x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A sandwich at Sandwich? That'll cost

The difficulty in reaching the course, and the prices once they arrived, meant The National found some unhappy spectators.

He is thousands of miles away, has not uttered so much as a tweep in ages, and the poor bloke is injured anyway. But someone had to be to blamed, so it might as well have been the world's most famous golfer.

"This is all Tiger Woods's fault," grumbled one of many grumpy spectators, having finally battled to the front of the queue for the park-and-ride bus to the British Open yesterday. Just a few miles, and 40-odd minutes of single-file traffic, left to go then.

His logic was faultless.

"It is bureaucracy gone mad," he said, laying at Woods's door the fault for the presence of ruminative, airport-style security in a farmer's field a distance away from the Royal St George's Golf Course.

The game is just too big now, thanks to him.

"I think we should all go back to 1903 when you could just walk up, pay on the gate and go in."

The trouble with that theory is, Sandwich is a long walk from anywhere.

The English must really love their sport. Either that, or they enjoy shelling out the best part of £100 (Dh593) to sit in traffic, or stand in a queue, for the majority of the day, then catch an hour or two of men whacking balls over sand dunes with sticks.

Many of those who skipped the last day of the working week and swapped the rush-hour commute for a lazy day on the course watching Rory McIlroy, Tom Watson, et al, were soon wishing they had not bothered.

This was rush hour, Sandwich-style. It is perhaps understandable that the little seaside town on England's south-east coast struggles to cope with the demands of championship week.

Because of the Open cycle, in which nine courses across the UK rotate the chance to stage the championship, the tournament comes here only once every eight years, on average.

New flyovers and roads would be underemployed for the other seven years and 361 days, and would certainly ruin the ambience in this corner of the Garden of England, as Kent is known. But some people were beyond listening to reason after a hellish journey to one of the UK's most aloof nooks.

"I don't care how nice the course is, or how good the facilities are, this place should not have the Open," one South African visitor said from the back of the bus. "It just can't cope."

One couple had set off from their home in St Albans, on the other side of London, at 6.30am. The 193-kilometre trip to the front gates had taken them six hours.

"I'll definitely be writing to the R&A about this," harrumphed another unsatisfied bus passenger, referring to Britain's golf governing body. "It is disgraceful. It is enough to make you ashamed to be British."

As is often the case with such things, the secret lies in the preparation.

"I knew we'd see some people arriving as we were leaving," Rhys Jones said from the top deck of the double-decker bus carrying him back to his car, just after 2pm.

He had left his home in Bromley, on the other side of Kent, at 5am, and it had not taken him much longer than the 90 minutes he estimated it would.

"We came straight in, there was no traffic at all," said Pete Lewis, who stayed with Jones, his friend, in Bromley rather than travelling from the other side of London.

"You could stay here till 9pm if you wanted to, but we have had a good time. If we go now [at 2pm] we'll beat the traffic and we can get home and watch the rest of the day on the TV. All we missed was Tom Watson's hole-in-one [at the par-three sixth]. We were at that green, walked away then straight away heard a massive cheer."

"I've never been to an Open before, but I would go again," Jones said. "It is what it is, and you sort of expect to pay 50 or 60 quid for a day like this.

"And I only missed being hit by Phil Mickelson's ball by about five minutes. I wish I had. I'd have loved to have got a signed glove or a ball."