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GET YOURSELF TO A GOLF MAJOR. IT ONLY TAKES A FEW MOUSE CLICKS.
 
(2011 - Spring Issue)

Writer: Brian Hoyle



First was a July fortnight in bonny Scotland to attend The Open at golf’s heart, St. Andrews. That was followed a few weeks later by a stay near bucolic Kohler, Wisconsin, for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Both were keepers in my lifetime memory bank. But that’s another story.

This article is about how the Internet took me to see golf’s finest do their thing. As a freelance writer, the Internet is my everyday bread and butter. However, golf trip cyber-planning was new to me and the prospect was especially daunting when it came to Scotland, a place totally foreign to me.

Here’s what I learned: trust in the Internet, don’t be a slave to an agenda, be open to the advice and kindness of fellow travellers (especially when using a pay washroom in an Edinburgh bus station . . . more on that later), and golf majors are just mouse clicks away.

Get in Quickly 

The first order of business in attending a golf major is getting a ticket. That’s not particularly hard, as tournaments have pretty slick and ease-to-use websites. The key is to know when tickets go on sale and get in quickly. A year in advance is advisable, as the available tickets are sold within two to three weeks. I purchased week passes, only about $250 each, which entitled me to view all the practice sessions and the four rounds of both tournaments.

Once the ticket is secure, travel needs to be booked. All the major airlines have great websites, which make it seductively easy to book a trip and plunk down your cash. And, sites like Expedia and Travelocity can unearth a bargain fare.

Then comes what proves to be the major Internet sleuthing exercise . . . finding a place to stay. If a major is held near a big centre, accommodation can be found fairly easily and inexpensively. A major near a big city is no problem, with lots of hotels to choose from. Websites like Expedia provide hotel ratings from past guests, which, in my experience, are accurate.

For a smaller venue, things get more challenging. Rooms near the course go quickly and are not cheap (an eye-popping $300 nightly for a local two-star hotel, stratospheric for more luxurious digs). Securing a room a year in advance is really wise.

Finding a room in rural Wisconsin took about five hours of cyber-sleuthing, starting at the course and moving increasingly farther afield. The time spent netted me a decent hotel room for $100 per night in a town about a 40-minute highway drive from the course. That was still a year in advance. Waiting to book produced a two-hour drive each way to the course for some fellow fans I met.

In St. Andrews, the Net search yielded a gem of a residence room when I abandoned the search for a hotel or B&B and focused on the local university. For about $70 a day, I had a huge residence room with a stunning view of the North Sea, including breakfast and dinner. As a big bonus, I was only a five-minute stroll from the course. Even booking 50 weeks in advance, I just made it in before the place sold out.

A dorm room may not be for those whose needs include a TV or a coffee maker. However, the bed is usually reasonably comfy (I even had a down-filled duvet!) and a week of TV-free silence in the evening led to plenty of murder-and-mayhem novel-reading. And . . . Scottish bonus . . . it gave me a chance to start off the day with cafeteria delicacies like haggis (two thumbs up . . . really) and blood pudding (ahem . . . memorable).

A Few More Pointers

Transportation depends on where you are. In rural localities, car rental is the way to go and need not gag the pocketbook. Shop around on travel sites, which provide a comparison of competitive rates. Public transit is preferred, especially in majors where tens of thousands of folks descend on the grounds. The rail system in Scotland (scotrail.co.uk) is superb and inexpensive (the 300-kilometre round-trip between Edinburgh and St. Andrews was about $35), and Web booking is painless. The corridor between Edinburgh and the Glasgow Airport, where I flew in, is amply served by light rail and bus service and cost about $20 return.

Ah yes, the Edinburgh bus station. Bladder bursting, I discovered payment was required to enter the washroom and I had not a clue about the coinage. Seeing my cross-legged plight, a local gestured to me to show him my change. He picked out the correct coinage, gave me a wink and walked on. There are angels and one hangs out in the Edinburgh bus depot.

Throw yourself open to the goodwill of others. You won’t be disappointed.

Your cyber-generated itinerary can be as detailed as you want. Once I had my accommodation and my routes set, I let the day-to-day happenings take care of themselves. That forced exploration and the opportunity for discovery, which would have been missed otherwise. In seeking a quality Internet connection in St. Andrews, for example, I was treated to the sight of Arnold Palmer emerging from a restroom of an upscale hotel with a relieved smile on his face, still hitching up his pants. Now how many folks can claim that experience?

With that image in mind, let your Internet golf search begin. Enjoy.

Travel Planner

For more information on upcoming golf championships in 2011, visit:

The British Open Golf Championship: britishopengolf.co.uk

PGA Championship: pga.com/pgachampionship/2011

 
 
 
 
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