HOYLAKE, England -- Having had the pleasure of covering eight British Opens, I've concluded there is one annual "must purchase" item from this championship.
Admittedly, it doesn't look like much, but the little blue Open Championship transistor radio is the best £9 I spend each visit. They're sold out of a small wood kiosk (below) in the tented village during competition rounds. Listeners can then tune into the Radio Open Golf station (87.7 on the FM dial) to keeping up to speed on what's going on while they're roaming the course.
The little blue radio is the equivalent of a toaster over in today's landscape of high-tech mobile devices. The tuner is finicky if you bump the manual dial off the station setting, requiring users to spend a few frustrating minutes fidgeting to replace static with golf coverage. Yet somehow that exercise makes the device all the more charming.
So too do the voices you hear through the ear buds. The main commentators are Richard Kaufman, Gordon Brand Jr., and Paul Eales, all three proper British gentleman with various golf playing backgrounds. I don't know much about them personally, but having listened to their insightful, humorous and sometimes heated exchanges each year, I've developed an affinity for them the same way baseball fans cherish their home-team announcers. Maybe it's the British inflection in their voices. Maybe it's the use of colorful euphemisms to describe shots ("That was a corker now, wasn't it"). Maybe it's the occasional misnamed player ("Justin Dufner on the fourth hole"). Whatever it is, somehow they make birdies sound more exciting and double bogeys less unseemly.
They also make a day fly by with their often cheeky commentary. One of my favorite exchanges remains from a past Open when Colin Montgomerie was in contention. Monty's rabbit ears were in full force as he scolded spectators for allegedly moving during his swing. Believing the Scotsman was taking it too far, McFarland joking noted: "I bet Monty could hear a fly fart."
In recent years, the broadcast can also be heard online via the British Open website, allowing me to have a listen the few years I haven't made the trip. Hearing them in crystal clear audio on the web is nice, but it just doesn't have the same sensation. Nope, I prefer to hear them on the little blue transistor.