Sit back and take a moment to think about the first thing that comes to mind about The Open Championship and the golf lore in the old country. What that is for this writer are images of the greatest players in the game’s history hitting memorable shots and creating indelible moments that will withstand the test of time. Who can forget Jean Van De Velde’s meltdown in the water? Or Constantina Rocca’s chunk and then amazing chip-in to force a playoff with John Daly. Or Tom Watson just missing out on becoming the oldest winner in the history of the event at age 59. Or. Or. Or. … So many epic moments that stand the test of time. Read on for how a Vegas golf course is tied into these thoughts. — By Brian Hurlburt.
But the next thing that comes to mind when thinking about playing golf in the Old Country is having the opportunity to be joined by a grizzled, veteran caddie who has more golf knowledge in his pinkie than most of us do in our entire body. Unfortunately, the time hasn’t come for me to experience a round at St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon or any of the other Open courses. The same is probably true for many of you reading this article.
The Las Vegas Golf Region offers the next best thing to an “old country golf experience” at Royal Links Golf Club, a resort course here in the city that glitters where holes are inspired by the courses played during The Open Championship. Royal Links is like playing golf in a museum and the caddie is your tour guide. Both forecaddies and caddies are available during a round. The only difference is a forecaddie won’t carry the bag during the round and most of the time a single forecaddie will assist a foursome where a caddie will work individually with a certain player and carry the bag.
“There really isn’t any good reason not to include a caddie with your round,” says Chuck Bombard, a PGA of America professional and Royal Links General Manager. “It’s like eating at a gourmet restaurant without a knife and fork. Simply put there is no other way to play Royal Links than without one of the club’s professional caddies. The course is 18 holes that were inspired by holes from the course rotation of The Open Championship. I call Royal Links ‘the most consistently, inconsistent course you’ll ever play’ because of the wide range of course and hole styles experienced during a round.
“While there are no water hazards or forced carries, the course has many holes where blind shots, uneven lies or mounds can cause a near disaster on every stroke. Our professional caddies provide great advice, the best steps on how to play each stroke from tee to hole out on the green. Even the putts can be extremely devilish with many hidden undulations on just about every green. Judging green speeds can be tricky, but the fact that the caddies are all professionally trained and many have been at Royal Links since it’s opening, a savings of 5-10 stokes per round is usually a minimal benefit. Maybe the best thing about a caddie at Royal Links is, at the guests request, they will walk and carry your clubs, which really gives the guest a true feeling of walking and playing one of The Open Championship courses just as the legends of the game did.”
Royal Links Caddies
Traditional Royal Links caddies have Nicknames like Cadillac and Harpoon, and more than a few have been with the course since day one. The caddies available include PGA of America pros, high-level players and former tour caddies. Each has a story of his own and can bring a unique element to a round at Royal Links.
“Our caddies will show you the best way around the golf course and save you strokes,” says Jeff Cassidy, the caddie master with tour-level experience who also still loops at Royal Links. “Ball placement is vital at Royal Links and if a golfer leaves that to guess work, they can get in trouble very quickly. The key to Royal Links is avoiding the pot bunkers, many of which are hidden from a golfer’s view on tee or approach shots. Our caddies also help read the greens saving additional strokes for guests.”
Holes at Royal Links, operated by Walters Golf and true golf aficionado Bill Walters, are replicated after holes found at St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon and others. Much like the resorts on the Strip, Walters and his team created a themed golf experience that transports players to a different time and place.
“Quite a few of our guests have played some of the original holes and courses, and they are amazed with how close our replicas are to the real thing,” says Cassidy, a 30-year veteran in the golf industry. “Another benefit to playing with a caddie is the banter that comes along with the advice. Our caddies know the history of Royal Links and the true Open Championship stories behind the holes and that’s a cool experience for a golfer to not only play a great golf course, but learn about the history of the game along the way. The caddies also share interesting stories about Las Vegas.”
Cassidy has seen a lot during his days as a Vegas caddie and caddie master. Some stories are off the record, and others are fit for print. “Cadillac and I have had groups where tens of thousands of dollars have changed hands during a round,” says Cassidy. “But that’s part of Vegas and what can happen here. If you want to know more of the story, come on out and play Royal Links.”
And take a caddie …