Thinking of spending a few hours in the company of the big names? Our seasoned spectator Steve Carroll hands over a few hints and tips to make the most of The Open experience
It’s one of the magical things about being a golf fan at The Open – a chance to get right up close and personal and marvel at the skills of the game’s best exponents at the greatest championship of them all.
But golf watching comes with perils attached. Huge crowds – 32,000 every day this week – can make getting a glimpse of heroes like Rory McIlroy a potentially frustrating experience.
So if you don’t want to spend your precious day at The Open perched on your tiptoes – although you’d come out with calves like Phil – follow these simple tips to get the most of out of your day with your favourite player…
Forget the lie in
It just feels so inviting. Your man’s got a mid-morning tee time, no need to hurry. Banish such thoughts. The problem with having a good idea is the likelihood many others have had the same lightbulb go off.
And the problem with somewhere like Sandwich is that it doesn’t look like it was built for people, never mind traffic. Lots of cars and a small medieval town don’t mix.
There have been some horror stories from the Park & Ride, which brings with it a several mile coach trip to the venue, and even those with a precious pass to get closer to the grounds have occasionally spent too much time stationary this week.
Don’t let the dream die before it’s even begun. You can sleep when you’re dead. Get the alarm clock on and get to the course.
Don’t be a sheep
We’re social creatures at heart. We like to be together and spectators can be sheep. Once enough of them start going in a certain direction, plenty are soon following behind. It’s fear of missing out. We’re convinced there’s a golfing pot of gold at the end of the fairway.
Invariably, it brings nothing but a wall of bodies and a wasted few minutes. Get hold of a map – they give them away for free along with a draw sheet in the spectator village – and scout your own path.
Steering clear of the madding crowd will bring rewards. Which brings us nicely on to…
Find the golf course’s secret spots
Every course has them and Royal St George’s is no exception. There’s a lovely little hollow short of the 2nd green that gives you an almost unobstructed view of the putting surface.
Rory hit his ball to almost the exact spot on the 5th fairway three days in a row and while hundreds were getting out the binoculars from the Maiden, there were a brave few who were down on the ground and had an eye level view of a spectacular approach.
But you can’t see the green, you say? That can be the trade off you make. What you can see is a tremendous ball striker put on a clinic just for you.
It also pays to get your walking boots on. Move out to the furthest point of the course – where many spectators fear to tread – and you’ll get some of the best perspectives on the entire course.
To grandstand or not?
This is a high tariff move. You’ll be in prime position once your hero approaches but, if you’re determined to see as much of their round as possible, you’re going to have to sacrifice some shots to get a good berth.
You can’t just turn up at a grandstand as the player is getting his putter out and expect to walk in. There’s a classic British queuing system in place when spots are scarce. You’ll find people are prepared to wait and 20 and 30 minutes is not unusual.
So if you’re determined to park yourself up high, get there in good time and well before the rush. There is an added benefit to grandstanding. You can catch some of the other excellent competitors as they move through and strain to move up the leaderboard.
Put the phone away
If you’re lucky, you’re going to be as close to some of the greatest players on the planet as you will ever be.
So why would you choose to enjoy this experience by peering through the six inches of plastic that’s often glued to your hand?
Stick the camera in the pocket. Forget about pressing record and enjoy the majestic swoosh of club on ball as it was intended. Live and uninterrupted.
What are your trips for getting the most out of being a spectator at The Open? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.
How would you like to be part of Open history?
The R&A has announced details of how you can get tickets for the historic 150th Open Championship at St Andrews in 2022. Click here to find out more.