Geoff Thomas’s British Open Tour Diary 2011 with Teed Up
Day One: Great start to the tour today with an optional game at North Berwick which is an open qualifying course. Weather was perfect with the hottest day of the year at 24 degrees!! The highlight of this links course is the 13th which requires a second shot of around 140 metres to a green lying next to a rock wall on one side and the beach on the other. Needless to say Tour Leader, Bede Hendren birdies it but has played here 3 times now! Most of the group has arrived by the time we get back to hotel so after a few drinks we head to dinner at the Grass Market. Early start tomorrow for half the group playing at Muirfield, the others are off to Kingsbarns.
Day Two: Spectacular day playing Kingsbarns Golf Links, on the coast near, St Andrews! The signature hole is the long par 5, 12th hole which snakes its way around the ocean. The greens are large but the pin positions were in nasty positions making putting tricky. Greg Bloomfield won the day with 36 points with the lady winner Bea Jeanes with 39 points using hire clubs! In the evening we had welcome drinks and canapés in the hotel bar.
Day Three: We headed to Carnoustie where a true Scottish day greeted us with some rain and wind. One of the best open courses showed us its teeth with the rain making the hit difficult. The layout is sensational with the best bunkering so far. The highlight is playing the 17th and 18th where the burn weaves its way through the holes ready to catch your ball. It seems to be everywhere. I feel sorry now for Jean Van der Velde! Despite the Scottish weather the group loved the challenge.
Day Four: It’s fair to say the Group was nervous walking towards the imposing gates of Muirfield Golf Course due to its stature in the golfing world. Anticipation was great and once inside the gates we all agreed the land the course sits on is absolutely, spectacular. The layout was great, off the fairways was difficult and off the back plates it would be a stern test. I can’t wait to see the pros play it in 2013! After golf we headed to St Andrews where we were staying at the imposing and magnificent Rusacks Hotel overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course. Seeing the course for the first time from my window was a buzz.
Day Five: Was the day we had all been dreaming of since the first time we hit a golf ball…. playing the Old Course at St Andrews. The weather was perfect with just a small breeze. We had a small gallery watching from behind and when the starter called my name the nerves hit. My caddy handed me the driver and said “big breath lad and swing away” in his strong Scottish accent. I did not do a Baker-Finch and managed to send my drive down the middle 70 yards short of the burn. From there we went on and had the most magical day. Our touring Golf Pro Mike Mosher was 6 under after 10 holes but with thoughts of course records starting to flow he collapsed on the back 9 to finish 1 under! We all met for dinner that night at Rusacks overlooking the course and relived our birdie putts, bunkers and caddy stories and of course “How did you go on the Road hole?!”
Day Six: Just when we thought we had played courses that are as good as it gets we discover a hidden gem at The Castle Course, just out of town overlooking the bay and the township. I would class it in the same style and quality as Kauri Cliffs in NZ. A fairly new course but with most holes testing your ability and greens with elephants buried under them it was unforgettable! The views are unbelievable from most tees and greens. We finished golf with a few pints in the wonderful new clubhouse before heading back to town and some shopping before dinner.
Day Seven: Was a travelling day so after a relaxing morning exploring St Andrews we travelled for 3 hours through the lush Scottish countryside to Turnberry. Our first view of the hotel was awesome. It overlooks the golf course and then the bay and was bathed in sunlight. We were greeted by the guards in kilts and there were more guys in skirts than at the Sydney Mardi Gras! Recently renovated the historic hotel is first class all the way with excellent service and food and beds to die for!
Day Eight: We took on the Ailsa course at Turnberry, home of the memorable finish in 2009 when Tom Watson nearly won only to bogey the last! While the rough was more generous and the tees closer, we still found the course tough but amazing. Clear blue skies meant even our caddies were taking photos of the ocean and even Ireland in the distance. The group all agreed it ranked up there with Carnoustie as the best course after the Old course. After a fun game of pitch and putt on the hotels par 3 course we had a fantastic dinner at a local seafood restaurant. As I headed to bed I reflected on another great day and another box on the Bucket List had been ticked!
Day Nine: Thinking it couldn’t get any better we pulled up at Royal Troon. While the first hole was a little mundane once we got into the dunes and the loop holes it quickly became obvious why it is ranked the hardest of the Open courses. Narrow fairways and long rough and gorse punished the stray hits. The conditioning was perfect though and the greens were in great condition. The “Postage stamp” 8th hole was as hard as it looked especially if you ended up in the “coffin bunker” The 17th and 18th are great finishing holes.
Day Ten: Royal Liverpool Golf Club; A friendly welcome and a sunny day greeted us. The course was in excellent condition and we finally had some wind to contend with. The course is very flat with narrow fairways and high rough so it was a tough day for most. The dogleg 1st hole was the winner for me as it had out of bounds down the left hand side which meant a high risk reward hole. Needless to say I took on the challenge and put 2 balls out of bounds…
Day Eleven: Today we travelled to Royal Birkdale Golf Course which was our last Open Course; the course is situated near the upmarket town of Southport and was a real surprise! The course was the best of the week and a real challenge, the layout was superb and most holes surrounded by natural mounds which is great! It was a real test from the first hole! That night we celebrated another birthday over copious amounts of red and white wine. .. Another great night!
Day Twelve: We check out of Liverpool and head to The Open in Sandwich, Kent. Today is a travel day with no golf, but I think we all needed a rest so nobody is bothered; the group are excited about getting down to The Open, hoping an Aussie can do well. We stop of a great town for lunch and have a pub meal which gives the golf nuts on the tour a chance to sit down and watch the golf on TV! We arrive at a small town close to Sandwich called Minister, funny little town and there is not a lot down here. Tonight we had out last official dinner and it was a massive smash hit! Eddy Gilberts was the restaurant, a gourmet fish and chip restaurant in the small coastal town of Ramsgate that ended with a standing ovation for the chef! Great night!
Day Thirteen: Saturday of The Open and the weather had finally caught us, it was filthy! Winds of up to 50 mph and rain coming in sideways!! Anyway our group of golf nuts have a ball, and as usual the atmosphere at the Majors is unreal! Some of the other guys don’t get back till 830pm! Quite a night had by all…
Day Fourteen: Sunday of The Open – the weather was a little kinder today only 30 mph winds and drizzle! The group were pumped driving out to the tournament…one of the group even had his Pink Panthers jersey on! The day ends up being a cracker with Darren Clarke winning… the atmosphere was crazy! A well liked winner I think, and everyone on this tour was really happy for him.
Day Fifteen: The end of the tour and everyone says their goodbyes and we head off on more holidays. A small group play golf at Princes Golf Club, right next door to Royal St Georges… True golf nuts I think! They haven’t had enough! So that ends my “Trip of a Lifetime”. Wow, what a tour?! It well and truly exceeded my expectations, the courses were just fantastic and the tour guides Mike and Bede were great blokes that went out of their way to make this a great trip for everyone on it!
Geoff Thomas is a retired stockbroker whose abiding love of golf has seen him travel the world playing the game. He has travelled with Teed Up Golf Tours on three international tours so far, and has plans to travel on many more.
Teed Up Golf Tours is Australia’s leading national golf tour operator and Australia’s largest operator of escorted tours to the US Masters at Augusta. They offer tours throughout Australia and overseas as well as all of the world’s top tournaments including the US Masters, British Open and US Open.