An ordinary golfer plays England's formidable Royals and St. Andrews' Old Course
By David G. Molyneaux, editor, The Travel Mavens
My quest was to play three of England's Royal golf courses, as designated through the centuries by kings and queens. My list included Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Birkdale, site of the 2008 British Open championship.
I would finish with a visit to golf's ancient roots at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
As an amateur golfer who sometimes labors to break 100, I felt blessed to walk the fairways of some of the world's best courses, which are open to travelers at a time when many of the top tournament championship courses in the United States are difficult, if not impossible, to get to play. Because of their exclusivity in the U.S., a regular Joe can't even have lunch in the clubhouse.
Hungry for American tourism dollars, England's old bastions of golf clubiness are setting out the welcome mat to men and women travelers. Of course, English pounds come at a high price these days, as the exchange rate pushes golf fees at some courses to over $250, but other championship venues, while not Royal, are available for as little as $70.
You don't just show up here; you arrange a tee time through a tour operator or through a special Web site, England's Golf Coast. I can attest that the system works.
Trespassing on hallowed ground
Anxious at my first Royal, I was braced to feel that I didn't belong. But my fears were ungrounded. Perhaps Britain's stiff upper-lippers have gone to charm school, because I was welcomed warmly by staff and members at all three Royals.
Each club, all within an hour's drive of the city of Liverpool, had my tee time noted, my rental clubs ready when I arrived. At two courses I used a coupon, included in the golf fee (more than $200 each), for a light lunch in the clubhouse.
I sat with a bowl of vegetable soup at a window overlooking the 18th greens at Liverpool and Lytham, anticipating the rounds to come and imagining past championship crowds and famous finishes.
For more on playing in the rain at Royal Liverpool
For more on the bunkers of Royal Lytham & St. Annes
For more on the 2008 British Open course of Royal Birkdale
For more on the Old Course and others in St. Andrews
What's a links course?