The thing that stood out for me from the tour was that the organisation was outstanding. Things happened when they were meant to happen and I can’t recall an instance when there was an administrative shortcoming on the tour. That gives you a lot of confidence in the tour being a success. Add to that, nice accommodation and you have the basis of a most enjoyable tour. The golf courses were every bit as iconic as we had hoped they would be and to have the opportunity to play them was a unique experience. To witness the famous holes that we have heard about over the years, such as the “Postage stamp” at Royal Troon, the final hole at Carnoustie where John Vanderveldt had his famous ‘brain snap’ in the burn that fronts the final hole and tragically the collapse that Adam Scott experienced over the last 4 holes this year just brings a new meaning to the pressure the golfers must be under.
This year’s Open course, Royal Lytham & St Anne’s, was an absolute picture and the lasting memory that I take away from seeing the course is of the bunkers. To hear that the course has 204 bunkers on it, seems a little like “so what” until you see them. They are beautifully presented and form a real challenge for golfers. The riveted faces of the bunkers were so uniform, deep and immaculate in their presentation. Importantly, they were so penal in their effectiveness, so that if you got into a green-side bunker you were never certain of having a direct shot to the green let alone getting it close, while getting into any of the fairway bunkers nearly always necessitated a sideways escape. I was mesmerised by the presentation and grateful that I didn’t have to play the course every week! Tiger Woods complained about the rough being unfair and Phil Michelson was heard to say on TV that he had missed the fairway by 1 yard but had to take an unplayable lie! However, the rough at “Royal Lytham” was good compared to what we witnessed at Muirfield, the site of the 2013 Open Championship. The complaints that will come from the players at that time will be loud and justified. It is a magnificent golf course and a genuine test of golf and was probably my pick of the toughest layout on the roster.
That said, to witness and play Turnberry and to stay at the hotel was a special experience and it is easy to understand why it is regularly voted as the Best course in Scotland. Royal Birkdale and Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) were wonderful examples of links golf courses and the height of the rough was a special feature of each of them. The special feeling that everyone spoke about after playing St Andrews is something I won’t forget and to have seen Gary Player play the 18th hole as we watched with a glass of wine in hand, just made it more memorable. The obvious question that you ask yourself is which course did we like the best? They were all magnificent tests of golf, and we were playing off the very friendly tees! To see where the Championship tees are located on many of the holes (which may have been 100 to 150 yards further back) and to try to imagine playing off those tees was beyond my desire or comprehension. Clearly the player that wins the Open on any one of the courses is going to be playing excellent golf as the courses can quickly eat up the errant shot (and we had plenty of them!) and the pot bunkers are so much more difficult than the bunkers that the Americans play week in week out. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 weeks we were away and can now tick off a few of my “Bucket list” items.