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.

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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.

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Strong field to battle Lahinch Old in Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

The sixth hole at Lahinch offers a striking view of Liscannor Bay. Irish pro Christy O’ Connor Jr., Europe’s hero in the 1989 Ryder Cup, called it the one of the best par-4s in the world. Hard to argue with him.

Lovers of links golf, natural beauty and legendary layouts enjoy a treat this week as the Lahinch Old Course plays host to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for the first time.

Ranked No. 35 in the world, Lahinch is nestled on Ireland’s west coast, “The Wild Atlantic Way,” and has been a treasured favorite of PerryGolf clients for decades.

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The layout has also been a regular host for elite amateur championships over the last 127 years, however this is its first foray as an European Tour host. The event, which starts Thursday, is the largest sporting event ever held in County Clare and has injected energy into the village and money into the economy. More than 10 million pounds were spent on the course and village in preparation according to the Irish Times and another 6-7 million pounds are expected to be generated this week.

Located 60 miles south of Galway and 45 miles west of Limerick, the course has welcomed many esteemed guests through the years. Byron Nelson visited in the 1960s. Phil Mickelson toured the course in 1991 prior to the Walker Cup matches, has returned on other occasions and was granted honorary membership. In 2009, Stewart Cink prepared for The Open at Lahinch while the man he defeated in that championship, Tom Watson, considers the course one of his favorites. Read more about the character of Lahinch and the characters who have passed through.

Lahinch enjoys an illustrious architectural history. Old Tom Morris designed the original 18 holes in 1892. The unknown Charles “Mo” Gibson made changes in 1907. The great Dr. Alister MacKenzie (Royal Melbourne West, Cypress Point) renovated portions in 1927, although chunks of his work were lost to the sea. In recent times, Dr. Martin Hawtree and his team have overseen changes.

Lahinch will make the finest and most popular golf course that I, 
or I believe anyone else, ever constructed.”

Dr. Alister MacKenzie (1926)

The course offers views of the ocean – though it’s not really in play for most golfers – large grassy dunes, beautiful vistas and the firm, springy turf that characterizes courses in the linksland. From a strategic standpoint, hearty par-4s are the essence of the layout, as No. 3, 6, 10 and 17 feature a possible long iron approach shot to a shallow, sloping green complex.

Hole #10

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has attracted a strong field, although next weekend’s World Golf Championship tournament in Memphis probably kept some highly ranked American professionals from crossing the Atlantic to play Lahinch.

The betting favorite is Jon Rahm, fresh off a tie for 2nd in last week’s Andalucia Masters – held at another jewel in the PerryGolf lineup, Valderrama, which played host to the 1997 Ryder Cup.

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Joining the talented young Spaniard in the field are familiar stars from the European circuit such as Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Wallace, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, who won the 2000 South of Ireland Amateur Championship here.

Of course, all eyes of professional golf and all of the game’s best players will arrive in Ireland in two weeks for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush. PerryGolf clients will attend the final round with co-founder Colin Dalgleish (only one golf spot remains) and play a loaded roster of British Isles offerings as they cruise from Edinburgh to Southampton.

PerryGolf is an Authorised Ticket Provider for The Open (sometimes referred to as the British Open or Open Championship). Golfers and golf fans wanting to experience the game’s oldest championship at Royal St. George’s next summer can do so on the 2020 British Isles Golf Cruise

Golf Channel coverage of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to tune in and become better acquainted with a course worth knowing.

European Tour visits popular PerryGolf destination Doha Golf Club

The European Tour continues its trek through the desert this week, stopping in Qatar for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

The Doha Golf Club is a popular stop each year for the Tour’s professionals, who know they’ll enjoy ideal weather and a course in mint condition which offers plenty of scoring opportunities.

Eddie Pepperell is the defending champion and the tournament has produced a host of outstanding winners, including Branden Grace, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.

No different than Al Mouj Golf, the Greg Norman designed layout where Kurt Kitayama prevailed last week in the Oman Open, the delightful course at Doha remains a popular option for guests enjoying one of PerryGolf’s Cruises to the region on the 690-guest Azamara Quest.

For starters, viewers tuning into the Golf Channel’s coverage this week will see a beautiful piece of property, featuring eight artificial lakes, 5,000 shrubs, 6,000 trees and 10,000 cacti imported from Arizona. What once was a bland parcel of rocks and sand has been transformed into a magnificent landscape with the city skyline presented in the background. The clubhouse is also a ornate beauty, crafted in the old, traditional Arabic style.

Like any proven championship course, the Doha Golf Club delivers a closing stretch which can create wild swings on the leaderboard. Walking in the footsteps of the pros, PerryGolf guests can take their swing at taming these holes, handling the shots presented here.

No. 16 is a 307-yard par-4 which most of the field can reach with a solid, accurate tee shot, presenting an opportunity late in the final round for the pursuers to chase down the leader.

The 17th is a short par-3 to a kidney-shaped green which is protected by a bunker in front and a collection of rocks to the left. Again, birdies will fly here as the golfers often encounter calm conditions and receptive greens, fostering an aggressive mindset with a short iron in hand.

The 587-yard par-5 finishing hole can create a thrilling finish. Eagles are available – but bogeys lurk.

There’s still time to join The 2019 Arabian Gulf Golf Cruise hosted by PerryGolf co-founder Colin Dalgleish.

PerryGolf is proud to offer multiple options for guests who wish to visit the alluring and exotic Arabian Gulf. In addition to excellent golf at courses such as Abu Dhabi and the Earth Course in Dubai – annual host to the European Tour’s DP World Championship, won by Danny Willett last November. That event serves as the final even in the season long “Race To Dubai” won by Francesco Molinari, capping a terrific season highlighted by his impressive victory in The 147th Open at Carnoustie.

Attend the 149th Open at Royal St. George’s

 

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.

Learn more about the VIP Coaches & Concierge Drivers

“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.

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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.”

Culture, Shopping, Dining and Coastal Breezes await in the Iberian Peninsula

 

Spend a week cruising the Iberian Peninsula on the lovely 690-seat Azamara Journey, stopping to visit enchanting cities such as Barcelona and Valencia or, to play golf at Valderrama, home of the 1997 Ryder Cup. Enjoy the delicious wine and warm breezes of the Algarve in Portugal, dine in the haunts of legends and savor each moment while basking in abundant sunshine and mild temperatures.

PerryGolf can help you fulfill this dream with two options to the Iberian Peninsula in 2019, one in May and one in September.

Book This Cruise by Feb. 28, 2019 for FREE Wi-Fi plus Your Better Half Saves 50%!

Barcelona, home to more than 1.5 million people, is a great walking city and a cultural powerhouse on the Spanish coast. Explore neighborhoods such as Barri Gòtic and the Raval on foot. There are also multiple modes of transportation, including eight metro lines, an urban rail network and two tram lines.

Breathe in the local culture, exploring museums and cathedrals. Taste a plate of esqueixada, a simple salad of hand-shredded salt cod, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Those who love coffee would be wise to memorize these three words – cortado (short), copa (regular cup) and jara (large).

Also, note that dinner is served late (10 p.m. on average) and gin tonic is the correct way to order the city’s preferred highball.

If it’s paella you crave, Valencia is the ideal destination. The rice-based dish originated here in the mid-19th century.  Enjoy at La Pepica, requesting a table on the terrace at the famous establishment where Ernest Hemingway and the bullfighters he admired ate, drank and carried on into the night.

Inside the City of Arts & Sciences, you’ll find the largest aquarium in Europe, an opera house, a science museum and a planetarium that offers live shows at night.

Expect temperatures ranging between the mid 50s and mid 70s in May and the mid 60s and low 80s in September.

Flamenco, Fiestas & Tapas are the order of the day in Seville. The Alcázar is another must-see destination. Originally founded as a fort in 913, it’s undergone many enhancements and improvements in the years since. Explore the stunning fortress complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its awe-inspiring palaces, patios, gardens, fountains, chapels, and halls.

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The Algarve region, in extreme southern Portugal along the coast, was once a collection of tiny, modest fishing villages but was transformed in the 1960s into a beautiful menagerie of hotels, villas and restaurants along the rocky coastline.

Delightful wines are produced in the Algarve; the main white varieties are Arinto, Malvasia Manteúdo and Syria, while the oustanding reds are Castelão and Negra Mole.

Interested in taking a dip in the Alboran Sea? It’s brisk, you’ll want to know. The water checks in around 63 degrees in May and 70 degrees in September. Better news lies in the average of nine hours of sunshine daily.

Gibraltar is a territory of the United Kingdom, strategically important due to its location on the northern side of the strait which separates Europe from African where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. Spain tried numerous times to claim or recover the territory but was unsuccessful, ceding it to Britain in 1713 in the treaty of Utrecht.

Frankie Laine sang about the The Rock of Gibraltar, a 1400-foot high monolithic limestone promontory. Surrounded by the Mediterranean, “The Rock” enjoys a rich history – it was considered one of two Pillars of Hercules. Most of the upper Rock, starting just above the town, is a nature reserve with spectacular views accessible by cable car. Gibraltar measures less than six square kilometres and is inhabited by around 30,000 people made up of Gibraltarians, British, Moroccans, Indians and Spanish. There is a colony of the famous, camera-hogging Barbary apes who run free in a semi-wild state.

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Of course, a PerryGolf cruise also includes wonderful golf. This is a underrated region for enjoyable layouts. Royal Seville Golf Club, designed by the Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, opened in 1991 and played host to the 2004 World Cup (won by Luke Donald and Paul Casey of England). Alvaro Quiros, the long-hitting Spaniard, and Ireland’s Peter Lawrie won the Spanish Open the two times it was played on the flat, straightforward layout that challenges players with its small greens.

Valderrama is the region’s gem, however, equally enjoyable tests of golf are available throughout this cruise. Son Gual, in the heart of Mallorca, opened in 2007 to excellent reviews. Designed in the links style, the course has earned a reputation for being maintained in impeccable condition. Real Club de Golf El Prat located to the north of Barcelona at Terassa. It was the first golf course in continental Europe to be designed by Greg Norman to give it a unique character that places an emphasis both on aesthetic appeal and playability.