From left to right, Wayne McCarty, Jim Boltz, Dennis Channing and Craig Southey pose in front of the clubhouse at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, home of the 2017 British Open. (Submitted photo)

Road trip: Golfers visit British Isle’s historic courses

EVERETT — The story begins with four good friends and a really good idea. And the idea was one many golf lovers consider at some point in their lives.

That is, traveling to the British Isles, the birthplace of golf, for a dream vacation.

So it happened for Jim Boltz of Woodway, Dennis Channing of Everett, Wayne McCarty of Leavenworth and Craig Southey of Arlington, all friends from Everett Golf and Country Club. Someone suggested the trip, the others bought in, and before long the four of them were planning an 11-day excursion with spouses and partners to England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the island of Guernsey.

All that was pretty special by itself, but there was also a unique wrinkle. Instead of going from place to place by cars, buses, trains and planes, their mode of travel would be a boat. Specifically, a cruise ship operated by PerryGolf, a company out of Wilmington, North Carolina, that organizes golf cruises around the world.

Put it all together and it was, the four men agreed, a truly remarkable experience.

“The whole trip was memorable,” said Boltz, who was joined by his wife, Jeanette. With the chance to play “on some beautiful, wonderful golf courses … it was a lifetime trip for me.”

“It was a wonderful trip,” said Channing, who was accompanied by partner Vicki McConnell.

The four couples arrived in Dublin, Ireland, on July 11 and spent the next 11 days cruising through the British Isles with daily stops for sightseeing, shopping and, of course, golf. Their itinerary included golf rounds at five historic courses, and for a bonus they spent a memorable day at Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, Scotland, for the final round of the 2016 British Open, won by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

“Anybody who watched the Open on TV, there was a black ship sitting (offshore),” Boltz said. “They showed it all the time, and that was our ship. They shuttled us in with boats.”

But as much fun as that day was, it was even more fun to play great golf courses. Over the 11 days, the foursome golfed at Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland; Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England; the King’s Course at Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder, Scotland; Royal Portrush Golf Club in Belfast, Northern Ireland; and the Deerpark Course at the Fota Island Resort in Cork, Ireland.

“The golf courses we were able to play were absolutely some of the best in those different countries,” said McCarty, who traveled with partner Rhonda Andal. “To be able to play those caliber of golf courses was a lot of fun. And then coupled with the cruise, it made a great combination.”

Each of the four had a favorite course. Boltz enjoyed the King’s Course at Gleneagles Hotel. Channing liked Portrush, while McCarty favored Royal Birkdale. And Southey, who was slowed by a painful back injury, gave his vote to the Deerpark Course at the Fota Island Resort, perhaps because it was the only course he was able to play all 18 holes.

Along the way there were many special moments. One example was Channing’s round at Portrush, the course played by top international golfer Rory McIlroy in his early years. On the four par 3s Channing had two birdies and two pars, “and my caddy said, ‘Mate, I’ve never seen a bloke come over here and do what you did today on the par 3s.’ … That was sort of a highlight of my trip as far as the golf goes.”

But if the days ashore were special, so were the mornings and evenings aboard ship. An 11-day cruise spent criss-crossing the scenic Irish Sea was a treat, and the accommodations and food were likewise first-rate.

As was the company. “I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it near as much if I didn’t go with friends,” Boltz said. “That was really important. We’ve all played golf together for a long time, we enjoy each other’s company, and the women get along great, too. So it was just a very good group to travel with.”

Indeed it would be hard to pick a highlight, Boltz said, “because everything was special.”

Despite his back injury, the trip “was still very memorable,” said Southey, who was joined by his wife, Connie. “The nostalgia over there is just phenomenal. And if you’re a golfer and if you understand the history of golf, and if you go to those places, you really get an appreciation for it.”

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