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SMITH COLUMN: The open this week

There is something alluring about the Open championship wherever it takes place each summer. This week for the playing of the 149th championship, which dates back to 1860, the Royal St. Georges Golf Club in Sandwich, England, does not get the high marks of other Open courses.  Certainly not the venerable Scottish venues.

It was, however, the first club to host the Open championship outside Scotland which came about in 1894. Gary Player says that St. Georges is, perhaps, the easiest of the Open courses to play but offers a disclaimer with regard to the wind. When the winds are quiet, the course is relatively tame, but when they rush in from the English Channel, it can be a different story.

The course drew signature praise from the esteemed golf writer, Bernard Darwin, who wrote: “The long strip of turf on the way to the seventh hole, that stretches between the sand hills and the sea, a fine spring day with the larks singing as they seem to sing nowhere else, the sun shining on the waters of Pegwell Bay and lighting up the white cliffs in the distance, this is as nearly my idea of heaven as to be attained on any earthly links.”

Dating back to 1978, I began a connection with the Open at St. Andrews and have missed only three of the championships since that time. This week brings about the fourth. (Dastardly COVID.)

It was always a highlight of the summer to take a couple of weeks exploring several of Europe’s classic destinations before finding my way to the Open.

The first trip over, I took winter clothes, but the weather patterns seemed to have changed dramatically.

There is no longer a need for thermal underwear, even when the tournament is played in Scotland. A summer sport coat and short sleeve shirts are all you need today.

I once took golf clubs, but soon learned that rental equipment was good enough to enjoy links golf.

The remarkable caddies made up for the lack of equipment familiarity.

St. Georges now allows women to join its club. For the longest time that was an issue with all the clubs which hosted the Open championship. Until recently, there were three clubs on the Open Rota — St. Georges, Troon and St. Andrews — which refused to allow women members.

The club that got the most grief about that was St. Georges, owing to a blatant sign in the car park: “No dogs, no women.”