Is the Open a good day out for all the family?
“Daddy, I need a wee,” says my seven-year-old, Fred, suddenly grabbing his crotch and dancing on the spot.
“How desperate are you?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
We are near the front of a long queue to get in the stand behind the par-3 7th green and I know the likes of Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson will be arriving here in the next half hour.
It has taken my wife, aforementioned son Fred and four-year-old daughter Alice more than an hour to make our way through the huge Saturday crowds to the far end of the course.
Earlier in the week, I had conducted some reconnaissance and established this stand was one of the furthest away from the entrance gates and therefore as good a spot as we were likely to find to watch half a dozen groups go through.
It turns out we weren’t the only ones with this idea, but still.
Sighing and succumbing to the inevitable, we split, Ryder Cup style, into two pods. Fred and I go in search of a toilet while mum and Alice remain in the queue.
It takes us five minutes to cross over to the 8th, another five to reach the toilets, and 10 more to get back where we started.
Happily, we are now at the front of the queue and take our positions in the stand.
We had taken the precaution of having something to eat in the queue, and we have some drinks in a rucksack.
Once I explain where the tee is – and what the idea of the game is, for that matter – we enjoy what I realise at the time is a blissful hour. Everyone is to some extent engaged with what’s in front of us, the highlight of which is a tap-in birdie for the world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
All basic needs have been met, until Alice declares her tummy is too hot while Fred wants an ice-cream.
We enjoy the stroll back across the links in no particular rush.
There is none of the stress of trying to shush Alice from shouting ‘BEEEEF’ like everyone else – but before rather than after he hits his putts.
It’s a good thing, as any parents of small children know, to be able to move around and there’s no shortage of space once you are out on the links.
Back at the spectator village is a side of the Open I very rarely engage with in my journalistic capacity.
There’s some crazy golf and an entire tent’s-worth of fun for kids laid on by HSBC.
We don’t have to queue too long to be relieved of much cash at the various refreshment outlets – and let’s face it, these prices are a fact of life at all sporting events, festivals and concerts.
It turns out the real highlight of the day for the kids comes in a visit to the shop. The R&A have really raised their game since the last time I looked in, with pretty much anything you can imagine emblazoned with a Claret Jug logo.
Again, it’s overpriced, as you would expect, but equally it’s nice for the kids to come away with a souvenir of their day. I like to think, fancifully I know, they will show them to their own kids in a generation’s time.
We decide not to push our luck and leave ahead of the crowds – the fact that kids’ entry is free makes this a much more palatable decision.
I didn’t think I would convert any of my sadly non-golfing wife or children into Open devotees in the space of a day and I probably haven’t. But I hope they will look back on their trip to Birkdale with fondness.
And who knows, it might just become an annual tradition. I certainly hope so.
On the way home, a little voice speaks up from the back: “Can we play golf tomorrow, daddy?”
NCG at the Open
For more from Royal Birkdale, check out our dedicated Open site.