The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

'Hey Champ': Justin Rose on travel, 'mind mapping,' Bruno Mars vs. the Beatles, and more

By Peter Finch

With his victory at Merion last year, Justin Rose became the first Englishman in 43 years to win the U.S. Open. He plays most of his golf in the States these days, though he maintains his membership in the European Tour as well. Which means he racks up a lot of frequent-flier
miles on British Airways, one of his sponsors.

I recently chatted with Rose as he was preparing to defend his Open title at Pinehurst. 

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Q. How many miles do you fly in a year?
I know Gary Player is very proud of his millions of air miles, but I’ve never added it up. I probably do 10 international or actual transcontinental trips a year. So, I’m guessing 50,000 or more miles. Every five days I’m moving. That’s where it really feels like you’re traveling a lot. It’s not so much the miles, it’s the repacking and all of that.

Q. Do you have a favorite destination?
Yeah, I enjoy going to South Africa. There’s so much to do there. You’ve got the wine regions, the beaches, safaris, and the golf is really good. Sydney, Australia, is another favorite. The food, golf, the beaches, the laid-back lifestyle. I really enjoy it there.

Q. If I looked in your carry-on bag, what is the thing I’d always see there?
The most important thing is a journal or notepad to do all my planning and thinking and mind-mapping. Travel is an important quiet time for me to think and strategize. It can be very difficult at home with kids. It’s hard to carve out that time.

Q. When you’re not writing in your journal, what are you doing on a flight?
Listening to music, to be honest with you. I just flew from Terminal 5 at Heathrow to New York. I didn’t watch any movies. I was listening to music on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. It was really good, with a lot of songs I recognized. Different versions of songs I know. Bruno Mars is a
favorite right now. I wouldn’t say I’m old school, like the Beatles and all that. I like and respect them all right. But I like whatever’s popular, whatever’s catchy.

Q. Do you travel with your clubs or ship them ahead?
I always travel with my clubs. I’ve never had any issues with them, though I’m always a bit nervous at the carousel waiting for them to come out. I can live without my suitcase. I can’t live without my clubs.

Q. Is jet lag ever a problem?
No. I do really, really well. With me it’s all about that first night’s sleep. I try to sleep as much as possible or limit my sleep to make my first night a "reset" to the local time. I start living [as if already at the destination] when I get on board. I do all the usual other things, too. I hydrate. I don’t eat too much red meat.

Q. How much of the time are you flying first class?
I’d say 50 percent of the time First Class, 50 percent Club World [a British Airways business class]. I actually prefer Club World. You have your own little suite, and the seat converts to a bed.

Q. Commercial vs. private flights?
For long-haul flights, it’s all commercial. But then I supplement it with private. I might fly British Airways from London into New York on a Sunday night. The commercial flights would be done for the night by the time I land. But I can hop on a private plane and be in bed in Orlando
by 2 a.m. Pinehurst is a good example of why private works so well. I can take a private jet straight into Southern Pines. That turns a five- or six-hour trip [from Florida] into one hour.

Q. Do people recognize you in airports more now that you’ve won the U.S. Open?
Yeah, absolutely. That moved the needle here, for sure. People are really proud of their U.S. Open champion. They take it seriously. I’ve won here in the States before, and people will recognize you for a week or two and then it drops away. Winning a major championship, it really resonates the whole year. People call you “Champ.” 

Q. Golf Digest’s two top-ranked golf resorts in the U.S. are Bandon Dunes and Pebble Beach. Which would you pick for your golf trip?
I haven’t actually been to Bandon. I’ve seen pictures, and it’s beautiful. I’d probably pick Pebble, because I think the weather would be better.

Q. How about our two top-ranked U.K. courses—Royal County Down or Royal Dornoch?
I haven’t played either! I get really jealous of guys who get to play all these great venues. That’s going to be my post-career hobby: playing all of those courses.

My favorites right now include the many top courses in England and Scotland: Birkdale, Muirfield, Turnberry. Some of the golf in the Hamptons (on Long Island) is so great, too. Shinnecock. National Golf Links. I’d almost prefer to play them than some of the others [in Scotland]. They’re similar in style, but you’re guaranteed better weather.

Some of my favorite golf in the world is in the Northeast of the States. They have a very links feel. Pine Valley. Merion. Great courses.

Photo: Getty Images