The Open Was A Spectacular Failure

It could be argued that the smug, self-satisfied UK golf community overuse the words tradition and heritage in order to mask their inherent resistance to change.

It could be argued that the smug, self-satisfied UK golf community overuse the words tradition and heritage in order to mask their inherent resistance to change. Were this true, it would be exactly those people that slow the development of the game, if not cripple it altogether. The Open provides a chance to show prospective golfers that the game of golf is innovative, forward thinking and inclusive but it is claimed by some that instead we get the very essence of elitist, reactionary and stubborn. The fact is that more than 99% of all golf is played on parkland courses and yet the supposed ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ is someone that has to specially adapt their style to a links course for a single tournament.

Perhaps the choice of venues is simply an odious effort to perpetuate the myth that links golf is somehow superior to any other form of the game?

Many have said that what the sport needs is some new venues with the following attributes:

  • Close to a major conurbation (with good transport links)
  • In an area with a high number of hotel rooms
  • In an area that would benefit from economic regeneration
  • Equal access for all, with special emphasis on novice golfers
  • Affordable ‘pay and play’ green fee rates

The Commonwealth Games has been used to regenerate a very deprived area of Glasgow with infrastructure projects that will provide the much needed ‘legacy’ of the games. This return on investment is tangible and measurable; bringing investment to an area that has never recovered from the closure of the heavy manufacturing industry.

There are many areas of the UK that posses a beautiful landscape and outstanding topography for a golf course, whilst being only a short bus ride from an area of high unemployment. A good example would be the north east of England. The redevelopment of an existing course, or the building of a new venue would be politically very popular, especially given the caveats mentioned earlier.

However, whilst this may sound like a good idea, the reality is that such a move would be a ‘leap of faith’ and the outcomes unknown. In recent years the R&A have carefully husbanded The Open to produce revenues that are ploughed straight back into the game. To imperil an almost certain revenue stream on a flight of fancy would be foolish in the extreme.

In every club, there are members who stamp their feet and demand that the club be revolutionised in order to fill the bank vaults with large dollops of cash that fresh new benefactors are lining up to throw at the committee. In most clubs, radical change can only be the last resort and a process of gradual but continual change is far preferable.

  • The gradual changes implemented have been done in such a way as not to risk the steady income stream: i.e. wi-fi in the stands and overseas qualification tournaments
  • The host courses are prepared in an environmentally sustainable way, thus serving as an example for such a style of management.
  • The heritage of the event is used to maximise revenue and the branding of the merchandise reflects this.

Perhaps we will one day see the world’s top golfers compete for The Open on an inland venue and your own club will have an effective governance structure, a dynamic membership programme and a high performing staff in all departments. If we do, the transition will have been gradual and carefully managed.