This is the fifth in our series of Greenside Chats and features Wilma Erskine, the recently retired Secretary of Royal Portrush for almost 35 years until the end of 2019. Wilma shares with PerryGolf President Gordon Dalgleish some of her most memorable and career defining moments which culminated with The 148th Open returning to Royal Portrush for the first time since Max Faulkner won in 1951.Read more “A Greenside Chat: The Story of Royal Portrush ~ Wilma Erskine”
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.
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,Dr. Alister MacKenzie (1926)
or I believe anyone else, ever constructed.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 148th Open ventures to Northern Ireland this summer for the first time since 1951, returning to the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush. (One golf spot remains on PerryGolf’s cruise that will take you to The Open). Like the rest of the golf world, we can’t wait to see the renovated links and are eager to watch the game’s best golfers face the stiff challenge presented by the course, conditions and elements.
PGA champion Brooks Koepka, World No. 2 Dustin Johnson and defending champion Francesco Molinari head the list of exempt players. As of today, 97 players have earned entry into the field either through qualifying at sites around the world or receiving an exemption based on tournament performance and world ranking. The final rounds of qualifying will take place in the weeks preceding the championship at sites around the U.K.
This quest for the Claret Jug has stirred curiosity across the British Isles, where The Open rotates between a strong roster of courses in Scotland and England.
The “Royals” in England are a diverse quartet of links, bolstered by a rich tradition and formidable architecture enabling them to withstand the game’s advances in technology and Mother Nature’s fierce hand. In addition, England has other fine courses, often overlooked, that are regularly used for Final Qualifying in The Open.
Before you let PerryGolf take you to play these venerable layouts where champions have been crowned and reborn, let’s examine seven of England’s finest courses.
Royal Birkdale – Since joining The Open rota in 1954, it’s been the most regular venue other than St. Andrews. The course also has played host to more championships and international events than any course in the world since World War II, including Walker Cups, Ryder Cups, Curtis Cups and Women’s and Senior Opens. Ranked No. 1 in England and top five in the U.K., Birkdale was formed in 1899 but the current links was established in 1922.
Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s – Bobby Jones won The Open here in its 1926 debut on this links in Lancashire. En route to The Open title in 1979, Seve Ballesteros literally got up-and-down from a parking lot, which perhaps served as origin of a phrase used around the world when referring to golfer’s great short games. Esteemed golf writer Bernard Darwin described Lytham as a ‘just beast.’ Locke, Player, Thomson and Els also won here.
Royal Liverpool – Most folks call it Hoylake because that’s the village where the course is located. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have fond memories of the course, which is site of The 151st Open in 2022, because each rode supreme ballstriking to a major championship victory there. Woods’ victory in 2006 was particularly emotional because it was his first major since his father, Earl, passed away.
Royal St. George’s – The 149th Open will be held here, nine years after Darren Clarke finally broke through and hoisted the Claret Jug on his 20th appearances. Maiden, the par-3 6th, is a spectacular vantage point for spectators due its large mounds surrounding the green and the wicked wind which can wreak havoc on a golfer’s approach. Greg Norman shot a record 64 to win one of his two titles here at the southernmost course in The Open rota.
Southport & Ainsdale – Twice a Ryder Cup host, S&A was designed by the prolific James Braid and fits seamlessly in the rolling linksland. Many who have qualified for The Open in recent years first had to master S&A for 36 holes in final qualifying. Established in 1906, we’re fond of the first hole, a par-3 measuring 204 yards from the tips and the clubhouse, which offers the ideal setting for a post-round beverage and rehashing.
Hillside – Another fixture on England’s Golf Coast in the area around Southport, the 7,029-yard course wanders up-and-down sandhills and through towering pines to create a tranquil setting – until you try to par some of the holes on this beauty, redesigned by Fred Hawtree in the 1960s. The European Tour’s professionals will try their skills here in the 2019 British Masters.
Formby – Since 1884, golfers from across the U.K. have enjoyed the challenge at Formby, which combines the best of links and parkland golf in a delightful array of variety. The shots required here force golfers to mesh skill and strategy as they meander through the pines. Navigate the undulating fairways, avoid the deep bunkers and handle the gusting winds and you might just solve this riddle.
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.
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.
“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.
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.