Day 1, The Open Rota Tour 2018
The Longest Day/ Walton Heath GC
Another big adventure underway!
Rory and I flew Melbourne- Perth- London on the new dreamliner, and the whole process was seamless. The nearly 17 hour trip from Perth direct to Heathrow was brilliant, more so because the upgrade came through, but impressive nevertheless.
We made very good time, arrived early at 4.40am, and whipped though customs and were checked into our hotel opposite Windsor Castle an hour later…
With our second breakfast of the morning literally under our belt we ventured out to explore Windsor, checking out the strip, the queue to get into the castle, the parkland, and lastly- a very nice Micro brewery where Rory enjoyed an impromptu tasting session with the owner who happened to be an avid golfer…
He waskeen to know more about where we were going.
Back near the hotel we watched the changing of the guard, something which happens at 11am each day, and should not to be missed!
Then it was off to the legendary Walton Heath Golf Club where we played The Old Course under a lovely late afternoon sun.
Walton Heath is one of a number of courses that comprise The London Heathlands courses- a cluster of golf courses comprising one of the best golf destinations on the planet
Day 2, Open Rota 2018
Windsor & Woking
Once we had caught up with work for the morning we headed off to tour Windsor Castle, and visit HRH
Unfortunately we had our dates wrong and she was in residence at Balmoral
Nevertheless we enjoyed our visit and caught the changing of the guards again from inside the castle, and brushed up on our history lessons wandering a most impressive monument to England’s past.
After lunch we summoned Mr Uber and teed up at Woking Golf Club, another of the great heathland courses of London. Woking had great appeal- play is generally in 2 balls, and consequently play is quick, and membership is low because only so many members can play each hour
We loved the course and would enjoy playing it over…
Day 3, Open Rota 2018
Royal St Georges GC
Everyone was organised and we left our hotel on time at 8.30am for the drive to Sandwich where we played one of the most decorated courses in England- Royal St Georges GC.
We had arranged a lunch in the clubrooms prior to golf, and were all looking very respectable wearing jackets and ties- almost unrecognisable from the golfers that later emerged in shorts with mandatory long socks!
The course will host it’s 15th Open Championship in 2020 and is a serious test of golf. It was a hot day, one of many over the summer, and the course was baked brown, and running. Some of us failed the test, with the bouncing ball frequently finding the deep pot bunkers.
David Pollock won the day with 35 points, including an eagle- he was a happy chappy!
Day 4, Open Rota 2018
Royal Cinque Ports GC
We woke to another perfect golfing day- blue skies, temperatures in the high 20’s and just a light zephyr to keep us on our toes.
With golf in the afternoon we all had time to wander around the village of Sandwich- it is relatively untouched by progress over the years, and retains the wonderful ‘old worlde’ feel
After lunch we played Royal Cinque Ports GC, otherwise known as Deal. Deal has hosted the Open twice, but is no longer on the Open Rota. It is a very testing track, with the last 7 holes into the wind very demanding. Despite this most of the group rated Deal better than it’s more famous neighbour (RSG). This was my 3rd outing at Deal, and I like it better each time I play it.
The day ended with a little drama as our brand new bus was taken out by an errant golf ball through the skylight while we were having drinks on the clubhouse balcony….
Winners of the 4 ball were: Malcolm Murray and Brett Marsh, and tournament leader David P stumped it on the 8th to win the NTP.
Day 5, Open Rota 2018
Sharing a boundary with Royal St Georges, Princes GC is a 27 hole complex that is famous for hosting the 1932 Open Championship. Gene Sarazen won that year and there is a plaque in an evil looking bunker on the last hole commemorating his up and down to win.
We played the Himalayas, and Shore nines.
The Himalayas was the star attraction because it has recently been renovated by Martin Ebert who has done such wonderful work on Turnberry and Portrush to prepare them for future Opens. The Himalayas was tight and tough, but pretty as a picture with a combination of marshland, long rough, and lots of bunkers. The par 3 fifth hole with sea behind was the highlight of the nine
The Shore nine has good bones and some lovely pot bunkered holes, but generally is in need of a refresh. Martin Ebert has that job, so it will be interesting to see what he achieves.
Winners on the day’s 4 ball aggregate were Andrew K, and Brett with an impressive 72 pts total. NTP went to Brett
Day 6, Open Rota 2018
Baby you can drive my car!
We departed Sandwich at 9am for the trek across the country to Liverpool, stopping twice en route, and arriving just after 4 pm. The bus is very comfortable and Rory set up ‘Happy Gilmore’ on the overhead screen.
One of the highlights of the journey was the player introductions and interviews. Periodically one of the gents in our party is asked to jump on the mike and tell us a little about his background, family, work, and golfing interests. Once they had finished their chat we had someone who knew them well take the mike and interview them. This worked well and we learned more about our fellow travellers…
Our destination was the Hard Day’s Night hotel in the heart of liverpool, and most of us headed around the corner to The Cavern after dinner to see the Beatles cover band play. It was a brilliant night’s entertainment, and some of us are a little hoarse from all the singing along…
Day 7, Open Rota 2018
Royal Birkdale- A Magical Mystery Tour
We followed up all the excitement from the previous night at the Cavern Club with a Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool and all things Beatles. I particularly liked learning how they wrote songs based on what was happening around them in Liverpool. Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, A Day in the Life- all make more sense when you see what the Beatles were experiencing when they wrote those songs
In the afternoon we drove to Royal Birkdale GC- one of our very favourite Open Rota courses.
With mild overcast conditions and a light breeze it was perfect weather for golf, and Brad T took advantage scoring 37 pts to take out the chocolates…
NTP was Malcolm in the middle, who also scored an eagle on the par 5 thirteenth hole- the very hole that Jordan Spieth dramatically strayed on.
Birkdale was magnificent today. I cannot recommend it enough!
Dinner in the clubhouse after golf was the icing on the cake- making it a top golfing experience all round
Day 8, Open Rota 2018
Today we played another of the long term Open Championship venues. Royal Liverpool GC (aka Hoylake) has seen some famous wins- not the least of which was Tiger Woods win after the death of his father.
The course is relatively flat for quite a number of holes, but is no pushover with long rough and deep pot bunkers penalising any errant shots, and sometimes good shots too!
The fairways are undulating and firm and players can get some cruel bounces, or lucky ones…
It is certainly a top test of golf, and the group attacked it with relish. The conditions were relatively benign with light winds and the lightest of showers clearing…
Remarkably Andrew K shot 39 pts to win on a count back from Geoff. That’s great golf!
Malcolm in the middle won the NTP
After golf we boarded the bus for Royal Lytham & St Annes where checked into the dormie house and had dinner in the clubhouse
Day 9, Open Rota 2018
Royal Lytham & St Annes GC
Staying in the dormie house was a great move- we became quasi members for the day, dined in the clubhouse (& brekkie), had time to walk the course, and check out all of the history in the clubhouse..
And the course was in sensational condition. The Ladies Open Championship was held here, and completed on Sunday. The stands were still up, and the Sunday pins were still in place and we were the first to play since the Open.
But with 204 bunkers on the journey, the course won the day. Brad T won the comp on countback in a 4 way tie at 33 points
Greg Russell won the NTP on the picturesque ninth hole
All agreed Lytham was a fantastic golfing experience and one of the best played.
After golf we boarded the coach for the 4 hour trek to Scotland- along the way the “this is your life” interviews continued and we learnt a little more about our fellow travellers.
Dinner & accommodation was at Wildings restaurant near Turnberry
Day 10, Open Rota 2018
Royal Troon GC
One of my favourite Open Championships in recent times is Henrik Stenson’s wonderful duel with Phil Mickelson for the 2016 Open.
The venue was of course Royal Troon GC, and the standard of the golf and the course left a lasting impression.
This is the same course that in days gone by had a sign out front declaring “no dogs or women allowed”…
Fortunately times have changed, and the club is more welcoming these days, and the course is in great shape.
With some wind coming off the sea, we had a great day to experience golf at Troon, and most found it challenging. The first few holes head straight out along the beach with wind coming off the sea, tight fairways, and lots of pot bunkers to catch the errant ball. Then the course moves inland with some marvellous holes in the dunes, and then through the trees- the most famous of course was hole no 8- the short par 3 ‘postage stamp’.
The last 6 holes head directly back to the clubhouse through some pretty flat land which is peppered with bunkers and the occasional burn. What makes this particularly difficult is the wind off the sea is now hard left to right making the task of keeping a score together all the more difficult.
Royal Troon is a championship course, after all
Boeing won the day with 36 pts with daylight second.
Greg Lynch won NTP
Day 11, The Open Rota 2018
The Open Championship began over 12 holes at Prestwick GC. The first 13 Opens were held there, and in total it has hosted 24 Opens, making it one of THE most significant Open venues historically
Twelve Travelling Golfers played a yellow ball competition over the 18 holes, with most loving the quirky nature and blind shots the course provides
Winners on the day were the team of Brad, Andrew K, Malcolm in the middle, & More of Paul
While some had a well earned rest today PW headed to Turnberry to review the new Robert The Bruce course. Louie was licensed to roam the coastline holes, but with Erik Trump and security everywhere flying times were limited.
The new course has some spectacular holes however, so it was worth the wait.
Dinner was in the Duel in the Sun restaurant at Turnberry clubhouse.
Day 12, The Open Rota 2018
Turnberry Resort- Ailsa Course
In my opinion the recently remodelled Ailsa course at Turnberry is one of the top 10 courses in the world, and today the Travelling Golfers took it on in perfect weather for golf- a little bit of wind to make things interesting, but mild and overcast.
With holes 4-11 on the wildrocky coastline Turnberry is both a brilliant and a challenging golf course, and a visual smorgasbord for the golfer.
Our crew loved it and voted it the best course played so far
Only 4 of our crew beat 30 pts, with PW best in with 36 pts, on a countback from Malcolm in the middle. NTP was won by PW as well
After golf we said farewell to Turnberry and after a couple of hours in the bus checked into our hotel in The Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
The place was buzzing!
With Fringe Festival, Comedy Festival, and the Military Tatoo there were people everywhere….
Day 13, The Open Rota 2018
We woke to rain in the old town of Edinburgh, but it didn’t worry us too much as we had a free morning to explore..
At 1pm the coach picked us up and we headed off to Nth Berwick to our accommodation. We had planned to head directly to Musselburgh Links but with steady rain many chose to take a day off- so we checked into McDonald Marine Hotel overlooking the West links at Nth Berwick and then 6 hardy souls returned to Musselburgh Links, hired the hickories, and played an ambrose event on the old links
Dating from 1672, Musselburgh Links is known in some circles as the oldest golf course in the world, and hosted The Open Championship 6 times.
Unusually the course is only 9 holes, and is located in the middle of a racetrack.
Musselburgh is also famous for defining the width of a golf hole in the early years, and for being the original home of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers- whose new home is Muirfield. So Musselburgh is a significant venue in terms of the development of golf and The Open Championship.
Our group thought the course was good, and really enjoyed the opportunity to play with hickories..
And to top off a fun outing, the members at Musselburgh invited us all in to the clubhouse afterward, and gave a gift as a momento- very nice!
Day 14, The Open Rota 2018
Nth Berwick- West Links
Nth Berwick is one of our favourite golfing destinations in the world. Located on the beach in the middle of the lovely village of Nth Berwick, the course beguiles you from the first..
It is a course you will want to play over.
There are so many classic holes- the Pit, the Redan, Eil Burn, Gate & more…
We awoke to soaking rain which continued though much of the day. It wasn’t overly heavy, but incessant enough to soak through in minutes…
But the course still won everyone over, with a number seeking to play again late afternoon.
It is one of the most fun courses anywhere to play!
The 4BBB was won by David & Boeing, and KMac took our NTP
Day 15, Open Rota Tour 2018
We checked out of McDonald Marine hotel, and drove for just a few minutes to get to Muirfield GC- home of the ‘Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’, and venue to 16 Open Championships
The course was in good shape, and we got started in mild overcast conditions perfect for golf. Muirfield is a very good test of golf, and is not tricked up as some course are. Each hole is quite testing and strategic, but reasonably playable off the appropriate tees. Play decent golf shots and pars are not a problem. However if you stray off line be prepared to be punished with long rough and deep pot bunkers taking full toll.
The terrain is not overly dramatic, and the holes are perhaps not as memorable as other top courses, nevertheless Muirfield is clearly a quality championship course
In recent years Muirfield has been in the news in relation to the recent change of policy to allow women to become members of the club. As a result of these changes Muirfield will stay part of the Open Rota and host future Open Championships.
While we were there the clubhouse was being renovated to add facilities for the ladies and a new pro shop- something they have not had before.
Sadly for us, soaking rain came in again for the closing holes of our round, but this was soon forgotten after a hot shower and 3 course lunch in the members clubhouse.
Winner on the day with an impressive 36 points was Mark Percy who also backed up with the NTP for the day.
Late in the day we arrived at the home of golf- St Andrews, and like kids in a lolly shop we all headed to the iconic 18th hole…
Day 16, Open Rota Tour 2018
Carnoustie Golf Links
On an overcast day in St Andrews we jumped aboard the coach for the quick trip to Carnoustie Golf Links- it took less than an hour.
Carnoustie has now hosted the Open Championship 8 times, and Francesco Molinari’s recent win is still fresh in the memory banks. The stands were still up so we were very aware of the challenge before us.
The rain stayed away, but the 3 club wind was a major factor, and most of us struggled more than we had on any of the other courses on this tour- no surprise really as Carnoustie (Carnastie) is regarded as the toughest of the Open venues
Two out of 16 golfers beat 28 points, with Boeing Cho winning on a count back with 33 points, from a unlucky Geoff Steer.
Winner of NTP on the 13th hole with a truly magnificent shot will not be named as I am feeling particularly humble…
There are some great links golf holes here, and some testing golf..
You haven’t played championship links golf until you play Hogan’s Alley (hole 6), and the big finish of 16, 17 & 18 in the wind!
Days 17, Open Rota Tour 2018
The Old Course at St Andrews
The last two days of the main tour were dedicated to getting all of our crew on to The Old Course at St Andrews. Through the planning process going back 18 months we had allowed for all the ballots along the way, and the possibility of having to queue on the day to grab a tee time
Of course the Old Course needs no introduction. It is known as the home of golf, and it lives up to it’s name. The village is wonderful with a combination of history, and charm, and of course everything golf. The Old Course has hosted The Open Championship 29 times, and all the keen golfers on this tour knew the town and opening and closing holes on the outskirts like old friends
We had one guaranteed tee time on Friday, and those gents relaxed and played St Andrews seventh course- The Castle course today.
But many decided to queue for a spot starting in the wee hours of the morning. It was nerve racking waiting to see how many would eventually get on to the course, but little by little everyone moved up the pecking order and got a game
Rory and I did a lot of miles taking pics & video of some very happy guys playing the iconic old course. We got pics on the Swilcan Bridge, and in front of the clubhouse, and videos of some wonderful shots, nervous drives off the first, and plenty of action. Rory remarked that we probably enjoyed the day more than anyone, seeing the raw emotion all of these guys finally playing the Old Course. Some had queued much of the night and did not get on to the course until late afternoon- so they were very very weary, but happy all the same
At dinner everyone was happy!
Day 18, Open Rota 2018
Final Day- St Andrews & Kingsbarns
Most of those who played St Andrews yesterday decided to play Kingsbarns today, and all enjoyed the day. The course was in great shape, with beautiful coastal views, and became an instant favourite for some of the punters. Paul M had a sensational day on course missing a 2 footer on the last but still scoring 44 points- the highest score of the tour
Back at St Andrews the last golfers who sought a game got through and with the pre scheduled group we had 6 golfers playing the Old Course in typical Scottish weather- cold, brisk winds, overcast with the occasional drizzle…
Roger Wilco (aka Mike) scorched around the course with 39 points for the best of the day
The big tour finale dinner saw us in a private dining room at Hotel du Vin for the presentations. Winner in a canter was Boeing Cho. His best 6 rounds averaged 34 pts on the Open Championship courses. Everyone agreed he was a most deserving and popular winner, and for most this had been ‘the trip of a lifetime’.
Again we were a happy (and slightly rowdy) bunch as we retired for the night
Day 19, Rota Post Tour 1
Castlerock- Bann course
Rising at 5.30am we boarded the bus to Glasgow airport, and flew to Derry.
There we were met by new driver Domenic, and dispatched to one of our very favourite stays- Bushmills Inn. After check in and late lunch we headed to Castlerock GC and in drizzly rain played the 9 hole Bann course- a spectacular short course routed through very large dunes. There were lots of blind shots, very tight tee shots with long marram grass at every turn. Most of the holes were quite short so position off the tee rather than length was paramount.
The green settings in the dunes are absolutely wonderful, albeit a little quirky
Louie got some action but was eventually grounded as the drizzle became rain..
On recommendation we tried out the tiny local pub- Bush House
After a very late dinner at Bushmills, we all hit the sack with a thud!
Day 20, Rota Post Tour 2
Overnight a very large truck came through Bushmills Inn taking a toll on a number of Travelling Golfers
Most staggered out for a late brekkie, but 2 missed the 9am bus altogether
Our first stop this morning was the Carrick-a-rede bridge. It is a rope bridge to a small island that was originally used by fisherman, but is now a popular tourist attraction. Our boys loved it!
Next up we headed to Portstewart GC, site of the 2017 Irish Open, as we were now getting a taste for Irish golf.
The front nine at The Strand course meanders through the biggest dunes any of us had seen on a golf course. The fairways seemed very tight, and a miss in the thick marram grass was to be avoided at all costs
Andrew won the day with 35 pts
Day 21, Rota Post Tour 3
Royal Portrush GC
We had a 2.30pm start at Royal Portrush GC, host venue to the 2019 Open Championship, and the lucky last of the Open courses we played.
In the morning the lads headed up to Bushmills distillery, then the Giant’s causeway, and Dunluce Castle before rolling up to Portrush for a bite before the battle
Royal Portrush was significantly renovated in anticipation of the 2019 Open by Martin Ebert who also made extensive changes at Turnberry.
At Portrush he grabbed some land from the sister course- The Valley, and also accessed some unused dunesland. The result is absolutely top notch- Royal Portrush now rates as one of the better Open courses, and we all can’t wait to see it televised next year.
Winner on the day was Greg Russell in great style. He also won NTP.
Dinner at the Fullerton Arms was excellent
Day 22, Rota Post Tour 4
Royal County Down
The bus departed our wonderful accommodation at Bushmills Inn at 8am for the drive south to Royal County Down, and our stay at the mighty Slieve Donard.
What a combination- one of the great hotels in the UK and a course rated no 1 in the world by Golf Digest USA.
The day was windy, and the course was playing tough- really tough- and The Travelling Golfers collectively struggled.
Andrew K won the day with 35 pts, and Nigel took home the NTP
Winner of the Irish Swing of the tour was Andrew with a consistent performance
Dinner was at Villa Vinci- a quality Italian restaurant only a few minutes from our hotel
While the lads were labouring away at RCD, I popped into Arglass GC- an intriguing local course just half an hour away. The course is set hard on a rocky coastline and is a hoot to play with 9 holes on the coast- some of which were quite outrageous. The clubhouse is reputed to be the oldest in the world- a reused castle…
Louie laboured away in the wind on the coast holes and spent time out to sea getting some nice footage for the archives
And that was that!
We had played all of the famous Open Championship courses in one fabulous trip
The 2018 Open Rota Tour was an epic journey- a trip of a lifetime for many. Lasting friendships were made, and memories that will never fade
Thanks to all for making it such a memorable trip