Golf has never been more interesting

Published 8:27 pm Sunday, July 23, 2017

SOUTHPORT, England – The Open championship is for enjoying major competition in a setting where the history overpowers you, never redundant, even if you have spent years coming across the Atlantic to observe golfers playing a different game from what you are familiar with on the PGA tour.

The setting, the landscape and the atmosphere are visually sensitive and alluring and make one appreciate the traditions and mores that took root before the beginning of the American Civil War.  The bump and run style of play in itself makes the golfing experience unique, but becoming immersed in the British culture, even for a few days, is as emotionally fulfilling as an expertly executed shot from a pot bunker.

The Open Championship is played at nine venues: five in Scotland and four in England although Turnberry, a storied venue, will not remain in the rotation with Donald Trump’s ownership of the course and his caustic political remarks turning the wrong heads.

The Scottish courses going forward are St. Andrews, Muirfield, Troon and

Carnoustie, which will host the 147th championship next summer.  The English venues, in addition to Birkdale: Lytham and St. Anne’s, Hoylake (Royal Liverpool) and Sandwich (Royal St. Georges).

With the Open being played near small towns and villages, the rates always escalate during the week of the championship.   With the able assist of a friend, Marianne Stackhouse of Century Travel, Atlanta, a lovely spot in the country at the edge of a town called Wigan, I can enjoy a cooked breakfast in the morning in the Conservatory, watch the sunset over grain fields in the evening and eavesdrop on the conversations of travelers who take a liking to Kilhey Court which was built in 1884 by a brewer, as a wedding present to his wife.  In 1984, it was opened as a hotel.

When you are not occupied at the media center at Birkdale, a very nice and pleasant respite in the summer, you can gain an exposure to another way of life: In addition to birdies and bogeys on a golf course which the players give high marks, you enjoy the exposure of scenes that reflect how the British go about their daily lives.

Riding the train to Birkdale each day is a highlight. You stop at places named Appley Bridge, Parbold, Burscough Bridge, Meols Cop, Hoscal and Gathurst. There is something about the everyday travel in the UK that is a reminder that one thing America needs is compatibility with rail. You see kids, even middle aged folk, rolling their bicycles aboard the train to their destination. Off again and then pedal away.  A middle aged man got on at one stop with a fly rod.  When he disembarked I, almost followed him, imagining that he would soon be casting into a romantic stream just a few paces away from a grain field, which is host to hungry seagulls, cranes, pigeon and dove.

Meanwhile at Birkdale, the golf course bent but didn’t buckle—allowing   birdies in spurts but neutralized by enough bogies and pars to set up an interesting scoreboard for the final round. God Save the Queen.

Loran Smith is the executive secretary of the Georgia Bulldog Club.