On the Road to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush with PerryGolf

Golf observers focused their eyes on the brilliant shores of Pebble Beach last weekend, watching the strong American pro Gary Woodland deliver an outstanding performance. His putt for birdie on the 72nd hole capped a three-shot victory over Brooks Koepka, who was seeking his third consecutive U.S. Open crown.

Now, the countdown has begun for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, July 18-21, only 26 days away. The field is taking shape as 97 players have secured their position in the field for golf’s oldest championship. PerryGolf is an Authorised Ticket Provider to The Open (sometimes referred to as the British Open or The Open Championship) and eager to help clients enjoy a day in the gallery on this historic links.

Leading up to The Open, which returns to the Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years, we’re thrilled to highlight not only the various qualifiers that will round out the 156-man field, but also the wide array of links and parkland courses available to our clients throughout the British Isles. While most golf fans are familiar with pillars of The Open rota like Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, St. Andrews, Muirfield etc, the courses used each year for qualifying are remarkable in their own right and popular options for PerryGolf guests. In addition, summer is peak season for golf travelers and championships on the British Isles and we’ll be certain to highlight those marquee events as the calendar unfolds. You’ll learn more about the Lahinch Golf Club, site of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, July 4-7; Woburn Golf Club, a hidden gem in England where the Ladies British Open unfolds in early August and The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland.

PerryGolf is also an Authorised Provider of Guaranteed Old Course Tee Times, taking golfers to St. Andrews, the Home of Golf, site of The 150th Open in 2021. Zach Johnson lifted the Claret Jug there most recently (2015), Louis Oosthuizen rolled to a seven-shot victory in 2010 and Tiger Woods avoided the bunkers to prevail in 2000 and 2005, joining Jack Nicklaus (1970, 1978) as a two-time champion on the historic links.

Max Faulkner won The Open in 1951, the last time it was held at Royal Portrush, outlasting defending champion and local favorite Fred Daly, among others. Competitors this year face a reconfigured Dunluce Links course. Renovations were made in recent years to accommodate spectators and merchandise areas while also delivering a stern stretch of closing holes.

If you’re looking for a favorite, don’t overlook Brooks Koepka, who has been relentless in his pursuit of the game’s biggest events over the last four years. He finished 2nd-1st-2nd in the first three Grand Slam events in 2019 after winning the U.S. Open and PGA Championship to close the 2018 major schedule. Royal Portrush will be Koepka’s sixth appearance in The Open and he posted top-10 finishes in 2015 at St. Andrews and 2017 at Royal Birkdale. Not that Koepka needs an extra edge, but he’ll enjoy one. Longtime caddie Ricky Elliott, a fine player in his own right, is a Royal Portrush member who has played the course at least 300 times.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell also enjoy their share of course knowledge around Portrush and each is certain to receive rousing support from the local well-wishers.

Tiger Woods is in Thailand on vacation with his family and not expected to make another tournament appearance before The Open. Taking a similar length layoff did not benefit Woods at the PGA Championship – he missed the cut.

While Koepka is the clear frontrunner in Vegas (6-1 odds), the bookmakers don’t like Woodland’s chances to earn a second consecutive major championship. He’s 50-1.

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: Neil Cruickshank

 

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 first in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests, Play the Game. See the World.    

One of Neil Cruickshank’s first encounters with golf occurred in 1977 at Turnberry.

Armed with a degree in hotel management, Cruickshank landed a job at the famous hotel adjacent to the course in Scotland where American legends Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus staged their epic Duel in the Sun in The 106th Open.

The evening after the final round, Nicklaus, accompanied by wife Barbara, entered the hotel’s main dining room. They received a standing ovation and hearty round of applause from the other diners and guests, Cruickshank recalls. Minutes later, Watson entered to a polite, yet somewhat muted response. Perhaps the young American had yet to fully win the hearts of Scotland; their special mutual relationship accelerated that day, however, as Watson’s second consecutive 65 nipped Nicklaus and earned his second Claret Jug. He finished his career with five, tying the modern record, and, at age 59, missed a sixth by inches at Turnberry in 2009.

The storied Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry, as it’s known today, remains one of Cruickshank’s favorite places to take his PerryGolf clients. He’s spent the last two years as a Concierge Driver, after enjoying a long, successful career in the hotel and service industry. A golfer for 50-odd years, he’s never played the game particularly well but that hasn’t curbed his enthusiasm for rounds on legendary links like Royal Dornoch or Turnberry, which he feels is even better following architect Martin Ebert’s massive renovation in 2016.

Regardless the destination, Cruickshank, 59, enjoys his role as Tour host because of the friendships and relationships built during the week-to-10-days spent together.

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“It’s two-fold,” Cruickshank said in a phone interview. “We’re making the trips a trip of a lifetime for a guy, seeing their enjoyment and excitement of the trip. We deal with all the detail. That’s all it takes and seeing all that is exciting. Meeting the new people and going back to old style hotel keeping where you are really taking care of your customers.”

Cruickshank possesses enormous pride in all portions of his native Scotland, from the rich culture to the natural beauty and certainly the golf which is beyond compare. He’s also a particularly fervent supporter of the national rugby union team and plans to travel to Japan to support them in the World Cup in 2019.

Then again, traveling is old hat for Cruickshank. Clad in a kilt, he was a volunteer greeter during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and ranks that as perhaps the ultimate sporting experience. The journey to Minnesota also enabled him to reconnect with former PerryGolf clients who reside in the States and have become friends through the years. It’s not unusual for Cruickshank to receive a photo text message when one is playing a top 100 layout on a particularly pleasant day, trying to make him a touch jealous – all in good fun, of course.

These relationships are the backbone of the experience for Cruickshank.

“It’s strange how quickly it does develop,” he said. “When you meet them at the airport they are so excited, like children at Christmastime or in a candy store. They are a joy to be with and that becomes infectious.”

“You get caught up with their excitement, just think about the next round of golf and talk about their previous round of golf, get to know them really quickly. There’s no barriers, away from their home environment, it’s quite amazing how much you learn about them and their family. You’re with them for big chunks of the day, really do build a bond with them.”

6 Nights, 6 Rounds in the Scottish Highlands and St. Andrews

Cruickshank relies on decades of experience in the service industry to determine the ideal agenda for each set of guests. Some might desire the fine dining options available across Scotland while others simply seek sustenance to survive until the next round of golf. Whatever their preference, his role as concierge driver demands that the clubs and luggage are always safe and secure while golfers arrive at the course well in advance of their starting time.

“Everything is labeled and I always check how many bags they have,” he said. “Many of our hotels have a golf storage. Each morning we get the clubs out and off we go. I check with the golf courses to make sure everything is in place. If caddies have been requested … we pride ourselves at PerryGolf on being one step ahead.”

The seasonal schedule (April – October due to daylight restrictions in the spring and fall) serves Cruickshank well at this point in his life. Married with three children, two of whom live in Glasgow and one who lives at home, serving as Concierge Driver on roads and in towns he knows so intimately enable him to provide a comfortable experience for all clients.

Memories lasting a lifetime are made on these trips to golf’s most hallowed grounds. Links that have tested the greatest golfers through the generations accompanied by dozens of hidden gems make every trip unforgettable and golfers anxious to return. Years like this one, which have been dry and seasonably warm, only amplify the expectations. With drivers like Cruickshank behind the wheel, clients feel confident they’ll be steered around Scotland in the best of hands.

Enjoy a PerryGolf cruise to South Africa in 2020

Take a trip to the top of Table Mountain and enjoy a sweeping, panoramic view of the beauty of Cape Town on PerryGolf’s 2020 South African Golf Cruise.

 

PerryGolf is thrilled to add three exciting new golf cruises to its calendar in 2020. We’ll spend the next couple of weeks giving a glimpse of each unique, enchanting destination, starting today with a preview of our maiden cruise to South Africa, a 10-night 4-round trip offered January 21 – January 31, 2020 on the exquisite Azamara Quest. Look for more details – including pricing – on the PerryGolf website in the coming weeks.

Azamara Quest, a 690-guest luxury vessel, is intimate, yet never crowded, delivering fine dining, the full-service award-winning Sanctum Spa, live entertainment and impeccable poolside service with ample room to lounge and enjoy the view.

 

The South African Cruise embarks in Cape Town and returns there after visiting the fascinating ports of Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Durban and East London.

PerryGolf offers multiple options for travelers aiming to add South Africa to their portfolio. A visit there and it will become obvious why this diverse nation is one of the top five destinations for golfers in the world.

The Best of South Africa Escorted Tour 2019 is a 14-night, 5 round journey that is fully hosted by PerryGolf personnel throughout from February 23 – March 9, 2019. This Escorted Tour covers all the bases – golf, wine, cities and Big Game.  Our 2018 South Africa Escorted Tour in November is sold out and on a wait list. We also offer Customized Tours to South Africa with travel dates of your choosing. For example, The Best of South Africa includes 14 nights (four on Safari) plus 8 rounds of golf. Of course, our customized tours can be tailored to satisfy your preferences.

With a population of roughly 3.8 million, Cape Town is the second-largest city in South Africa, trailing only Johannesburg. From wine to hiking, beaches to boutiques, Cape Town has evolved into a diverse, cosmopolitan city that appeals to visitors from across the globe. Azamara Shore Excursions can lead you to the top of Table Mountain in a cable car with a revolving floor or schedule a leisurely bike ride through the city’s streets, allowing you to see, hear and inhale all of the sights, sounds and scents of Cape Town. PerryGolf president Gordon Dalgleish visited this region in 2014 with his family and shared his thoughts and appreciation for the bustling, beautiful city and surrounding area.

Many travelers became familiar with Durban in 2010 when the city was host for the soccer World Cup. Suffice it to say the city is no longer South African’s hidden gem. Home to the Zulu people and Africa’s largest Indian population, the city is rich in culture and architecture, and the majestic Golden Mile of beaches lies east of the city center. A trip to the African Markets begins with a scenic drive down Victoria Embankment and features stops at areas devoted to the spices, herbs and beads that reveal the essence of Durban. Azamara Shore Excursions also include a beer tasting and high tea while those inclined toward cardiovascular activity can rent a bicycle and pedal at their own pace down the coast, gazing at the myriad lagoons and coves.

Port Elizabeth is a wonderful coastal town on Algoa Bay in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. Take a stroll down the Storms River Suspension Bridge (left) inside Tsitsikamma (aka Garden Route) National Park and perhaps catch a glance of the whales and seabirds of the region. As you wind down this coastline you’ll understand its billing as one of the most beautiful stretches in the world.

Those interested in spying big game, such as lions and rhino, can make the short ride inland to Addo Elephant National Park, where there are self-drive and safari hosts available.

Of course, golf is an essential part of the journey. South Africa has produced classy champions for generations, beginning with Bobby Locke, who won The Open on four occasions and is widely considered one of the game’s greatest putters. In 1946, Sam Snead traveled to South Africa to play Locke in 16 exhibition matches. Locke won 12 and halved two with Snead winning two. Our trip includes a round of golf at Humewood Golf Club, a challenging links that Locke considered the finest in South Africa during his era.

First and foremost on any list of South African golfing greats is the Black Knight himself, Gary Player, the nine-time major champion and one of only five men to win the professional Grand Slam. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen have followed the path he blazed, claiming major titles in the last two decades.

Durban Country Club, established in 1922, possesses a strong reputation and has served as a frequent host of the South African Open. It’s the only course in Africa to be included in Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World.

Pearl Valley, located on the luxurious Val de Vie Estate, has developed a terrific reputation as the best conditioned course in South Africa and ranks as one of the top 10 courses overall. Course designer Jack Nicklaus and the legendary home hero Player inaugurated the layout in 2003 and it served as host for the South Africa Open on three occasions. The 230-yard par-3 third hole is unforgettable and unforgiving as a hazard cuts into the right side of the green and a cavernous bunkers swallows errant shots to the left.

Our South African Golf Cruise is another program that showcases the diverse portfolio of golf and travel experiences that we offer. Not only does PerryGolf offer more options for couples by land and sea than any other operator, but PerryGolf Cruising alone in 2018/2019/2020 with Azamara Club Cruises features 25 of the World Top 100 courses as recognized by Golf and Golf Digest Magazines.

 

PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland

PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland 
Even for a legend like Jack Nicklaus, the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles Hotel was a challenge. It had to be special set as it is in the heart of Scotland, and on a site Nicklaus described as “The finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with.” Read more “PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland”