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.

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.

 

Thoughts from a strong period of golf travel around the globe

By Gordon Dalgleish

PerryGolf President and Co-Founder 

As we approach the end of summer and plans start to take hold for 2019 I thought it may be an interesting exercise to share some observations on the current state of the golf travel industry.
Read more “Thoughts from a strong period of golf travel around the globe”

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Angus McIntosh

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

(Learn more about PerryGolf Concierge Driver Neil Cruickshank)

Angus McIntosh didn’t anticipate embarking on a second career as a PerryGolf Concierge Driver and Cruise host. Now, a decade into these roles, he finds it difficult to imagine life without the guests met and tours led.

A native of Islay, Scotland, McIntosh spent 30 years as a Police Inspector in Glasgow and the town of Oban, on the country’s west coast. Upon retirement at age 48, he filled his days in the usual manner, spending time with his family and playing rounds of golf at The Bishopbriggs Golf Club – which he joined at age 10, and where today he resides 400 yards away from the clubhouse. One day after a round, he became aware of PerryGolf during a conversation. He made contact with the company and shortly thereafter began helping on cruises and meeting guests at the airport.

“I really wasn’t looking for a job,” McIntosh said in a recent phone interview from Scotland, where he’s enjoyed the warm, dry summer. “I like the freedom to deliver each tour as what I see as my way of doing it. There’s a template in place and a generic way of doing it but the company realizes that each person is an individual and has their own way of doing it. I like to give the people a bit of general information about the places that we’re going to.”

McIntosh honed his skills dealing with people during his long, successful career on the police force. Obviously the tenor of a PerryGolf trip is much different than what’s required on the beat, but his experience making decisions and organizing large groups of people can come in handy as he shepherds guests on their journey in a safe, timely manner. 

“The whole thing is about a worry-free holiday for the guests,” he said. “We’re there to push them in the right direction. As drivers, we provide a pretty unique experience, a concierge service on the road, similar to a concierge in the hotel.”

At the trip’s outset, McIntosh tries to understand the desires of a group. Perhaps it consists of four couples and they are interested in fine dining and sightseeing. Or maybe, it’s a group of eight men focused solely on the golf and unconcerned with historical landmarks or upscale restaurants. Some guests simply want to become immersed in the local community and culture during their holiday. Regardless, possessing intimate knowledge of his native land enables McIntosh to ensure their needs are met. 

On a recent assignment, McIntosh led PerryGolf’s Best of Scotland Escorted Tour. He speaks fondly of the concentration of championship courses available in golf’s homeland and requiring minimal travel or transfer of accommodations. Where else, McIntosh asks, can a golfer have a game at epic links such as St. Andrews, Troon, Turnberry, Carnoustie and Prestwick in a five-day span and spend only four or five hours in transit, traveling comfortably, of course, in a PerryGolf VIP Coach.

Rightfully proud of his homeland, McIntosh loves St. Andrews, however, his favorite area is the Scottish Highlands, an area ripe with beauty and rich with mystical bucket list destinations around Inverness, such as Nairn, Cruden Bay and Royal Dornoch – which tops the list of none other than Tom Watson, five times champion of The Open.

“From a driver’s point of view it’s very picturesque and there are a couple of beautiful detours you can take if the golfers are interested,” he said. “Getting about up there is also pretty easy.”

McIntosh and PerryGolf co-founder Colin Dalgleish depart Aug. 8th on the Baltic Sea Golf Cruise. McIntosh helped host guests on PerryGolf’s first voyage to this beautiful corner of the world two years ago and looks forward to returning because of the hospitality received at Gorki GC in St. Petersburg, Russia and throughout the region. He’s proud to play a role in helping these cruises run smoothly, from shuttling clubs to the course where they await the golfers on their arrival from the ship to ensuring each golfer returns to Azamara Journey within a comfortable time frame after the round, so each can embrace the area’s sights and scenes alongside their partner or other guests.

Land or sea, tour or cruise, Scotland or Scandinavia, building relationships with PerryGolf guests remains the common thread. Like many Concierge Drivers, he remains in regular contact with guests who have become friends through regular correspondence or return trips to the U.K.

“You get to know them quite well on a personal basis and you get to be quite friendly with them,” he said. “You want them to go back and tell everybody so they send people back to our country to experience what they have as well.”

Listening to McIntosh, 58, it’s obvious he’s found the ideal occupation for this stage in life.

“If I left PerryGolf I’d probably retire properly,” he said with a laugh. “I get along well with the staff. Once you’re out on the road you’re left to your own. It’s not like they’re calling every two or three minutes to check on you. For me it’s been a great experience. It’s nothing I thought I would ever do. I’m in no great hurry to throw in the towel just now.”