pack your clubs n play where the stars play
pack your clubs n play where the stars play
n The Dubai World Championship final
n Amateur playing in the Ultimate Golf Challenge at Dubai
n Island green on the 17th
Enjoy watching your golfing heroes play some of the world’s top courses? Many of the venues that host key tournaments can also be played by weekend golfers, as Peter Ellegard discovered
England's Golf Coast
n The 18th hole at Royal Lytham
80 tlm n the travel & leisure magazine
our names, with prizes given out by former Ryder Cup player David Howell. And although it cost over £500 for the day, there were plenty of people willing to pay that for the chance to emulate the stars. Thankfully I had been invited to take part.
dream Following your golfing heroes in a top tournament, whether on TV or on the course itself, and then playing the same course is a dream for most amateurs. And it is a dream which is far more achievable than you might think. Many of the courses that host key events on the European, PGA and Asian tour circuits are open for the public to play. You might need to break open the piggy bank to play some of them, but others are surprisingly affordable, given their lofty status. I have been fortunate to have played on many famous courses over the years, albeit badly for the most part. No matter how you play, though, treading in the spike marks of the game’s greats leaves you feeling exhilarated. For me, nothing beats the spine-tingling thrill of walking onto the first tee or striding across the Swilken Bridge of the Old Course at St Andrews, the home of golf, or sending an approach shot to the 18th green of the Ailsa Course at Turnberry, where a hard bounce after the perfect approach robbed Tom Watson of a fairytale victory in the 2009 Open. Some of golf’s most famous holes which have produced drama aplenty over the years are open for amateurs to play. I have contrasting memories of playing two notorious 17th holes at courses open to the public. Peter Ellegard
tried to shut out the huge spectator stand looming behind the green from my mind as I lined up my putt. I knew how it would break; the ball was in almost the identical place as Ian Poulter’s just two days earlier in his play-off match with Robert Karlsson for the 2010 Dubai World Championship title. Replaying the par-5 18th hole of Dubai’s Earth Course for the second time after they had finished all square, Poulter was left with a 30-foot birdie attempt putt. It came up agonisingly short – but he had accidentally dropped his ball onto his marker in any case, flipping it over and incurring a one-shot penalty. Karlsson rolled in his birdie and snatched the glory. The crowds had gone as I stood on the 18th, but with the stand, press centre, hospitality marquees and giant scoreboard all still in place, I could imagine just how it must have been for Poulter, putting for the 900,000 europlus (£750,000) first prize. I stroked the ball, watched it take the double break…and in it went! Eat your heart out, Poults, I thought and raised my arms to acknowledge the cheers from the non-existent spectators. Sadly, that was the only memorable moment of my round, but the day itself was amazing. I was taking part in a special “Ultimate Golf Experience” staged by the European Tour, which allowed weekend golfers like me to play Greg Norman’s superb Earth course in competition straight after the season-ending event, with the pins in the final day position, greens and fairways conditioned as they were for the pros and even playing from the same tees as the stars – all 7,675 yards! The day also included using the same lockers as the pro players, complete with personalised name badge (now adorning my office door) and a caddie bib with
At Spain’s beautiful Valderrama, scene of Europe’s victory in the 1997 Ryder Cup under captain Seve Ballesteros, I managed to avoid the lurking lake with my third shot and my birdie putt agonisingly lipped out of the hole. Whereas on the infamous par-3 17th of the Stadium Course at Florida’s TPC Sawgrass – home to the so-called “Fifth Major”, the annual Players Championship – I gave up trying to land a wedge onto the island green after sending three balls into the water.
iconic I didn’t fare much better when I played another of golf’s iconic holes, the stunning par-4 8th at California’s Pebble Beach Links. Having watched Graeme McDowell win the US Open at Pebble Beach on TV in 2010
“Treading in the spike marks of the game’s greats leaves you feeling exhilarated”
star course packages One night’s bed and breakfast accommodation with one round at Gleneagles costs from £172.50 per person with Golfbreaks.com (www.golfbreaks.com). A seven-night stay on a room-only basis at Pebble Beach Resorts in California with rounds at four courses including Pebble Beach Golf Links costs from £2,950 per person with Bond Street Golf (www.bondstreetgolf.com). The price includes a large rental car but excludes flights. Enjoy an overnight stay at Celtic Manor Resort (www.celticmanor.com) with breakfast and 18 holes of golf on Ryder Cup host course the Twenty Ten as well as sister course The Montgomerie, from £119 per person until February 15 and from £182 in March. Six nights’ accommodation with breakfast at the Mission Hills Haikou resort costs from £1,499 per person with VGolfholidays.com (www.vgolfholidays.com) and includes unlimited golf on its 10 courses on weekdays, with a £10 supplement per course at weekends. Flights are extra.
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pack your clubs n play where the stars play
where to play facts n 9th hole on the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor
UK and Ireland
n Peter Ellegard after sinking his putt on the 18th at the Earth Course
and avidly followed Tiger Woods’s record 15-stroke victory in the 2000 US Open, I finally realised my dream of playing it on a visit last year. The setting, right on the coast of the spectacular Monterey Peninsula, is to die for. The signature 8th hole hugs precipitous cliffs before demanding a heroic shot to the green across a yawning chasm with the churning blue Pacific deep below. Having already leaked my drive over a cliff, I hit a majestic third shot with my rescue club and raced after it – only to discover the fairway doglegged more than I thought as I watched my ball plummet into the ocean. Playing Pebble Beach is no drop in the ocean at $495 a round, excluding caddie or rental clubs. You can also only play if you stay at one of the Pebble Beach Resort hotels, where rooms start at almost $700 per night. But for devotees who can afford it, the cost doesn’t even come into the equation. For bragging rights with their golfing buddies back home, it is priceless. Another of my favourite courses I have played is Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, in South Carolina. Host course of the notorious “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup of 1991, it is a stunning swampland layout next to the Atlantic which will stage the US PGA Championship in August. Closer to home, Celtic Manor in Wales brings back special memories for me. I have played the Twenty Ten Course on four different visits, and was lucky enough to be a spectator on “Magic Monday” during the 2010 Ryder Cup with a grandstand view over the 18th fairway and green. Playing it twice last year with that fresh in my memory added excitement as I recalled how the pros played each hole. Conversely, I braved “Soggy Saturday” at Royal St George’s during last year’s Open and marvelled at how the stars were able to play with such finesse in sideways rain, when I was beaten into submission in perfect, calm conditions the day I had played it. We may play the same courses, but it’s a very different game.
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All nine Open Championship venues are open to the public. The rota comprises: the Old Course, St Andrew’s (www.standrews.org.uk), Royal St George’s (www.royalstgeorges.com), 2012 host Royal Lytham & St Annes (www.royallytham.org), Turnberry (www.turnberryresort.co.uk), Royal Birkdale (www.royalbirkdale.com), Muirfield (www.muirfield.org.uk), Royal Liverpool, Hoylake (www.royal-liverpool-golf.com), Carnoustie (www.carnoustiegolflinks.co.uk) and Royal Troon (www.royaltroon.co.uk). Recent Ryder Cup hosts include 2010 venue Celtic Manor (www.celtic-manor.com), 2006 host The K Club (www.kclub.ie) and multiple host The Belfry (www.thebelfry.co.uk), while Gleneagles (www.gleneagles.com) will stage the 2014 event. Wentworth (www.wentworthclub.com) hosts the European Tour’s annual flagship tournament, the BMW PGA Championship.
Celtic Manor Resort
Here are some of the world’s top tournament venues the public can play:
Europe You can play 1987 Ryder Cup venue Valderrama (www.valderrama.com) and France’s Le Golf National (www.golfnational.com), host in 2018. Finca Cortesin (www.fincacortesin.com) on the Costa del Sol stages the annual Volvo World Match Play Championship.
USA Not all US Open venues welcome the public, but notable past hosts that do include Pebble Beach (www.pebblebeach.com) and Pinehurst (www.pinehurst.com), as well as Torrey Pines (www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com) and Bethpage State Park (www.nysparks.com/golf-courses), which are public courses, along with 2015 host Chambers Bay (www.chambersbaygolf.com) near Seattle. Among US PGA Championship hosts open to all are 2012 venue Kiawah Island (www.kiawahresort.com) and 2010 host Whistling Straits (www.destinationkohler.com/golf). Most Ryder Cup venues in the US are private, but publicly-accessible hosts include Florida’s PGA National (www.pgaresort.com), Kiawah Island and West Viginia resort The Greenbrier (www.greenbrier.com). Other courses you can play include Players Championship host TPC Sawgrass (www.tpc.com/tpc-sawgrass), WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship venue Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain (www.ritzcarlton.com/dovemountain) in Arizona and the WGC-Cadillac Championship host Doral Resort (www.doralresort.com) in Florida.
Middle East/Africa/Asia The European Tour finale Dubai World Championship is played at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course (www.jumeirahgolfestates.com). South Africa’s Sun City (www.suncity.co.za) hosts the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge. China’s 10-course Mission Hills Haikou resort (www.missionhillschina.com) is the host of biannual team tournament, the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
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