Thursday, June 1, 2006

Halfway There - 50 of the world's top 100 completed!

I recently returned from a golf trip to England and the trip marked a significant milestone in my quest to play the world's top 100. The lineup included many Open Championship courses: Royal Liverpool (Hoylake), Royal St. George's (Sandwich), Lytham & St. Annes, Royal Birkdale; and two heathland courses: Walton Heath and Woodhall Spa, the last course being so good I couldn't resist going back again, having played it last year.

When I have time I will post a more detailed write-up of each new course, but in the interim, having completed 23 of the 24 courses in G.B. and Ireland (only Loch Lomond remains), I would like to reflect back on how good golf in the British Isles is. First, the great courses are accessible to golfers who appreciate the game and respect their rules; Second, the post-golf experience has been perfected, sitting in the cozy smoke rooms and bars (scenes from Royal Liverpool below) enjoying friendship and camaraderie; And last, the respect for tradition and history that exudes from golf's shrines.

And I also appreciate the overall experience in Britain with the bad hair, brown bread, roundabouts and the good humor and wit of the people. It seems a shame to me that England is banning smoking next year as this will ruin some of the experience. I appreciate the heathland, parkland and links courses alike. Picking a favorite among them is proving to be difficult since the courses and clubs all have such different personalities.

This was the most difficult of my 10 trips across the pond since the wind was up. On many of the rounds we played you couldn't wear a baseball style hat because it would blow off and when putting your bag on the ground it to would invariably be blown over. Hitting a three wood from 135 yards to the green is certainly a novelty but you don't want to do it day after day, which we did on this last trip.

My rankings of the courses we played on this trip was:

1. Royal St. George's (Sandwich)
2. Royal Liverpool (Hoylake)
3. Woodhall Spa
4. Royal Lytham & St. Annes
5. Walton Heath
6. Royal Birkdale

and overall in G.B. and Ireland:

1. Carnoustie
2. Royal Portrush
3. Royal St. George's (Sandwich)
4. Royal Liverpool (Hoylake)
5. Cruden Bay
6. Royal County Down
7. Sunningdale (old)
8. Kingsbarns
9. Ballybunion
10. Turnberry Ailsa
11. Royal Dornoch
12. St. Andrews (old)
13. Woodhall Spa
14. Lahinch
15. Ganton
16. Muirfield
17. Royal Lytham & St. Annes
18. Walton Heath
19. Wentworth (west)
20. The European Club
21. Portmarnock
22. Royal Troon
23. Royal Birkdale

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