With more than 60 Open appearances at just 10 different venues between them, the Fourball team discuss if it's time to add to the rota
In this edition of Fourball, the team take a glance into the future and what Open Championship venues would ideally look like if things were a little different…
If you could take the Open to any course in the UK where would it be?
Alex: I’ve never made it a secret that Royal North Devon should have be one of the Open Championship venues. Golf’s oldest major at England’s oldest golf course. I think about it almost daily. Plus everyone would go home fat and happy from gorging on pasties and real ale for a week.
Dan: I was recently at Royal Cinque Ports (below) for the first time in a while and was reminded of what a delightfully old-fashioned links it is. Given that Kent is the sunniest, driest corner of the country, you get quintessential links conditions more often down here and I would love to see the world’s best coping with the outrageous greens and hopefully some bone-hard brown fairways. It will be exactly a century next summer since the Open was last held here. It would be great to see it come back.
Steve: I’d like to go somewhere completely left-field like Seaton Carew. If you can just ignore the nuclear power station, and the heavy industry – I grew up there, trust me you get used to it – then it’s really my idea of a perfect Open links. The fairways are perfect, the dunes are epic, the short holes are classy and, if the wind gets up, then god help you. Maybe we can split it, like the Amateur Championship, and have alternate days at Cleveland.
Mark: The best Open Championship venues are not only amazing but a bit of a pilgrimage just to get to, so where better than Royal Dornoch? When we go to places like Hillside or Lahinch everyone, the players, the fans and the TV audience, love it and four days of this Highlands gem would get us all jumping out of our seats and onto the course.
Which of the Open Championship venues would you like to see added or removed from the ‘rota’?
Dan: It’s a crying shame that the greatest course of them all – in our part of the world at least – has never hosted the Open Championship. I’m talking about you, Royal County Down. If we can host an Open at Royal Portrush then there can be no barrier to coming to Newcastle. I really hope it happens.
And don’t tell me there is no space on the ‘rota’. Just stop going to the Old Course so often, which will have the added benefit of making us all relish a St Andrews Open that much more when it comes round.
Steve: I’ve yet to see Royal St George’s but I rather boringly think the rota has a nice feel and mix to it, which will only improve when Turnberry and Muirfield inevitably return as Open Championship venues. I understand all the clamour for St Andrews but it really is an awful spectator experience and that diminishes it hugely. It seems sacrilege to suggest benching the “Home of Golf” but the layout and logistics do the paying public no favours whatsoever.
Alex: It seems a shame for Wales to not have any Open Championship venues – and it’s not like the country hasn’t got a ready-made host in Royal Porthcawl (below).
Mark: I’m struggling to think of anywhere that I’m not fussed about. I definitely would like to get away from going to the Old Course every five years. Muirfield will be back soon, as will Turnberry in a few years, so that takes us to 10 which seems about right. If one had to go it would probably be Troon for me and I’d love someone to build a world-class links with world-class digs in South Wales and bring the Open to the Principality.
Would you change the criteria for qualifying?
Mark: I’d love to do away with three spots here and three spots there in Joburg or Malaysia. If you’re a top 100 player in the world then that seems a good starting point and only takes up two thirds of the field. Final Qualifying on the Tuesday of a tournament in Ireland doesn’t seem fair and three spots is pretty brutal. Find an off week for a better field and have five spots available.
If you win the Brabazon, Lytham Trophy, Amateur Championship and St Andrews Links then you’re in. If you win the Challenge or Korn Ferry money lists then you’re in, if you win an event on the European or PGA Tours then you’re in. I haven’t thought the rest of this through but basically fewer random events with someone finishing 7th and then getting into the Open would be good.
Steve: Sorry to all those who’ve got in this way but I don’t really see how the Open field is enhanced by having the player who finished tied 8th at something like the Rocket Mortgage Classic. I’m a romantic at heart and there’s something to be said for a player getting their chance on the big stage after battling through local and final qualifying. Trimming that down to three spaces at each final qualifying venue takes that dream away for so many. If you want to do that, and you insist on having the ‘best field possible’, fine but stop charging people £150, or whatever it is, to enter.
Dan: There has to be an element of being able to qualify for any tournament that describes itself as an ‘open’ However, I think I’m past the stage of romantic no-hopers enjoying their day in the sun. I just want to see the strongest field possible. I want as many of the field as possible to be there to contend if not win. I’m not into them just turning up for some selfies. To me, it’s an odd thing at the moment that it is easier to qualify for the Open than it is to get, say, a Challenge Tour card.
Clearly the R&A wish to promote the worldwide element of the Open and get a truly international field, I get that. And it’s not easy to get tour players to disrupt their schedule and travel halfway around the world on the off-chance of earning a spot at the Open, but it should at least be something they aspire to rather than accidentally achieve as a by-product of playing well in an otherwise completely unrelated event.
Alex: I’ll wager you’ve all said “stop giving spots to players in the top 10 of [insert average tour event here]”. And I bet you’ve all said something about romanticism. Oh how quickly we’ve forgotten GMac in Canada.