Is St Andrews the best Open Championship venue?February 14, 2018 The Scoop
With the 150th Open heading to St Andrews, the Niggle team discuss their favourite venues for golf's oldest major
Mark Townsend: Spectator-wise, St Andrews as an Open Championship venue is the worst. Player-wise in the top four maybe? To walk the course inside the ropes it’s maybe the best but that doesn’t help the punters who have forked out to be there. Turning for home with the town as the backdrop there is no place like it.
Steve Carroll: As a spectator, it’s little short of a catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people all straining to try and catch a glimpse of Jordan Spieth three fairways away because the entire course is pretty much roped off except for the edges.
Alex Perry: 1, 17 and 18 are cool though…
Steve Carroll: They are. But that’s hardly a winning argument.
James Savage: If players just did a loop of 1, 17 and 18 all day that would be ideal. But I’m not sure I’d be as happy if I’d paid £60 to get in.
Steve Carroll: If you built an opening hole today with a fairway that was that wide, you would be ridiculed.
James Savage: Struggling to think of a decent spot to watch any of the action from 2 to 17.
Mark Townsend: Sitting by the 11th tee allows you to see half a dozen bits of holes.
James Savage: Is it worth it for the hour and a half walk to get there?
Mark Townsend: If you want to see any golf, then yes.
James Savage: A mini grandstand behind the 1st tee would be good so you can see down the line and still get a look at the 18th green.
Steve Carroll: If it wasn’t the “birthplace of the game”, it wouldn’t be able to lace Birkdale’s boots. Not to mention Royal St George’s.
Alex Perry: I’ve been to every Open since 2011 except Muirfield. Looks like I’ll have to wait a while, too.
Mark Townsend: Muirfield is my favourite.
Alex Perry: Birkdale and Hoylake both incredible venues and you’re right on the edge of Liverpool. Troon is a great little town, Lytham offers you the chance to experience Blackpool. St George’s is a bit stranded. The Old Course is comfortably bottom of the list for spectator experience.
Steve Carroll: St Andrews – the town – is pretty nice.
Alex Perry: Away from the course it’s near perfection.
Mark Townsend: Yes, by far and away the best.
Alex Perry: You must have some good stories from your times at the Open?
Mark Townsend: The first shot I saw live at an Open was by Peter Harrison, who now works for Callaway, at the 2nd at Sandwich in 1985. He holed a 9-iron. That morning was spent following Seve nearly miss the cut in horrific weather, the afternoon was spent with Sandy Lyle and Bob Charles. Two days later Lyle won.
Alex Perry: My first Open was also Sandwich – just a quarter of a century later. I played Prince’s on one of the Open practice days – you were there too, Mark – and I was on the tee that’s right next to the 14th tee of St George’s and Bubba Watson was thwacking off down the par-5. If I recall, the first ever shot I saw a tour golfer hit.
Mark Townsend: The next Open I went to was 2001 and that is my favourite memory of any. Getting into the clubhouse and watching one of my all-time heroes David Duval play the last – having backed him at 25-1 – with two of my best mates.
Alex Perry: That’s lovely.
Mark Townsend: My strangest memory was watching Adam Scott trying to par the 18th at Lytham when Ernie Els won it. Someone tried to throw a sex toy on to the green but underclubbed and it finished up in a greenside bunker. Graeme McDowell, who was playing with Scott, saw it but nobody else seemed to.
Alex Perry: Excuse me?
Mark Townsend: It was incredible. I looked at McDowell and he nudged his caddie to point it out.
Alex Perry: How did this not go viral?
Mark Townsend: I guess we didn’t really have Twitter at the Open then and he/she also missed the green.
Alex Perry: I feel a bit sad that someone has gone to all this effort to plan the buying and smuggling and throwing of a sex toy in order to go viral – and only three other people will ever know for sure it actually happened.
Mark Townsend: Stevie Williams, too. He will back me up.
James Savage: Is this a good time to bring up my Charley Hoffman Nando’s story again?
Alex Perry: If you were in charge of golf, how often would you hold the Open at St Andrews?
Mark Townsend: Every five years is too often, but one every 10 is not enough. Maybe eight? There are too many other great courses.
Steve Carroll: I certainly don’t begrudge St Andrews having the 150th. It’s not like Prestwick could hold it. I would have LOVED it to have been there, though.
Alex Perry: I’d like to see more courses added. My campaign to get the Open to Devon or Cornwall hasn’t really taken off yet. Maybe this is the start.
Mark Townsend: Think there is more than enough as it is. Ideally Wales would have one, but Porthcawl couldn’t do it for various reasons.
Alex Perry: Any venue with “Royal” in the name should be an Open venue.
James Savage: We all love going to St Andrews. Why not mix it up and add Kingsbarns to the rota?
Mark Townsend: It’s not long or hard enough and couldn’t handle an Open. Somewhere around there would be tremendous.
James Savage: I’m playing at Portrush soon so I’ll let you know how that’s shaping up.
Alex Perry: Come on people, let’s get the Open to Royal North Devon.
Mark Townsend: I went to Bournemouth last year to play golf and, while there isn’t an Open-type venue down there, that would be a good Open town and easy enough to get to.
Alex Perry: A golf course is almost certainly the most vital cog in the wheel that is hosting an Open Championship.