An expert's guide to following your football team on a golf trip
This month my golf trip agenda took me to Germany to watch my beloved Liverpool Football Club. But first…
The Pyramids and real-life dodgems in Cairo
“Come with me to Cairo and play in the Pro–Am at the new course I‘ve designed in the shadow of the Pyramids.”
Not the worst invitation.
The man making it was Tim Lobb, who as well as being one of the world‘s leading course architects is also one of the most amiable.
NewGiza is his Cairo course – in fact it is actually a Thomson, Perrett & Lobb course because Tim started work on it over a decade ago under the TPL banner before he formed Lobb & Partners in 2016 following Peter Thomson’s retirement – and we were there for the Pro–Am of the Alps Tour event it was hosting.
I met with Tim at Heathrow and he‘s an Aussie and I‘m Scottish, so of course there were beers in front of us within seconds. Such lads!
Britain’s leading golf course photographer, Kevin Murray, joined this wild party in Egypt via Hurghada, where he photographed some other courses to make his trip worthwhile.
Kevin is also passionate about golf courses and very likeable, for an Evertonian. There was a great dynamic in the group and plenty of good discussions, because between us we‘ve been just about everywhere.
As well as NewGiza, which is instantly Egypt‘s leading course, I also went to Katameya Dunes, Allegria, Mirage City and Dreamland, and I‘ll explain more about them another time.
Two of the other four are excellent, one has lots of promise and the other is acceptable.
So Cairo has some really good golf. For context I‘d place the top stuff as good as almost anything in the Middle East, most of what Belek offers and in the upper echelons of Spanish resort courses.
What Cairo has that makes it a hugely appealing trip is, obviously, tourist attractions.
So my first stop was, pathetically predictably, the Pyramids.
My takes: a truly awesome sight; don‘t bother paying to go inside one of them; do pay an ad hoc guide 200 Egyptian pounds (£9) to show you round; go at 2pm to avoid the crowds.
Other things of note to do are the Egyptian Museum (complete with the chilling Mummy Rooms), a boat ride on the Nile, and a night out in Zamalek Island. Instagrammers/browsers among you will lap up Khan El-Khalili market too.
Lots of the trip revolved around finding internet access (really expensive) for free in order to order Ubers (really cheap). Then sitting back and enjoying the Cairo driving experience.
I‘ve driven all over the world, but this was a different level altogether. Basically real–life dodgems, often a high speed.
One of the Uber trips was to get to the Pro–Am after the hotel–course transfer bus helpfully decided to stop running.
So with 40 minutes before we were all supposed to start and it being a 20-minute trip to the course, I ordered one and took some Italian pros with me.
There were so many limbs and golf clubs in the car that our woods were sticking out of the window in order to cram us all in the immaculate 1995 Hyundai that turned up.
The Pro–Am itself was great fun even if my golf was hilariously bad outside of the par 3s. We didn‘t win but Kevin hit the longest drive ever witnessed in North Africa and the pros loved the design by Tim (above), so there was something for everyone.
On the final day I hopped (40-minute flight) down to Luxor, which in my head should be an essential part of any Cairo golf trip. It might even top the Pyramids for jaw–dropping scenes.
Tip: hire a taxi at Luxor airport on arrival for the day – it‘ll cost you £40 and makes the whole thing so easy.
I‘ve set Tim the task of designing a course in the Maldives so we can reconvene there in 2020.
Munich does not disappoint
This had been a trip long in the making because of a longstanding invitation from Munich Tourism and Lindsay Gomer, a British ex-pat who runs Bavaria4Golf.
Then my football team drew Bayern in the Champions League and suddenly I decided this was the perfect time to do it.
Highlights included the match, naturally, as well as a tour of Bayern‘s museum before kick off. If you have any interest in football at all you will lap this up – it has everything from Gerd Muller‘s boots to Franz Beckenbauer recalling stories from a replica of the old boardroom.
Can‘t deny that the guided tour of Munich‘s bars wasn‘t a welcome experience too.
The courses are of a very consistent standard with a couple of really good ones and I‘m not sure even Munich itself realises how good a golf break in its city can be, never mind the outside world. Keep an eye out for my full review coming soon.
A brilliant city that exceeded what were high expectations. And Virgil van Dijk and co were acceptable too.
Just a standard day in an airport
So it‘s been a cool month but just to redress some of the hatred for my gilded lifestyle, on March 14 I spent nine-and-a-half hours in Manchester airport between Munich and another trip to the Middle East.
I felt like a citizen of nowhere as I made coffees last for 90 minutes, went on intrepid missions to find skirting sockets for my various devices, just about managed to avoid eating my own body weight in Pret–a–Manger sandwiches and generally tried not to look like I was a dubious character on a reconnaissance mission.
How do you fill 600 minutes in an airport? Some work was done, I couldn‘t have been more up to date with Twitter, emails were replied to from three months the ago and I emptied my Pocket – a brilliant app that stores articles until you’re ready to read them.
Oh and I went for a run. Obviously.
It‘s not the first time I‘ve run round an airport and I had the same issue as last time, namely where to put my bag while I exercised.
At Gatwick I left it in the hands of a friend I‘d made on the press trip we were returning from (pretty sure she thought I was joking when I made the request) but there was no such convenient companion this time.
But I‘d thought ahead. I booked the kind of airport parking where you keep your car key so when I swapped my bags – out went the jumpers for Munich and in came the shorts for Abu Dhabi – I also changed into my running stuff and trundled the five miles then.
Oh and if you’re wondering, you can shower in the on-site Radisson for £5.
The whole process filled one of the nine hours anyway.
And one positive of this day was that I was never ever going to miss that flight to Abu Dhabi; it was the earliest bag drop I‘ve ever done by some distance. It’s so tremendously boring to be early.