Sandwich, England – Get ready for a rare treat – two weeks of links golf.
This week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart should provide the ideal warm-up to the Open Championship at Royal St George’s in less than two weeks. We don’t often get back-to-back tournaments on links.
A walk around Royal St George’s had me looking ahead in anticipation to the Open Championship. The links aren’t as fast and running as they were in April. June rains have made sure of that. However, they look magnificent, and should provide a stern test to the world’s best.
So, too, should Castle Stuart. I haven’t seen the new links yet, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for the Mark Parsinen/Gil Hanse design beside the Moray Firth.
However, it’s just the fact we’re going to have two weeks by the sea that thrills me. It’s hard to believe that golf first started on the great links land that surround the British Isles, yet most professional tournaments played on this island are contested on inland courses.
Don’t get me wrong, we have many great inland tracks in the British Isles. Unfortunately, most of them don’t get played for the same reason the great links don’t get used either.
The European Tour’s modern business model precludes the great links and inland courses from staging tournaments. Tournaments head to courses that can afford to buy the event.
It’s smart business for the European Tour, but it doesn’t always provide for the best venues. The Ryder Cup is a good example. The deep pockets of Michael Smurfit and Terry Matthews are the main reason the last two matches in Europe went to the K Club and Celtic Manor.
If the Ryder Cup had been taken to the best courses in Ireland and Wales, then these two venues wouldn’t have had a look in.
The problem is, traditional members clubs just can’t afford to pay the facility fee the European Tour demands to stage an event. My own club, Woburn, staged the British Masters for many years, but had to stop when the European Tour asked for £250,000 to stage the 2003 event. So the tournament moved to the Forest of Arden, owned by hotel chain Marriott.
So Castle Stuart will have a big financial stake in Scottish Open along with sponsors Barclays. It’s sound marketing strategy, because beamed images of these beautiful links should help put the course on the map.
Nairn Golf Club is just along the coastline. This fantastic links course is worthy of holding the Scottish Open. Yet, like other great links around the British coastline, the private members club doesn’t have the financial clout to attract a big tournament.
I’m afraid it’s a sign of the times.
So I will glory in two weeks of links golf. It doesn’t come along too often, and should be celebrated when it does.