Camping and golf, they go together like…things that don’t really go together. Unless it’s British Open week. Since 2016 the R&A has set up and maintained an official Open Championship Camping Village.
That’s right, stroll the links-land by day and sleep under the stars at night.
This year’s compound is located at Ulster University (do they call it UU?), a 15-minute shuttle ride from Royal Portrush, and it includes roughly 2,300 pre-assembled, fully outfitted tents of varying sizes. A sell-out crowd of 6,300 hardy golf lovers will hunker down for at least part of the week, the most ever for an Open campsite. Catering facilities for food and drink, bathrooms and showers, soccer fields and chipping areas and to a feeling of communal camaraderie, at least that’s the hope.
For ticketholders aged 16 to 24, the stay is free, as it is for junior ticketholders (under 16) and their parents. Visitors who don’t fall in either category must shell out L40 a night, not bad considering some hotel rooms further away are going for 10 times that amount. For those who like their romantic vision of outdoor living to look a little less rugged, “there’s also a glamping option,” an R&A spokesman points out.
If even glamping seems short on glam, Northern Ireland, which hasn’t hosted The Open since 1951, has options: six castles, a lighthouse, cottages built into the base of a waterfall and bubble domes. If much of it looks like a set from Game of Thrones, that’s because many scenes were shot in the area.
Links golf is played closer to the ground, with 100-foot putts and low, running shots that avoid the wind and hug the earth. Why not embrace that spirit? Get back to the roots of the game with an air mattress, the ould sod and the guy snoring three tents down.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the R&A