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After a humdinger of a tournament at St Andrews in 2010, golf’s most famous trophy  heads south to Kent’s Royal St George’s in July. With a record number of Brits in golf’s top 10, we round up why this year’s will be the one to watch

14-17 July
Royal St George’s, Kent 
The best sport for entertaining outdoors

open - Oosthuizen.jpgLast year’s British Open was one of the best ever. Favourable conditions on the morning of the first day made one of the world’s trickiest courses play like a pitch-and-putt. The hugely talented 20-year-old Rory McCIlroy was set for a record round through 13 holes, with the sport’s reformed bad boy John Daly not far behind. ‘The Old Lady [the St Andrews course] didn’t have her clothes on,’ said five-time Open champion Tom Watson. ‘She was there for the taking and the scores reflected that.’
You can bet your bottom dollar the 2011 tournament will be as entertaining. As The Open is the only one of the four Majors to take place outside the US, competition is always fierce among the Europeans. The fact that the tournament also has the healthiest prize fund on the Major tour adds an extra element of pressure into the mix.
In the region of 250,000 spectators will descend on Sandwich over the four days, with most hoping for a home winner. They could well be in luck: five of the world’s top 10 golfers are now British, with Lee Westwood leading the way at number two, followed by Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell in fourth.
The American contingent, trying to make up for their Ryder Cup defeat last year, will come out with all guns blazing. Though, with Tiger Woods’ star starting to fade and Phil Mickelson well past his best, there’s never been a better chance for a Brit to hold aloft the Claret Jug.

This year, the glare of the golfing world fixes on Sandwich, a coastal corner of Kent, between 14 and 17 July. The patriotically named Royal St George’s is an English retort to Scotland’s St Andrews. The course is one of the trickiest in the world; only three of the 13 Opens played there have been won with an under-par score.
The course has plenty of intriguing features. It is one of the longest on the circuit and is prone to the blustery conditions that characterise links golf. The fourth hole boasts the UK’s deepest bunker, while a stream dissects the fairway of the 14th ‘Suez Canal’ hole to collect the errant balls of greedy drivers.
The undulations of the fairways and dunes create ideal vantage points from which to kick back and enjoy the action, while the loose figure-of-eight layout means spectators can watch several groups tackle different parts of the course
from a single spot.

It goes without saying that due to its proximity to London and the golf-loving commuter belt, hospitality at the Kent course will be more popular than ever. It’s easily reached from the capital – less than two hours from St Pancras to Sandwich – meaning more City-based companies will be inclined to entertain on a day basis, without having to provide hotel accommodation for guests.
That said, groups coming from further afield can pick up some great deals at London hotels. Official hospitality provider Sodexo Prestige (tel: 0844 3710 883, squaremeal.co.uk/prestige-open) has teamed up with Hilton, offering a range of hotels across town. The best-value night’s stay, including a day’s hospitality at Sandwich, is at the Hilton London Bridge, priced at £681.30.
The venue’s accessibility from the continent by train should not be overlooked. European golf fans are sure to be flocking through the Channel Tunnel for the tournament. 
Golf will always make a sound hospitality ticket because of its association with business and popularity in corporate circles. It’s an early start to the day (6am if you’re there for the first tee-off), which means it can provide nearly 12 hours’ face-time with guests. Whether you’re following a group, or flitting between players, you’ll be walking the course in the open air – a refreshing alternative to sitting in a box at other events – which works better in a small group.
If you don’t fancy a full day braving the elements, it’s just as fun to watch the play from the sanctity of the hospitality suite. Kitted out with TVs and all-day table service, you won’t miss a shot. It also acts as a great base, offering flexible meal times and an all-day bar.

golf ball - golf_ball.jpgPICKING A PACKAGE

The Open Guest makes the ideal base for spectators looking for live action. A breakfast of bacon rolls is available from the start of play, followed by lunch at a convenient time and a full afternoon tea. Locally sourced, high-end ingredients come as standard, with drinks available all day. We’d recommend the package for smaller groups of serious golf fans. Work out the players you’d like to watch in advance and plot your day around them. The facility won’t be far from the action, making it the ideal meeting point to regroup and eat, before hitting the course again. Packages start at £385+VAT per person.

The Open Club House package is the premier offering in the hospitality village, designed as an intimate club-style facility with informal areas for eating and relaxing. Alongside a top-end à la carte lunch, a tapas-style selection of food is available all day, as are good wines and a fully stocked bar. The package works best for fans who are there primarily for the golf, but also want to enjoy a relaxed lunch and soak up the atmosphere. Prices start at £475+VAT per person.

Large groups should opt for the top-end Royal St George’s package, which gives exclusive access to a hospitality chalet near the clubhouse, with a superb vantage point overlooking the second tee. Private service is available all day, along with an à la carte menu, fine wines and Champagne. It also comes with afternoon tea, reserved grandstand passes on the 18th green and access to a business centre. Chalets hold a minimum of 50 guests and have to be purchased for a minimum of two days. Prices start at £29,000 per day. 

To book any of these hospitality options, or to have a bespoke package created, contact Sodexo Prestige on 0844 3710 883, squaremeal.co.uk/prestige-open

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, spring 2011

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