to test their game on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush as part of our new Irish Links Golf Cruise, which has offerings in 2020 and 2021.

https://www.perrygolf.com/escorted-tour/scotland-the-150th-open-st-andrews-turnberry-2021.php

The new, condensed PGA Tour schedule put in place for the 2018-19 season means that The Open is the final major of the calendar year. It’s been a thrilling season, beginning with Woods’ exciting victory at The Masters, Koepka’s dominant performance at Bethpage and Gary Woodland’s flawless weekend to stave off Koepka at Pebble Beach. Still, the golf world has anticipated this championship at Royal Portrush ever since it was announced. The course is in excellent condition and certain to offer a stiff test. After a practice round earlier this week, the affable American pro Rickie Fowler avoided predicting a winning score due to the uncertain conditions ahead, saying simply that any round under par would be a good one.

Enjoy.

https://www.perrygolf.com/golfcruising/the-open-at-royal-st-georges-2020-golf-cruise-package.php

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Joe Marshall

Joe Marshall (right) and fellow PerryGolf concierge driver Gerry Martin enjoyed meeting Tom Watson, 5-time champion of The Open, while accompanying clients to Royal Dornoch.

PerryGolf’s Concierge Drivers play an essential part in any Customized or Escorted Tour. They fill many roles during your trip abroad – from recommending restaurants to sharing nuggets of local history and culture while also making certain every part of the Tour from the airport to the hotel to the first tee runs smoothly on schedule. This post is the fourth in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests: Play the Game. See the World.

Patience and a sense of humor.

Those are the keys to thriving as a PerryGolf Concierge Driver the way Joe Marshall sees it.

Marshall would know, of course, having served in that capacity for nearly two decades, shepherding clients around his native Scotland, pointing them toward the pubs and restaurants where they can hang with the locals, taste the flavor and savor each experience on their trip.

“It’s my hobby as well as a job,” Marshall said. “When I stop enjoying it, I’ll stop doing it. I like golf, I like working with people. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years at the golf courses and with the regular clients.”

It was through a friendship with another member at his home club that Marshall’s tenure with PerryGolf began. John Finnegan competed against PerryGolf co-founder Colin Dalgleish on the amateur golf circuit and was working as a concierge driver in 2000 when he told Marshall the company was expanding its tours.

Marshall, 60, was working as a taxicab driver in Glasgow at the time. He jumped at the chance to pilot golfers around the land where he’s lived his entire life and where the game was born.

“I had no experience in this line of work,” he said.

He adapted quickly and excelled easily, understanding that on certain tours there might be as many as 16 golfers, pulling in different directions, each having a unique vision of the ideal golf vacation.

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“There are only so many things you can do in a day,” Marshall said. “People are here to have fun. They want to laugh.”

Marshall keeps the mood light and the spirits high. He chuckles when clients arrive in Scotland with predetermined notion of the restaurants and pubs they should visit in the evening.

“They’ll look at guide books and think they know where they want to go,” he said. “The places that are listed in guide books, I reckon they’ve paid advertising fees to get in there. Very few are the ones I would use, I like the local flavor in St. Andrews, Turnberry and Troon.”    

As for his own golf game, Marshall said he’s never won anything other than the ‘odd five pounds’ in a match the club where he’s belonged his entire adult life, Haggs Castle Golf Club. The course, built in 1910, is a parkland layout considered one of the best in western Scotland. For many years it was site of the Glasgow Open and in 1986, the Scottish Open, won by television commentator and host David Feherty.

Near the end of a tour, it’s typical for clients to start planning ahead to their next visit to Scotland, wanting to experience the courses and cultures of one of the country’s unique regions, from the Highlands to Ayrshire to Aberdeen.

With a slight prod, Marshall lists his favorite links in Scotland: The Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry, basking in the light of its recent renovation; Kingsbarns, host of the Dunhill Links and the first Scottish course to be built on linksland in 70 years when it opened in 2000; Royal Dornoch – an absolute must play for aficionados of prolific architect Donald Ross, who designed more than 400 courses in the United States.

You probably won’t enjoy the good fortune which spun toward Marshall and a group of PerryGolf clients on a trip to Royal Dornoch. They were honored to meet Tom Watson, the American legend and one of the first to convey to the golfing world the joy awaiting on the ancient links where Ross apprenticed under Old Tom Morris.

https://www.perrygolf.com/standard-quote.php/76553/Highlands-of-Scotland.html

However, having been there many times, Marshall will offer this piece of advice for those venturing north to the Highlands to play Royal Dornoch – play it twice, on consecutive days because the first round is certain to present a challenge quite fierce.

Marshall remains happily busy during the golf season from April to October, helping host a variety of trips with groups as large as 16 people and lasting anywhere from 5 to 12 days.

During the winter, he rests – as much as his seven grandchildren will allow.

His four sons and daughter all live within a five-mile radius of his home in Glasgow.

“They keep me on my toes,” he said.

He always looks forward to resuming his duties behind the wheel. Like other longtime PerryGolf concierge drivers, Marshall relishes the relationships formed through the years.

“It’s good when you get to know some of the clients,” he said. “Over the years we’ve become friends. And we stay in touch two or three times a year and get to know our families … build a bond and a friendship.”

A secret no longer, New Zealand delivers spectacular golf

The 7th hole at Kauri Cliffs delivers a stiff challenge and a stunning view.

Lydia Ko won her 15th tournament on the LPGA Tour earlier this year, pushing her career earnings near $10 million. Just 21 years old, she’s already traveled around the globe competing in amateur and professional golf championships. She remains captivated by the phenomenal cast of courses in her homeland.

“New Zealand is simply an amazing golf destination,” Ko said. “It has some of the best golf courses I have ever played. It should be a must-visit place for golfers from all over the world. You won’t be disappointed.”

Perhaps there was a time when the beautiful country of 4.7 million people across two islands tucked in the South Pacific was a hidden destination for international golf travelers.  The secret, however, has been revealed over the last two decades as New Zealand enjoyed a barrage of dramatic, spectacular courses certain to create indelible memories and eager returns.

PerryGolf is thrilled to take travelers to this magical land. The 2020 New Zealand, Tasmania & Sydney Golf Cruise is certain to sell out and includes several of the finest courses in New Zealand, which features roughly 400 courses. Golf is the most popular recreation for male and female Kiwis. After a week or so down there, you’ll understand the source of their fierce attraction to the game.

Tara Iti

PerryGolf president and co-founder Gordon Dalgleish visited Tara Iti in 2016 shortly after the mystical course opened and walked away impressed that architect Tom Doak created a world class seaside links on what was a dense pine forest. The first course in New Zealand with fescue grass on the fairways, Tara Iti plays firm and fast with no rough. Bunkers border the fairways which are mown a similar height as the greens. Approach and recovery shots provide myriad options for playing shots along the ground and allowing the contours to feed the ball to the hole.

One interesting shot after another is presented throughout the round at Tara Iti, which catapulted into the Golf Magazine Top 100 in 2017, making its debut at No. 29.

Cape Kidnappers

Located on the southern end of the North Island overlooking Hawke’s Bay in the New Zealand wine country, Cape Kidnappers was born from owner Julian Robertson’s affection for Pacific Dunes on the Oregon coast. After playing that course with his son, he sought out its architect, Doak, to design Cape Kidnappers along 2,600 yards of shoreline. The course opened to guests in 2004 and instantly shot near the top of the country’s rankings.

“We were deliberately subtle with our architecture as there was no way in the world to compete with the surrounding beauty,” Doak said.

Avoid the bunkers at any cost at Cape Kidnappers. On land of devoid of trees and essentially free of water hazards other than the obvious cliffs and ocean below, the bunkers are deep and penal.

Doak used the greens at Garden City Golf Club on Long Island as a model, devising the slopes in harmony with the natural rolling characteristics of the land. The par-4 No. 14, measures only 350 yards from the back tees but the green will remind visitors of the Road Hole No. 17 at The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Enjoy the remote setting as you pass a sheep and cattle station heading to the pro shop.

PerryGolf Escorted Tours are a great way to Play the Game. See the World.

Kauri Cliffs

“A designer can always make a golf course too hard,” Kauri Cliffs architect David Harman said in 2003. “He can add more bunkers, more walls, whatever he dreams up. The true test is whether or not he can use what Mother Nature gave him and turn it into something like what you see here.”

Kauri Cliffs was truly Harman’s masterpiece. He made 46 trips from his home in Florida to this property that neighbors Cape Kidnappers but was the first to open in 2001. He made the aforementioned comment to legendary golf commentator Jack Whitaker in 2003 when Fred Couples and Michael Campbell competed in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match at the course (watch below).

Sadly, Harman succumbed to cancer in 2004. But his legacy lives on in this magnificent setting which offers breathtaking views of the Cavalli Islands and Matauri Bay. 

Swirling, gusting winds make the course play differently from hour-to-hour. Yardages are only a suggestion. Downwind, par-5s can be reached with a mid-iron second shot. Into the wind, they are unreachable in three. With options ranging from 4,900 to 7,100 yards, finding the appropriate teeing ground is imperative to maximize enjoyment.   

Risk / reward holes dot the property. But be careful. You won’t soon forget the par-3, No. 7.

Jack’s Point

Located 20 miles from Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the championship golf course at Jack’s Point is just one piece of an idyllic escape offering hiking and mountain biking trails and pure serenity.

The course, designed by John Darby and opened in 2008, sits atop sharp bluffs overlooking the lake and meanders through the wetlands and rocky hillside. Many experts consider it the best on the South Island. Created with minimal excavation, it fits naturally into the landscape and measures 6,986 yards with a par of 72 from the championship tees.

The tee shot at the downhill par-3 7th is remarkable (add an ‘s’ and you have the name of the mountain range in clear view throughout the course). Golfers fire toward a infinity green with the crystal blue waters of the lake as the backdrop.

While that quartet is outstanding, it’s not as if they’re the only excellent options available in New Zealand. The layouts are diverse and demanding.

Breezes blow tall at Paraparaumu Beach, 45 miles north of Wellington, where Tiger Woods competed in the 2002 New Zealand Open – for a hefty appearance fee rumored to be four times the size of the purse. The Kinloch Club is the first (and only) Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in New Zealand, carved through farmland on volcanic terrain. The Hills is another Darby creation which has played host to the national championship on multiple occasions. Royal Wellington dates to 1895 and is like ‘playing golf in an Arboretum’ according to architect Greg Turner, who redesigned the course in 2013. And Wairakei is a parkland favorite near beautiful Lake Taupo on the North Island.

 

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Stephen Outram

Steve Outram has been a Concierge Driver for PerryGolf in Ireland for 27 years.

PerryGolf’s Concierge Drivers play an essential part in any Customized or Escorted Tour. They fill many roles during your trip abroad – from recommending restaurants to sharing nuggets of local history and culture while also making certain every part of the Tour from the airport to the hotel to the first tee runs smoothly on schedule. This post is the third in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests: Play the Game. See the World.

While serving as Concierge Driver on a recent PerryGolf trip, Steve Outram faced a dilemma at the Dublin airport, where he was picking up 10 clients who were continuing an Escorted Tour.

Due to airline error, the golfers clubs did not arrive on the flight.

The next day the golfers were scheduled to play the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush, site of The Open next July and No. 14 in Golf Magazine’s 2017-18 ranking of Top 100 Courses in the World. A round at Portstewart – also a top 50 layout – awaited two days later.

PerryGolf has multiple options to enjoy The Open and the links in the championship rota

Such a predicament may have confounded a less experienced driver, however, Outram leaned on relationships built during his near three decades working for PerryGolf to make certain the golfers were equipped to play these ‘bucket list rounds.’

Right away, he called the head professional at Royal Portrush and arranged rental sets. Aware that Portstewart only had a half-dozen sets of rental clubs, he also asked the Royal Portrush pro if the golfers could keep the clubs an extra day and use them at Portstewart, located five miles down the coast.

The Royal Portrush pro agreed and disaster was narrowly averted.

“Because of the relationship and the attitude there was no issue at all,” Outram said. “That helped me out greatly. Another driver in the same situation, his golfers didn’t play for two days.”

Assisting others comes easily to Outram, a PerryGolf driver for 27 years. He doesn’t share the story because he intends to boast and while he’s certain there have been other similar incidents during his tenure, frankly, he tries to forget them as quickly as possible. By his estimate, nine times out of 10 a PerryGolf Escorted Tour runs smoothly without so much as a spilled cup of tea. But, when the uncontrollable travel hazards arise, Outram accepts the responsibility of making sure the clients needs are met. Securing a caddy can also be a challenge for guests in Ireland because the loopers often don’t work directly for the club and must be reserved in advance. Outram’s understanding of this nuance is just another way he can enhance the experience for PerryGolf guests.

Outram is a native of Bristol, in the southwest of the United Kingdom, who has called Ireland home for 40 years. He lives in the golfers haven of County Kerry, blessed with wonderful links such as Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville, and has been involved in the Irish Golf Tour industry since its infancy.

Royal Portrush (Dunluce) plays host to The Open in 2019.

“Tom Watson said a lot of good things about Ballybunion back in the late 70s and that more or less kickstarted golf tourism here,” Outram said. “Now we have the (Rory) McIlroy factor in Northern Ireland and the appeal of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.”

There’s also a buzz in the air throughout the country as golf fans and tourists look toward The Open, roughly nine months away, making its return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

Outram, 67, doesn’t play golf anymore. His knees won’t allow it. Yet he still shares the joy PerryGolf clients feel when they stride to the first tee at Ballybunion, glance toward the small stone fence separating the first fairway from a graveyard and begin their quest to conquer the venerable course.

From April to October, his typical season involves 10 to 12 tours. And the makeup of his clients has changed through the years, transitioning from male-only golf buddy trips to more couples-oriented tours these days.

Enjoy Ireland on a cruise with Azamara Club Cruises and PerryGolf 

On a recent Escorted Tour, he picked up four couples from the airport in Cork, delivered them to one of the wonderful links of County Kerry, and then took their wives on a sightseeing excursion.

While the men played the amazing Old Head, seeking birdies, the ladies kissed the Blarney Stone, hoping to capture its mystical eloquence.

“Every day is different. The wives add a bit of color and spark,” Outram said. “The variety of meeting the clients, every itinerary is made up differently because PerryGolf is taylor made to the clients request.”

Being familiar with the area enables Outram to make the proper dinner suggestion and handle reservations, if necessary. His experience also leads to giving each set of guests the requisite amount of attention.

Although he’s reached retirement age, Outram doesn’t intend to step away from the steering wheel anytime soon. He’s still happy to rely on his experience and local knowledge while delivering elite customer service to all who are interested in savoring the beauty of the Emerald Isle.

 

Countdown to the Ryder Cup accelerates as team rosters take form

Expect to see the team of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth often during the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National. They won five of a possible seven points as partners in 2014 and 2016.

We’re three weeks away from the Ryder Cup, the biennial competition between the United States and Europe. The U.S. leads the all-time series 26-13 and holds the Cup after winning in convincing fashion at Hazeltine in 2016.

We’re counting down the days until the opening tee shot, no doubt.

Recent history, however, favors Europe, which has won the last five matches held on its home soil. The U.S. last won in Europe, in 1993, at The Belfry when Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were less than a year old.

Le Golf National is the host course for the matches, which head to France for the first time.

PerryGolf is thrilled to offer a fully managed Escorted Tour to Southwest France in September, 2019. Guests will enjoy five rounds and four wine tastings during this 11-Night journey through the Bordeaux and Biarritz regions. While France might not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a golf trip, the presence of this year’s Ryder Cup proves the country is rapidly growing in appeal and opportunity. Medoc Les Chateaux is a terrific links inspired design offered on this Escorted Tour while Saint Emilion is a recent addition, yet another polished gem from the creative genius of Tom Doak (Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Kidnappers).

Indulge in the rich gastronomy and exquisite wines of Bordeaux, enjoy the refined sophistication of elegant Biarritz, tour Saint Jean de Luz, a noteworthy tourist destination since the early 19th century.

As it pertains to the upcoming Ryder Cup matches, he 12-man roster for each team is rounding into shape. Both teams are stacked. Anticipation always surges in the days prior to the Ryder Cup, still expert analysts feel these could be some of the best matches ever. Earlier this week, NBC Sports golf analyst Mark Rolfing told Sirius XM PGA Tour radio hosts Brian Katrek and John Maginnes that the 2016 Ryder Cup was the greatest sporting event he’s ever covered or attended, including several Super Bowls and other major spectacles around the globe. No one would be surprised if these evenly matched teams in 2018 surpass that lofty mark.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk made three of his four picks Tuesday afternoon and there were no surprises as he selected Ryder Cup rookie Bryson DeChambeau, winner of consecutive FedEx Cup Playoffs events, and wily veterans Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. The American legends have combined to appear in 18 Ryder Cups, participating in 78 matches.

Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn also added experience with his four selections on Wednesday. He selected Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey – who bring a wealth of winning memories in their combined 19 appearances.

Poulter has played well over the last year and has a phenomenal Ryder Cup record, including victories in 12 of 18 matches and a perfect singles record. Garcia has struggled this season but is on the record calling the Ryder Cup his favorite event. He’s claimed 22 points in eight appearances during which he’s been on the winning side five times.

Furyk has one final selection to make after this week’s BMW Championship at Aronimink, outside Philadelphia. While the soon-to-be 29-year-old bomber Tony Finau appears to be the leading candidate, Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele or Brandt Snedeker could play their way into consideration with a victory this weekend. 

Of course, the Ryder Cup has been contested throughout Europe over the last decade as the European Tour has shown the wisdom and foresight to expose an array of nations to the exciting matches in an effort to enhance interest and grow the game.

PerryGolf can take you and your favorite golfing partners to walk the same fairways and greens where matches have been decided, cups won and champagne-soaked celebrations spilled deep into the night.

Our 2019 British Isles Golf Cruise includes attendance to the final round of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, and also a round at the K Club Palmer Course, site of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2006. The Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course, which played host to Europe’s convincing 16.5 to 11.5 romp in 2014 is a popular selection on any of our Custom Tours to Scotland.

The dramatic finish at Valderrama was the ideal setting for the 1997 Ryder Cup when the late Seve Ballesteros captained Team Europe to victory over an American squad that included a rookie named Tiger Woods. Perhaps no golfer is more synonymous with the Ryder Cup than the fiery Spaniard. His presence, when the team expanded to include all of continental Europe in the late 1970s, helped elevate the matches to the worldwide status they enjoy today. Ballesteros and fellow countryman Jose Maria Olazabal, known as the Spanish Armada, breezed to an 11-2 record in their fourball and foursomes matches. Valderrama is a staple on PerryGolf’s many Cruises to the region, including the 13-Night Spain, Portugal & France Golf Cruise in late May / early June 2020.