The 149th Open Golf Championship, Royal St George’s, Sandwich, Kent. July 2021

by Tanya Firth and Konrad Start

20th July 2021

There are four ‘Majors’ held annually in the golf world, three in the US and the British Open. This year Royal St George’s golf club at Sandwich in Kent was proud to host the British Open, the 15th time it’s been held here, and the first time since 2011.

The town of Sandwich, on the southeast coast, is one of the most complete medieval towns in England. Sandwich was one of five historic ports that formed the mediaeval Cinque Ports Confederation. Author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, lived nearby and based a scene from ‘Goldfinger’ at the Royal St. George’s . Fleming was captain elect of the Club and had lunched there just a day before he died in August 1964.

This links course, developed on sand dunes, was designed in the late 19thc by a Scottish born surgeon, Laidlaw Purves, to emulate the world famous Scottish links of St. Andrews, where the game is believed to have been played since the 15thc. The Royal St George’s first hosted the Open Golf tournament in 1894 and was the first golf course outside Scotland to do so. This year it welcomed the world’s top golfers from Sunday 11th July to Sunday 18th July 2021 for a number of practice days with the tournament itself taking place from Thursday onwards.

Even by Monday, one of the first practice days of the week, the anticipation and excitement already started building up on the bus from the Park-and-Ride station. On arrival at the Golf Club, what a surprise it was to see everything completely transformed from the last time we were there in February during the height of lockdown. It was unrecognisable! It had come alive! It was a whole new town with all the facilities and amenities you may expect from a real global scale event!

Image supplied by Tanya Firth

Not to mention the golfers! How enjoyable it was to see famous golfers such as Francesco Molinari, Phil Mickelson, Bryson De Chambeau, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy refining their strokes! You could only wish that one day your shot off the tee may fly with the same “eye-watering” speed and plop down on the green with the same precision as theirs! To be honest, it was virtually impossible to see a ball in flight, only the take off and landing with a distinctive high speed “whoosh” in-between!

Saturday, in golfing parlance ‘moving day,’ was when those in the tournament who survived the halfway cut made their moves. The weather was glorious, the course in great shape and even the walk from Sandwich train station through whimsical meadows to the entrance added to the sense of occasion.

The 149th Open, rolled over from last year, did not disappoint. The 32,000 patrons, many decked in the ubiquitous baseball hats made their way on to the course during the morning. First tee time was 8.30 am with the leaders finishing around 6.30pm- so potentially some 10 hours golf on offer to enjoy.

Image supplied by Tanya Firth

Spectators had the choice of following their favourite players, sitting in one of the many stands/tribunes on the 18 greens or simply walking around the undulating course soaking up the atmosphere, and sun.

There were plenty of food and beverage concessionaries available and rather like other major sporting events of the English Summer Season (Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta and Silverstone Grand Prix) there was a strong corporate presence too.

Congratulations to the 2021 winner Collin Morikawa. Holding the Claret Jug prize aloft on Sunday afternoon, the 24-year-old American becomes the Open’s Champion Golfer of the Year and joins an illustrious group to have won on a debut appearance.

The 150th Open Championship is scheduled to take place at St Andrews in July 2022.

Tanya and Konrad are both qualified SE England Blue Badge tourist guides. Konrad is also a qualified London Blue Badge Guide