Thousands of golfers applied but only 98 Golden Tickets were handed out for a special day with Clubhouse Golf and Callaway held at the end of May.
The exclusive event, hosted in glorious sunshine at Marriott Worsley Park near Manchester, was a festival of golf, an interactive experience featuring DP World Tour stars like David Howell and Marcus Armitage, the chance to hit the entire Callaway Golf range of drivers, irons, putters, wedges and balls, one-on-one tips from Callaway teaching pros, fun challenges, plus the chance to win prizes.
Golfers of every ability level, who came from all over the country, hit 4,500 Callaway Chrome Soft balls during the day, tried over 1,000 clubs, used 4,000 tees and won £10,000 worth of on-the-spot prizes.
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Clubhouse Golf Marketing Director Alex Whitfield told us: “For us, it was all about getting our top 100 customers, including one from Inverness, to experience a golf day like no other. It’s as simple as that. We’ve already had a lot of positive feedback including from one golfer who told me he’s been playing for over 30 years and this was the best golf day he’s ever been to. That’s what it’s all about.
“We’ve had all bases covered from driving, long game, short game, putting, and a nice intimate Q&A session with a Tour pro back in the hotel. You don’t get that every day and it just adds to the experience, as does the fun competitions with over £10,000 worth of prizes being given away.
“To have Callaway partner with us has been phenomenal and you can see why – from their team, their Tour players and the whole set-up – they’ve gone from strength to strength. Also, Worsley Park has proved the perfect venue – they’ve let us have their course for the day and it’s not often that happens. It’s been phenomenal and a fitting finale, overlooked by the customers seated in a grandstand, was the icing on the cake.
“We’re already looking ahead to doing the next one next year – we want to make it a regular event.”
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Callaway’s Commercial Director Greg Pearse added: “It’s been brilliant. A huge amount of planning went into an event like this – we had the original conversations five or six months ago – and I think the golfers who took part have had the best day and special thanks to the golfers, the Tour pros, and coaches who’ve been first-class and have genuinely said to me that they’ve had a good time… and that’s special.
“After all, for most of the pros’ interaction with the general public is either at the tournament – where obviously that is their job and they have to focus – or the odd corporate day where they’re generally playing a round. This format allows that intimacy that most people won’t get with a golf pro at that level.
“It’s been designed to provide the complete golfing experience and the great thing is that the 90-odd people who came along will go away and tell their friends about it. Now we’ll sit down with Clubhouse Golf and say ‘right, how do we make this even better?’”
INSIDE THE DRIVING ZONE
Callaway wanted to showcase the performance of the new Rogue ST range of drivers, so the fitting team – each with a Trackman launch monitor – was busy all day swopping shafts and tweaking heads in order to gain distance for every Golden Ticket golfer.
Preston-based Andy Lang saw one of the day’s biggest increases with a driver (own club original 10° Big Bertha), picking up 46 yards with a new Callaway Rogue ST Max driver. He said: “To be honest, I wasn’t going to come. People at my club reckoned it would be just a glorified fitting day so I’ve been blown away by the organisation, the course and the people I’ve met. Everything has worked perfectly and there’s been a great atmosphere and camaraderie with plenty of banter.
“There have been quite a few takeaways I’ve learnt because there’s been so much in the day to let me go away and think about. I’ve only been a member of a golf club for 12 months and this is a whole new world for me. Now I’m looking forward to giving my new driver a hit at 8.30 tomorrow morning and hopefully, it will help me get my 29.6 handicap down.”
Plucky Ryan Laird, from Fleetwood, pitched up a week after undergoing wrist surgery. Despite being handicapped with one arm in a cast he added 18 yards to his own driver distance – one-handed – and he said: “There wasn’t a chance of me missing this. I’d have been stupid not to have turned up because it provides a great experience… and missing out on a cracking goodie bag! I’ve just started playing so I need all the help I can get and the club fitting experience definitely appealed to me as I need a new set of clubs.”
INSIDE THE IRONS ZONE
Dave Porthouse, Worsley GC captain, beat David Howell in nearest the pin comp from 150 yards. “It’s been fantastic, the pros were really good and very helpful and I think people will take a lot away from it. It was great to beat a Ryder Cup star but I should probably point out that, on a competition day here, my drive is usually around this spot so I’m used to hitting it in from here.”
INSIDE THE SHORT GAME ZONE
Much of the day was about numbers – carry distance, spin rates etc – but when it came to the short game and bunker zone, it was all about feel.
It was interesting that all the tour pros did the same bunker drill – drawing a line in the sand a clubhead’s length behind the ball and ensuring the club didn’t enter the sand behind that line.
David Howell said that 90% of amateurs enter the sand too far behind the ball and that causes all sorts of problems; quite often the club is actually on the way out of the sand by the time they hit the ball, so they then think they’ve thinned it and take even more sand next time, which makes it even worse.
Another thing the players emphasised was how they strive to keep everything as simple and easy as possible. Even though they’ve obviously got quality short games, they’re still giving themselves the biggest margin for error and minimising how bad the bad shot could be – hitting a 9-iron bump & run instead of using a lob wedge, for instance.
Howell shared a nice Seve tip for chipping: “If you can, pick a landing spot that’s in the middle of a slight depression on the green. That way, if you land it a bit shorter than intended, you’ll catch the downslope of that depression so it’ll run out more and still reach the hole. If you carry it a bit further than intended, it’ll catch the upslope of the depression, which will take a bit off it and mean it still goes the distance you wanted.”
INSIDE THE PUTTING ZONE
Putting is, in many ways, the dark art when it comes to golf, and unravelling many of its mysteries was the theme of the day at the Odyssey zone.
Two-time Ladies European Tour winner Sam Head anchored the instruction while she was also joined by Chris Paisley, Zane Scotland, Chris Wood and Marcus Armitage to help the Clubhouse Golf golden ticket winners.
Sam’s short drill ideas opened plenty of eyes while she hosted Q&As with players.
Wood, who played in the 2016 Ryder Cup, gave a fascinating six-minute explanation of his whole putting philosophy, which he has been working on with renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon for the last 12 years.
Armitage also gave a brilliant insight into how he prepares for tournaments by placing markers at 20, 30 and 40 feet to help get a feel for the speed of greens.
Feel was a major theme throughout the day and many of the pros talked up the drill of closing your eyes while putting to help in that department.
Armitage also highlighted an extraordinary moment in 2018 when Tommy Fleetwood had a 12-foot putt to become the first player to shoot 62 at the US Open. The Lancashire player would finish second at Shinnecock Hills by one shot to Brooks Koepka but not before he just missed his birdie attempt on 18 while keeping his eyes shut.
All 98 Clubhouse Golf golden ticket winners took part in a competition to see how many 20-foot putts they could hold in one minute.
Nobody managed more than three and even the pros struggled to reach that target although Wood just about managed it after a slow start.
With four players reaching three there was a tiebreaker at the end of the day and Bolton Old Links member Neil Williams came out on top and what a stunning prize he received – a special edition Odyssey Toulon putter.
There were also Odyssey Special Edition headcovers handed out throughout the day to other minor prize-winners.
MEETING THE PLAYERS
“This is what I love about this game,” said Ryder Cup star Dave Howell in between tips. “It was brilliant. Fast and furious and lots of fun and especially a nice day for the guests – very different to just a round of golf and a bit of lunch, or breakfast, somewhere.”
‘Howeller’ was among a host of Callaway’s DP World Tour players who attended the Golden Ticket event at Worsley Park, along with Marcus Armitage, Chris Wood, Callum Shinkwin, Zane Scotland and Chris Paisley.
Golden Ticket winners had incredible access to each player, who spent the day offering one-on-one tips, taking questions, giving clinics and wowing with their shot-making.
“I practise short game all the time; there are so many different shots you can play! It really is my favourite part to practise,” said Armitage as he flopped a Chrome Soft to a couple of feet in the short game zone.
Player-turned-coach Scotland offered tips on improving: “I think the best advice that I’ve ever had and would ever give to anybody, go and find players who are better than you and play golf with them,” he said. “You’ll soon work out how to compete. Standing there the first day, you won’t be as good. You’ll watch them. And after a while, you’ll work out a way how to compete with that golfer. Be a golfer, not necessarily a golf swing artist. There are so many people now great at posting golf swings on the range, but this other kid who’s got this funky golf swing, he’s going to own you every single time, because he’s on the golf course.”
Shinkwin answered questions about the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Tour, saying “I won’t join it; careers are measured by majors and Tour wins, so that’s where you want to be.”
Howell talked about playing with Tiger Woods in his prime. “I had hit the green with my 3-iron on the par 5 and, as Tiger had hit his 3-wood right next to my drive, I thought now was the time to take it all in and watch the man in action. Was this a mistake? Absolutely. He hit a 5-iron that came off the club like a nine iron, landing 220 yards on the rock-hard green like a piece of putty, stopping 10 feet from the front hole location. To this day it was one of the most impressive golf shots I have ever witnessed.”
WINNERS FROM THE DAY
Most Yards Gained won a Custom Callaway Rogue ST Driver
Winner: Andy Lang (Team Burns)
Longest Drive of the day won a Callaway Rogue ST Driver
Winner: Cirdec Atkinson (Team Burns)
Most putts made in the 1-minute challenge won a Special Edition Odyssey Toulon Putter
Winner: Neil Williams (Team Schauffele)
Pete Barber’s “Student of the Day” won a one-hour lesson with Pete
Winner: Alwyn Griffiths (Team Burns)
Rob Lee’s best question won a pair of Cuater Golf Shoes and Callaway Shamrock Truvis balls
Winner: Graham Davie (Team Willett)
BEAT THE PRO ZONE
Nearest the pin winner at the Beat the Pro Zone won the Callaway US PGA Major Staff Bag
Winner: Daniel Rothel (Team Schauffele)
FINALE BMW 200 yds
Player who hit the gong won the full bag of Callaway Clubs + Team Tickets To DP Tour
Winner: Jonah Hine (Team Rahm)
WHAT THE GOLDEN TICKET WINNERS SAID
Alistair Evans: “As events go this was absolutely fantastic! The equipment on offer to test was incredible and the personable interaction from the pros who were more than happy to pass on knowledge and stories was immersive.
“The staff on hand from both Callaway and Clubhouse couldn’t do enough to make you feel welcome and looked after throughout the day, even the sun came out (in Manchester) to ensure the day was an experience to remember.
” It was a five-star experience from start to finish and the complimentary goodie bag to finish the day was an amazing bonus.”
Andy Lang: “I’m still on a high after having one of my best golf experiences ever! It was such a great event, and I loved the professional golfers’ involvement in all the practical activities, like putting, driving, and short game. I was very doubtful about the Q & A, session but was blown away by both the double act of Rob Lee and David Howell. I know that my comments were echoed by everyone in our group (Burns).”
Andrew Rowbottom: “It was a fantastic day, full of tips from great professionals, brilliantly organised & a day I won’t forget. Clubhouse Golf & Callaway made the whole day a treat.“
James Garrod: “From the unfiltered access to DP Tour Pros to every need being catered for, I cannot praise the Clubhouse Team enough… A once-in-a-lifetime experience.“
Jonathan Clegg: “It was an incredible experience which I will never forget. I met some great people including current and ex-tour players, won some top prizes, and came away with loads of tips to work on in my own game. All in all a top day.“
Thomas Joseph Kharchi: “I was like a lid in a candy shop! It is probably up there as one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. I have been fortunate enough to do things with the NFL and BBC but this was above everything I’ve done before. A whole day surrounded by professionals, clubs, engaging sessions, and unbelievable hospitality.”