The R&A have announced significant changes to Open qualifying at Royal St George's as a result of the continuing coronavirus pandemic

It’s a rite of passage for golfers who dream of taking their shot at competing for the Claret Jug. But the path to Royal St George’s is going to be very different this year – as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll.

The R&A have revised the format to be used for Open qualifying ahead of the 149th staging of the world’s oldest major on the Kent coast in July.

Competitors would normally begin their campaign for glory at one of a number of local venues before – if successful – trying to win a coveted players’ badge at one of a quartet of top class links.

This year, both Regional and Final Qualifying will be staged at Hollinwell (Notts), Prince’s, St Annes Old Links and West Lancashire.

The R&A said it was so the “measures required by the UK government guidance in relation to staging events and international travel are consistent between venues”.

Golfers entering the regional stage will play 18 holes of stroke play at one of these four venues on Saturday, June 26 or Sunday, June 27. Those who come through will then play 36 holes of strokeplay at the same course on Tuesday, June 29.

A minimum of 12 places will be on offer through Final Qualifying – with the leading three players from each of the four venues advancing. Entries open on March 15 and must be submitted by May 20.

While lockdown measures across the UK are beginning to be eased, and the Government hopes restrictions in England will end by June 21, these are ‘no earlier than dates’ and will depend on the situation with coronavirus closer to the time. Open qualifying events also attract international players whose countries may be at different stages of the pandemic.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, the R&A’s executive director of championships, said: “We recognise that health measures could continue this summer and so we have developed alternative plans for Regional and Final Qualifying based on guidance from the UK government and our medical advisers.

“The health and wellbeing of everyone involved in these events is our top priority and having them played at a reduced number of venues with the required health and safety protocols in place will ensure people are protected.

“We would like to thank all of the venues for their support and co-operation in agreeing to the revised format and look forward to a series of exciting and dramatic qualifying events as golfers compete to earn a place in The Open at Royal St George’s.”

The R&A has already confirmed that all existing exemptions achieved before the date of The 149th Open being cancelled last year are being honoured.

Were you thinking of entering Open qualifying? Will these changes alter your decision, or is the chance to play for the Claret Jug too tempting to resist? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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