Luke Willett's Challenge: All 14 Open Championship courses in 10 days... on his bike!

Luke Willett is braced for 10 days of mud, sweat and gears on his 804-mile, 252-hole marathon
Luke Willett is braced for 10 days of mud, sweat and gears on his 804-mile, 252-hole marathon

Golfers come in all shapes and sizes. Some play for fun, some play for money, some enjoy the fresh air, some play to get fit.

Then there's Luke Willett - a professional golfer who does all of that, sometimes at twice the pace, and still retains an almost childlike passion for the game he loves.

On Friday at 07:30 BST, at Carnoustie in Scotland, Willett will tee off on a 10-day journey which will transport him around Great Britain.

He will play all 14 courses to have staged golf's oldest major, the Open Championship, in its 159-year history. And he will do it all on his bike, cycling between each course with his clubs strapped to his back.

Willett will cover 804 miles and play 252 holes before he finishes in Kent at Royal St George's, Sandwich, the home of next year's Open.

He is doing do it all to help raise money for his sport at grassroots level - by embarking on this journey on behalf of the Golf Foundation, the national organisation that supports the growth of golf at a junior level.

"I'm restless, to say the very least," said the Buckinghamshire-based 35-year-old father of three. "The fire's still burning in me."

It is a fire that has burned in Willett since he first took up the game as an 11-year-old, just as Tiger Woods was about to inspirationally burst on the scene.

"There's no doubt the timing of Tiger's arrival had a big effect on me," he said. "He won his first Masters the year I started playing. But there have been other inspirations too.

"And one of my dreams, further down the road, is to do something exciting like this but get one of golf's top players involved, whether it's a Rory McIlroy or a Francesco Molinari. I'm sure they could have a lot of fun with it."

Luke's Open schedule

  • Fri 18 Oct: Carnoustie/St Andrews
  • Sat 19 Oct: Musselburgh/Muirfield
  • Sun 20 Oct: Royal Troon/Prestwick
  • Mon 21 Oct: Turnberry
  • Tues 22 Oct: Royal Portrush
  • Weds 23 Oct: Royal Lytham & St Annes
  • Thrs 24 Oct: Royal Birkdale/Royal Liverpool
  • Fri 25 Oct: On the road (Lancashire to Kent)
  • Sat 26 Oct: Royal Cinque Ports
  • Sun 27 Oct: Prince's/Royal St George's

'What can I do?'

As a Professional Golfers Association-qualified teaching professional, Willett might not have scaled the career heights of his unrelated but more famous namesake Danny, the 2016 Masters champion.

But, in shaping the swings of the next generation of golfers, first at Burhill in Surrey where he started, and now at Hampstead in north-west London where he is chiefly based as a PGA coach, Willett can have an arguably even bigger impact.

And his mantra is all about simply making the ancient game as fun and attractive as possible.

He continued: "People talk about golf declining and I just thought 'what can I do'?

What Luke does is to do it all a bit differently. There is certainly no danger of anyone ever putting the clock on him for slow play.

He regularly has a go at Speedgolf, running round an 18-hole course in 40 minutes, not the four or five hours that some rounds can take.

It did not affect his scoring too badly either. When he took part in the British Speedgolf tournament at Fingle Glen in Devon, he shot a four-over-par 74.

The weekend prior to that, at The Belfry, he did a 40-mile cycle ride, one-mile swim and 18 holes round the Ryder Cup (Brabazon) course.

And he headed to the Lake District for his 'Iron Golfer Challenge'; a three-mile swim in Wastwater, a trek to the top of England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and its steepest road, the Hardknott Pass, and 18 holes at Windermere Golf Club - all in one day.

Luke Willett (and his bag) scaled Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain, as part of a previous Iron Golfer Challenge
Luke Willett (and his bag) scaled Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain, as part of a previous Iron Golfer Challenge

This time, he will be away for nine nights - he will sleep the penultimate night in his own bed when he breaks his journey from Lancashire to Kent - with the support of Willett's clothing sponsors Bunker Mentality ensuring he will not have to worry about his washing along the way.

"I'm not a big fan of the gym," he said. "For me, it's just about being active, eating healthy food and taking good exercise whenever you can. If that's cycling to the shops and back regularly, that's great.

"I'd like to think that, by doing this, it will help to highlight the health benefits for young people and also the sense of personal adventure that the sport can bring.

"It should not be just about numbers on a scorecard. People can be too results-focused. It's not all about whether you're one or two shots better than last week. Too many weekend golfers can lose sight of the pleasure of swinging a club, striking a ball in the fresh air in beautiful surroundings.

"I just want to help other people to get as much out of golf as I do. Golf is a fantastic sport with lasting physical and mental health benefits, and we should be shouting this from the rooftops."

The Open Championship rota

  • Royal St George's, Sandwich, which will stage the 2020 Championship (16-19 July). It will host the event for the 15th time, after being the first English course to hold the Open in 1897.
  • The 150th Open Championship will be at St Andrews in 2021 (15-18 July), the 30th time the Old Course has staged it. The first was back in 1873.
  • The Open will be at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake in 2022 - the 13th time it has been held there, and third since returning to the rota after a 39-year absence in 2006.
  • After St Andrews, Prestwick, on the Ayrshire coast, has held the most Opens (24) starting with the very first in 1860. But it has not held it since 1925.
  • The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, at Muirfield, which first joined the rota in 1892, have hosted the Open 16 times - the most recent of them in 2013.
  • Royal Lytham & St Annes, on the north bank of the Ribble Estuary, Fylde last held the Open in 2012 - the most recent of its 11 hostings, which began in 1926.
  • Royal Birkdale, Southport, where Jordan Spieth won in 2017, has staged 10 Opens since first being chosen in 1954. For over 30 years it was 'the newest Open venue' until Turnberry in 1977.
  • Just north of Turnberry and Prestwick, Royal Troon staged the most recent of its nine Opens in 2016, when Henrik Stenson just held off Phil Mickelson.
  • Carnoustie on the north shore of the Firth of Tay, has had eight Open winners since first being used in 1931, but will always be remembered for one loser - Jean van de Velde's final-hole collapse allowed Scotland's Paul Lawrie to win the 1999 tournament.
  • Now a municipal course, Musselburgh staged the Open six times between 1874 and 1889. But the venue, close to Edinburgh, was never used again.
  • Turnberry has held four Opens. The first, won by Tom Watson in 1977, and the most recent in 2009, when Watson almost won aged 59, are the most memorable. The Ayrshire course was bought by Donald Trump in 2014.
  • Royal Cinque Ports has held the Open twice, in 1909 for one of the great JH Taylor's five Open wins, and again in 1920. Situated at Deal, on the Kent coast, on Sandwich Bay.
  • When Shane Lowry won at Royal Portrush in July, it was only the second time that the Open had crossed the sea to Ireland, having first hosted in 1951. The only Open venue not in England or Scotland.
  • Prince's is part of the stretch of fine courses on the Kent coast including Royal St George's and Royal Cinque Ports. The only Open staged there was in 1932, won by Gene Sarazen.

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