Reporting from the BMW Championship, Graham Hill concludes Europe’s top golfers are best watched at Wentworth
With Europe having once again trounced America in the Ryder Cup, golf is firmly back on the hospitality agenda. However, with four years to wait before the bi-annual event returns to these shores for the 2010 match at Celtic Manor (the 2008 Ryder Cup will be held in Kentucky, USA, where hospitality packages will be available), what are the best alternative tournaments for entertaining clients?
The Open is an obvious thought, but with next year’s event being held at Carnoustie, east of Dundee in Scotland, clients would need to be both keen to travel and worth the significant spends involved. A much easier option is to pop down to Wentworth in Surrey, where it’s possible to see Europe’s top players at the annual BMW Championship.
Unlike the Ryder Cup and the World Match Play Tournament, which is also held at Wentworth (each September), this event has a stroke play format, with spectators spread out along the course, allowing easy viewing of the players. It sure beats craning your neck to follow fewer pairings from large galleries and it’s a particular treat as regulars to the BMW Championship include Ryder Cup heroes such as Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Jose-Maria Olazabal and this year’s tournament winner David Howells.
Keen golfers will want to arrive early to walk the whole course, but when I took clients to this year’s BMW Championship, most of us pitched up a little later and ambled the first nine holes. Doing this enabled us to see two or three pairings per hole as we strolled, stopped to watch for a bit, and then strolled on again. One of my guests was a particular fan of Ernie Els and instead just followed his hero round, relishing the chance to view his famous ‘Big Easy’ swing from close quarters.
Our hospitality tickets also got us into the very welcoming halfway house at the ninth hole, from where we caught the shuttle bus back to the Clubhouse in time for lunch. And what a spread awaited us. The carvery-come-buffet was superb, offering piles of smoked salmon and prawns to start, followed by roast beef and lamb – with all the trimmings – wonderful cheese, and a delicious sticky toffee pudding to finish, with plenty of alternatives besides.
For those who, like me, don’t fancy more than a short stroll after a big lunch, hospitality badges also allow access to the 18th green Grandstand adjacent to the main hospitality complex. To sit here and watch the last few pairings complete their rounds is a very pleasurable way to finish the day and allows guests to drift off in their own time.
The next BMW Championship will be held at Wentworth on 24-27 May 2007. Hospitality packages start at £199 per person and can be booked through European Tour Hospitality on the above number.
● If possible, travel by train (there’s a regular shuttle bus from Virginia Water station). The hospitality car park may be well placed, but who wants to be the designated driver?
● Make use of thoughtful hospitality services, such as the shuttle from the ninth hole to the clubhouse, and don’t forget to use your Grandstand pass for post-lunch viewing.
● Watch the players on the practice grounds and putting green. These facilities let you get really close up and watch lots of top players swinging at once.
● When choosing between different types of hospitality, consider the Club Caprice packages, based in the clubhouse. These are a real treat as you’re likely to bump into lots of players.
● Wear sensible footwear.