The 144th Open, 2015, St Andrews

"Honestly, I’d like to see that The Open is played
at St Andrews every year if it could be"

Rory McIlroy, 2014 Open Champion
It is an issue which has been debated for years, should The Open Championship
be played on the Old Course every year?
Many believe it should not be, citing the nature of the championship being an Open and taking it to the UK's best courses has been a tradition over the years. Here, I make the argument for the yes campaign, no not THAT Yes campaign. This one, to bring The Open home and keep it here for the good of The Open, for the good of St Andrews and for the good of Golf. I need to start by stating the position of experience I come from, which gives me an insight to support my point that The Open should be held in St Andrews each July:
1. I have attended 3 previous Open Championships - the 2007 Open at Carnoustie, the 2013 Open at Muirfield and the 2015 Open in St Andrews
2. From 2013 to 2018 I worked at the New Golf Club, St Andrews (2016-2018 as Clubhouse supervisor, organising member events in the clubhouse), and I worked every day of the 2015 Open in the clubhouse, so I have past, first-hand experience of how busy an Open Championship is and the associated challenges and benefits that brings
3. I have run This is St Andrews (formerly St Andrews Golf Magazine, then St Andrews Magazine) since 2013, and I have been accredited media at every Alfred Dunhill Links Championship since 2013, 2013 and 2017 Women's Opens, the 2018 Senior Open, 2014 BMW International Open, 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship and the 2019 Solheim Cup, so I have experience of working within an event.
4. I was also a volunteer at the 2004 and 2006 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, along with the 2006 BMW PGA Championship. I did these events whilst studying for a Foundation Degree in Golf Management at the International Institute for Golf Education, Myerscough College in Preston, Lancashire.
5. I have been a caddie at both Royal County Down in 2004 and 2006, along with St Andrews Links in 2011, and have caddied briefly at the Duke's Course and Fairmont St Andrews.
6. I have also worked in hospitality away from the New Golf Club throughout the year at Rufflets, Kinnettles, Playfairs and the Best Western Scores Hotel.

7. I have played The Old Course, Royal Lytham and St Anne's and Royal Portrush, I have also worked in a media capacity at Carnoustie, and I have visited Muirfield as a spectator.
So I do believe this gives me a certain amount of authority to produce an article arguing for The Open to be played in St Andrews every year, having an insight into many different facets of the event and how it impacts upon the town, but also, and more importantly, its potential impact upon the game of golf and the long term legacy which can be created in the town and across the world.
The Open Championship is not a National Open. It is not, as the Americans and Aussies would love to have it called, The British Open. The Open Championship exists to determine the Champion Golfer of the Year, regardless of their origin and the championship is required to be played within "sight or sound of the sea". It does not exist to promote golf courses or generate economic impact for any area.
Of course over the years the event has been transformed, from a pure golf tournament into a major event and the additional aspects which come with that. The big crowds, the necessary grandstands, hospitality and media facilities required, along with transport infrastructure. There is absolutely no doubt that it is at its biggest and best when played on the Old Course, in St Andrews.
Having said this, until recently, I was of the opinion The Open should be played around Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and if the R&A were to expand the rota I would be for it. The South West of England has at least 3 courses of Major Championship quality in Trevose, Saunton and Royal North Devon, and if the R&A were going to expand the rota, Royal Porthcawl in Wales and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland would surely be worthy candidates. But let's face it, the R&A won't be expanding the rota any time soon.
Having spent last weekend watching The Masters, as I am sure many of you did, I started to think to myself. Holes such as the 14th should be as iconic as the 15th at Augusta. Hell Bunker, the historic old crofters cottage to the right of the hole where it is believed the game of golf originated and the epic view of the town. The 11th hole, where Bobby Jones ripped his scorecard up in 1921 should be seen as one of the iconic par threes in golf, yet when all the debates around great par threes are had, it barely if ever gets a mention.
The Open at St Andrews gets the biggest crowds, many of the most iconic moments and generates the greatest economic impact of any Open venue, raising the most funds for the R&A to grow the game worldwide with. So why are we denying ourselves the opportunity of having this every year?
PART 1: The Open as a golf championship and an event and why St Andrews is by far the best destination for The Open to Grow and Develop in the future, the positive legacy it could give St Andrews

Some locals protest that having The Open played in St Andrews every year "would make it less special" than if it were held here every five or six years, but does the golfing world feel that way about Augusta National. One local said "this isn't an arms race with The Masters", no, it isn't. It is about making The Open as big and as impactful as it can be to the future of golf, and making the home of golf, St Andrews an annual site in living rooms and on tablets and devices of people across the world.
St Andrews' place in the minds of people across the world as the home of golf should not be taken for granted. It should not be taken for granted that people, in a post-pandemic world, are just going to flock back here in their droves. Holding The Open here every year would ensure the next generation know St Andrews as the home of golf, and know it intimately. Trust me, my experience as a caddie taught me that many people who visit St Andrews have absolutely no idea about the traditions of the magnificent Old Course.
I once got asked, by the same guy, "what is behind the 17th green" (Clue is in the name of the hole and bunker), and "is that important" when I asked if he wanted his photograph taken on the Swilcan Bridge. Many of their faces when they see Hell Bunker, not even knowing it is there, are remarkable. Host The Open here every year would give the Old Course the sort of standing it should have, something which an Open once every five or six years does not achieve. Youngsters grow up knowing the Hogan, Nelson and Sarazen Bridges better than the Swilcan Bridge, because remember, since the last Open Championship was played in St Andrews there will have been 7 editions of The Masters, at Augusta National. So someone who is 18 years old in 2022 may never have seen the Swilcan Bridge, and may not know anything about the Old Course. And let's not kid ourselves about the annual event we currently have, only hardcore golf fans watch the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. 
Traditions of the Old Course handed down year after year such as the names of the bunkers, the lore of Ginger Beer at the fourth hole, the Seven Sisters bunkers on the fifth, the loop, the coffins on the 13th, Hell Bunker on 14, the Old Railway alongside the 16th, and of course the 17th and 18th. Nobody is saying the 17th is not famous, but to refer to it as genuinely being the most famous hole in the world, is disingenuous. The 18th at Sawgrass, 18th at Pebble Beach, Amen Corner at Augusta, even the 16th at TPC Scottsdale, are likely more famous over the world than the Road Hole. Why? Because these courses are seen the world over through enormous events every year. The PGA Tour is broadcast to a national television audience so an event like the WM Phoenix Open, played on the same course every year, is far more familiar to an American audience than any of the holes on the Old Course.
More tangible memories would be created by holding The Open on the Old Course each year. Instead of having to look back to 2015, 2010, 2005, 1995, 1990 and 1984 for the legendary moments featuring the likes of Seve, Faldo, Rocca and Tiger, we could look back to last year and a stunning shot on 17 or an eagle on 14 or even 9. These memories would be handed down from generation to generation, increasing the impact of The Open, and continuing to elevate St Andrews in the minds of people as the home of golf and a must visit destination.
Players would become familiar with the holes, and the R&A would have to work harder to set up the course each year to test the best, further enhancing the championship and its place as a Major.
Holding The Open permanently on the Old Course opens up the possibility of increased and new types of infrastructure for the event. The Old Course has been criticised for its restricted views, something I don't agree with to be honest, but there could be opportunities for new hospitality and seating at the fourth, to promote the hole as Ginger Beer, perhaps tying up with Schweppes or Crabbie's.
Off course holding The Open permanently in St Andrews could lead to the creation of a permanent media centre, like we see at The Masters, which could be used by the local schools, colleges, University of St Andrews, local media organisations, the St Andrews Links Trust, R&A, Recounter, St Andrews Citizen and This is St Andrews among others. 
In addition to the permanent Media Centre the St Andrews Links Academy and Balgove Course could be reconfigured to create a practice facility worthy of the home of golf. You could dig up the current access road and put a tunnel from Old St Andrews Road to the Car Park near the Eden Clubhouse, and turf the area above the tunnel, then move the Driving range bays to the Old Course end of the current range and have an expanded practice area, with a remodelled Balgove Course.
This major infrastructure change would have a long-term legacy for St Andrews and mean that the Tournament Practice Ground would no longer be at the New and Jubilee Courses, enabling those courses to stay open longer and reopen sooner than they currently do when a tournament is being played.
Some St Andrews locals say "it's bad enough once every five years, let alone having it every year". Whilst everyone is welcome to their opinion, as I am expressing in this piece, I think we should look at the inconveniences The Open truly provides locals. 
Access to the Golf Courses around The Open and during the build-out of infrastructure had been raised as a concern, but there are 7 golf courses which make up the St Andrews Links and the cost of the Links Ticket is much less than a membership elsewhere, even when combined with a golf club membership in town. For one of the most famous courses to be available for 11 months of the year at the affordable rates ticket holders pay is actually a privilege, and reduced play on the Old Course will result in better playing conditions. You can find the details of 2022 closures and restrictions here, but the plan I outlined above for a new practice facility would negate the need for any closure of the Jubilee Course, aside from the days of the championship itself.
Car Parking has always been a concern in St Andrews, and there is no doubt for the days surrounding The Open it is put under increased pressure. So instead of moaning about the parking situation it needs to be rectified, the local population, Fife Council and the University of St Andrews need to be open to constructing a multi-storey car park on the site of the Petheram Bridge car park. This wouldn't just benefit the town during The Open, it would benefit the town year-round, and as far as I can see any objections to it are really without much justification.
I must clearly state I do not see the streets being busy and restaurants being full as being an inconvenience, more a thing to be thankful for, and especially as we look to recovery from the pandemic an idea such as this shouldn't be just be dismissed out of hand.
Others say "I would not welcome The Open at St. Andrews every year personally needs the build up, momentum and to be special"
Other events which are played annually in one destination have all of the above. Residents of Augusta cannot wait for The Masters to come around each April, business owners feel the same and the local golf courses which benefit from an increase in footfall because they open their arms to visitors. The likes of Kingsbarns, The Duke's, Fairmont St Andrews, Drumoig, Crail, Anstruther, Dumbarnie, Leven Links, Elie, Lundin Links, Scotscraig and Charleton could benefit from The Open being staged here every year because if they marketed themselves correctly then would make a fortune, which would have benefits to their members.
Some relevant examples of events staged annually in the same place include the Monaco Grand Prix, with the grandstands and infrastructure going up early in the year to prepare for the May race, and the public roads of the principality being closed during practice, qualifying and the race itself, but there is no doubt that the residents of the principality would not swap having the grand prix to have no inconvenience; the Edinburgh Festival Fringe results in road closures and much more inconvenience for city residents than The Open ever does for people in St Andrews, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives, and the money it generates for local businesses is enormous, and the businesses of Edinburgh no doubt missed the festival in 2020 and missed the estimated near £1bn benefit created by the Fringe. Neither of these events are less special because they are staged permanently in one place. 
Hosting The Open each year could and should see the creation of new traditions and ancillary events around The Open in and around St Andrews, which would ensure the entire population were engaged with this great event, not seeing it as one massive inconvenience. Let's be honest, if you find golfers, tourists and students as an inconvenience then what are you doing living here? Without those three the town would be a fishing village with a couple of nice beaches, a ruined castle and cathedral, and the people would not be here to enjoy your food, drink, treatments etc, or shop in our shops. THE 2015 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP DELIVERED A £140MILLION ECONOMIC IMPACT FOR THE WHOLE OF SCOTLAND - BECAUSE IT WAS HELD IN ST ANDREWS - WITH FIFE ALONE BENEFITTING BY £52MILLION read the report here.
The likes of The Masters and the WM Phoenix Open have a music event running alongside their golf events, these are staged either near the course or in the heart of the host town/city.
Birds Nest is an indoor music festival which is part of the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, and something like this could be staged by the University of St Andrews at Lower College Lawn, and fill the late evening/night slot during the week.​​​​​​​
Rock Fore! Dough is a charity concert held in Augusta, Georgia in the week of The Masters and raises money for the First Tee of Augusta, a golf and people development organisation. A similar outdoor concert or series of concerts could take place near the East Sands and Harbour, held for a couple of hours each evening before and after Sunset, the profits could go to the St Andrews Harbour Trust.​​​​​​​
Having spoken to the then director of the Byre Theatre back in 2015, there is a desire to run cultural activities around St Andrews during The Open when it is here. There is no doubt The Open being here every year could lead to a sustainable and attractive programme of cultural activities being put together.
Activities such as art, photography, music, drama, comedy could take place right across the town, and allied with later shopping hours the economic, social and cultural boom this could provide St Andrews could be massive. Friday Night is Music Night on the Friday of the Alfred Dunhill Links has been a popular, if not poorly promoted event, with a variety of acts performing in a selection of bars across St Andrews. 
St Andrews also has the Bandstand as a natural venue for performances, and the Castle and perhaps even a portion of the Cathedral grounds could be used for ancillary cultural events during the week of The Open.
PART 2: The Open as a generator of finance for the worldwide game, and its potential to increase interest and participation across the world, which would again deliver a long-term legacy for St Andrews​​​​​​​
The Open is the chief fund-raiser for the R&A to raise money which can help develop the game worldwide, and this amount of money is never greater than when The Open is played in St Andrews. 
The motto is that money raised here for the R&A through The Open will eventually be spent here on our golf courses, in our shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels by golfers who have been enabled to take up the sport in Africa, Asia and South America. These are the golf markets of the future which will be sending tourists to the home of golf. 
The likes of India, China, Brazil, Nigeria and other developing nations will have youngsters which are inspired to take up the game by watching The Open being played in St Andrews on television, and then be given the means to take up the game by the R&A thanks to money raised at The Open here. They will then make that once in a lifetime trip here, and help our businesses to stay in business and grow.
The R&A has also helped to support golf clubs throughout the country and the wider world during the Covid19 pandemic with a resilience fund, which would be even greater with the proceeds from The Open being played annually in St Andrews.
This fund helps clubs survive the negative impact of the Covid19 pandemic, and the more clubs which stay in business, the more golfers there are and the more golfers which come to St Andrews in the future. So the R&A having extensive resources to develop the game at home and abroad has a direct benefit to businesses in this town and area, both in the short and long term.
One other aspect of The Masters which got me thinking was the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals. This nationwide skills competition for boys and girls has its finals at Augusta National on the Sunday prior to Masters week, this inspires thousands of young boys and girls to take up the game and compete. The Open, if played annually on the Old Course has the perfect arena to run a similar such competition.
Driving off the iconic First Tee
Chipping to the First Green
Bunker play from the Road Hole Bunker
Putting on the 18th Green
It surely doesn't get any better or any more inspiring than that?
This could inspire the next generation of visiting golfers to St Andrews, and grow the game exponentially. I posted this idea on the This is St Andrews Facebook page on 4 April, and it received a generally positive response. 
I accept there are pitfalls with holding an event of such magnitude on an annual basis in St Andrews, but the negatives are far outweighed by the positives, for The Open as an event and championship, for St Andrews as a golfing destination, for our town's businesses and for Scotland.​​​​​​
PART 3: How could you achieve the moving of The Open permanently to the Old Course, and what would the impact upon the golf schedule be?
The golfing calendar on the European Tour would have to be somewhat altered to accommodate The Open being played permanently in St Andrews, but this could have benefits for those events and the wider European Tour schedule. The first, obvious change, would have to be the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The Dunhill has been a St Andrews tradition since 1985, but you couldn't have and would want to have both played in St Andrews every year, so the event would need to be moved. In the 1980's Gleneagles became synonymous with the BBC series, Pro-celebrity golf, hosted by Peter Alliss and featuring several famous celebrities and world famous golfers. It has three courses and is a perfect host for a big European Tour event. The move would mean Gleneagles was back as a venue on the European Tour schedule after several years away.
Playing all three courses would be popular with professionals and amateurs alike and allow us to reminisce about the Bell's Scottish Open on the Kings Course in the early 1990's. It could also be an attractive proposition for Richemont and Alfred Dunhill, as for many years Gleneagles was home to an Alfred Dunhill store, and the resort closely aligns with their brand values. Seeing as Peter Alliss was closely associated with Pro-celebrity golf it would be somewhat fitting to name the trophy after him and this event could even be elevated by moving it to a destination such as Gleneagles, in the spectacular autumnal Perthshire countryside.
Obviously this would leave Kingsbarns and Carnoustie off the rota of host courses, and along with the other former host courses on The Open rota, these courses could form part of a new rota for the Scottish Open. Past Open host clubs such as Royal Troon, Muirfield, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham etc would have to be convinced of the merits of hosting a separate European Tour event, but each of the past Open rota courses could still feature occasionally on the world stage.
The Scottish Open currently is certainly an underperforming European Tour event, and whilst the move to Links Courses was universally welcomed the event has never really gained the support from the fans or the worldwide interest that it did when it was played at Loch Lomond and Gleneagles. The links courses which have been used since the move from Loch Lomond in 2011 have been Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen, Renaissance Club, Gullane and Dundonald. These are all excellent courses and beautiful, 3 of them are modern links, which is fine, but imagine a Scottish Open rota which had Royal Troon, Carnoustie, Turnberry and Muirfield.
Then add in the likes of Castle Stuart, Renaissance, Gullane, Dundonald, Kingsbarns and Dumbarnie and you have the perfect mix of former Open Championship host courses, old classics and modern links, and located all over the country. The Scottish Open attracts a strong field, but at venues such as Kingsbarns, Royal Troon, Carnoustie, Turnberry and Muirfield it would attract a stronger field, and this would benefit the European Tour when it came to promoting the event. The Scottish Open also attracts smaller crowds than an Open Championship, so it can potentially be played anywhere in Scotland, as it requires less infrastructure.
Clubs which had previously been part of The Open rota could still host a significant golf event every few years, but the disturbance to the club, its members and the local area would be reduced, as a European Tour event setup typically begins 5 to 6 weeks prior to an event of this size. Having said this, the Scottish Open could be built up into a bigger event over time, assuming it retains its status as a Rolex Series event and the Scottish Government continue to support it.
Obviously with The Open being played permanently at the home of golf, St Andrews, the 4 current and 2 former Open Championship courses in England may look to replace The Open by hosting an alternative event. The English Open, which returned in 2020 after the Covid19 pandemic forced the European Tour to reshape is schedule, has never fulfilled its potential or even been an important event on the schedule. But adding England's premier links courses to the spectacular inland courses it has (perhaps merging with the Betfred British Masters), could elevate the English Open.
Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham and St Anne's and Royal St George's could be the core host courses of the English Open, alongside other links such as Hillside, Southport and Ainsdale, Royal Cinque Ports, Prince's, Saunton, Royal North Devon and Trevose, the English Open could have one of the best rota's of any event in the game. Inland courses such as Sunningdale, Forest of Arden, Walton Heath, Woburn, Close House, The Grove and the Belfry could also be used.
Royal Portrush made its return to The Open rota in 2019, and it is reported that it could host the 2025 edition as well, but once The Open is based permanently in St Andrews the course could become a core venue on the Irish Open rota alongside some of Ireland's premier links and inland courses. Portrush could host the Irish Open every five years, and be part of a rota of courses which include Royal County Down Golf Club, Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, County Louth, Tralee, Lahinch, Waterville, Hogs Head, Old Head of Kinsale, Royal Dublin, Portmarnock, Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, The K Club, Carton House, Adare Manor, Killarney, Heritage Resort, Druids Glen, Fota Island and Mount Juliet.
These three National Opens, as well as the Wales Open (which could be played at Celtic Manor, Royal Porthcawl, Machynys Peninsula, Conwy and Royal St David's) could form a British Isles swing around The Open on the European Tour across June and July as follows, based on 2021 calendar dates:
17-20 June US OPEN
24-27 June WALES OPEN
15-18 July THE OPEN
22-25 July IRISH OPEN
​​​​​​​With the PGA Tour and European Tour forming a strategic alliance/partnership I am certain they will look to co-sanction events in the future, making this sort of series more likely. Conceivably you could have a run of events at Royal Porthcawl, Royal Birkdale, Turnberry, St Andrews and Royal Portrush. That would be transformational for golf in this part of the world, and inspire millions across the world to book holidays to the British Isles.
Whilst this entire article is my opinion, based upon facts, knowledge and insight, let's face it, it is extremely unlikely the R&A are going to turn around and agree and put The Open in St Andrews permanently. The rota is secured until 2024, and as I mentioned it has been reported 2025 will be awarded to Royal Portrush over the coming months.
However, there is one major thing which could be absolutely transformational to The Open.
Scottish Independence.
Should Scotland hold a second Independence referendum in the coming years and vote to become independent, then the future of The Open and where it is played would have to be up for discussion. As I stated in my introduction, The Open is not a National Open or Championship, it is The Open, the championship which determines the Champion Golfer of the Year. It does not have a necessity to be played at a variety of links courses, it just has to be played at a Links course.
St Andrews is the home of golf.
It is the home of the R&A.
It is the home of Scottish Golf.
It is where the British Golf Museum is based.
No course or town has more experience of putting on an event the size of an Open.
No other town could make The Open bigger and better than it already is.
St Andrews should be the home of The Open, forever.

Article and images by Matt Hooper

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