HAVE you ever been to Hemel Hempstead? The reason I pose this largely humdrum question is because the opening event of the Saudi Super whatdoyoucallit – it’s actually the LIV Golf Invitational Series - is going to be held in that particular parish at The Centurion Club.

On a first perusal, it’s a fairly peculiar location for the money-soaked razzmatazz of golf’s richest contest isn’t it? It’s broadly equivalent to Elvis re-creating one of his glitzy Las Vegas extravaganzas at the Club Tropicana in Cleethorpes.

Anyway, you may be aware that Hemel Hempstead has a flummoxing circular road junction called the Magic Roundabout which I once had to negotiate while almost choking on my own brain as I tried to fathom it out.

It’s basically a big roundabout with some other roundabouts inside it and to get round about it you’ve got to go round about a heck of a lot of roundabouts before you’re inevitably driven round the bloomin’ twist. Or stopped by the police. Or both. It was as perilous as attempting to birl round the Arc de Triomphe on a mobility scooter during the Paris rush-hour.

In some ways, it's perhaps appropriate that the Saudi-backed beanfeast is going to tee-off in this neck of the woods. Like this flustered correspondent on that aforementioned Magic thingamajig, we’re still not quite sure what direction it's all going in, after all. Yes, we’ve now got a list of venues, we know there’s jaw-dropping amounts of money on offer and we’ve got the dates of the eight-stop tour. But we still haven’t got any players. Well, the actual names of any players at least.

Last week’s news that this Greg Norman-driven, Saudi-bankrolled series was set to tee-off in June took plenty of folk by surprise. The man known as the Great White Shark whipped all and sundry into a lather with an announcement that left the golf writers in a wide-eyed, flapping frenzy that was akin to a panic-stricken Chief Brody glimpsing the menacing fin of Jaws. The purse on offer for the curtain-raiser – a cool £19m or so – is double what will be on offer at July’s 150th Open Championship in St Andrews. It’s staggering stuff. Good old Hemel Hempstead may not be the home of golf but there’s money in them thar roundabouts.

Not so long ago, as the world’s best players lined up in a choreographed show of loyalty to the PGA Tour amid fevered talk of breakaways and insurgencies, the idea of some kind of rebel circuit was, according to Rory McIlroy, “dead in the water.” The relieved top brass of the established tours may have thought it was safe to go back in the water. But Norman continues to circle with considerable intent.

It still all feels a bit scatter-gun, though. The Asian Tour, for instance, have been given a major financial fillip to the tune of $100m by Norman’s LIV Golf lot and, as part of that lucrative alliance, an event at the same Centurion Club was unveiled earlier this year. But that particular contest has suddenly disappeared from the Asian Tour’s official schedule in the wake of Norman’s grand unveiling of the LIV Golf Invitational Series last week. Reports from the far east suggest the Asian Tour high command was caught off guard by the former world No 1’s announcement which adds to the making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel of the new series.

Originally, Norman was trying to woo the world’s best. Now, it looks like he’d be happy with any Tom, Dick or Harry. “Just think how magnificent it'd be if some kid, who's a no-name, comes and wins himself $3m, $5m, $8m,” said Norman last week.

Norman and his Saudi backers have so much money, they can probably afford to dish out millions to a Tom, a Dick or a Harry and play the waiting game. Let’s face it, money talks and if some fair to middling tour player is waltzing off with an astronomical sum of cash, then how long can the best in the business ignore the eye-watering riches on the table?

First up, though, we need to know who will actually be playing in the inaugural event. And what will the general reaction be to those who sign up? Phil Mickelson, who had been working behind the scenes with the Saudis to gain commercial leverage against the PGA Tour, was ostracised by peers and sponsors amid the wreckage of a spectacular implosion when those revelations came to a head.

It will be fascinating to see who puts their heads above the parapet in the weeks to come. Golf is certainly in for an eventful summer. Now, what turn off do I take at the ruddy roonaboot?


Talking of hefty sums, you just about need some of Norman’s war chest to play some of the UK’s most celebrated courses.

Average green fees at courses generally ranked in the top-100 on these isles have risen by 8% for 2022, according to admirable research by course-rating enthusiast, UK Golf Guy. A round on the Old Course at a peak time this season, for instance, will cost £270 – up 38%. His findings show that the average price for a round at a course rated in the top-25 is £266.

Get digging in those pockets.