Author: Callum Taylor, Managing Director, Golf Concierge Scotland Ltd, Edinburgh.
Last week the R&A confirmed that they have no plans to include Turnberry on The Open rota for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it does beg the question, which other course could take this coveted spot?
Royal Portrush Dunluce Links was re-introduced back into the Open rota in 2019 after a 48 year absence. This increased the rotation to 10 courses, but this historic Open did not just happen overnight. There was significant planning and investment by the Northern Irish government, tourism bodies, the golf club and other key stakeholders. The 148th Open at Portrush proved to be a hugely popular addition amongst players and fans alike when Shane Lowry won in 2019.
Open courses need to meet strict criteria. Clearly ownership and heritage are two of them, but most importantly the course standard needs to be championship level to challenge the modern-day professional. To host a major a course usually needs to measure over 7,000 yards, which does exclude many of the UK’s finest old fashioned links courses.
As the Open continues to grow, infrastructure and access are key elements. We wanted to look at several top links courses that we absolutely love playing and would tick a lot of the R&A’s boxes, but perhaps not all of them!!
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, Wales - GCS OVERALL RATING: 8/10
- Par: 72 – 7068 Yards
- Designer: Charles Gibson, Martin Ebert
- Past tournaments: The Walker Cup, The Senior Open, The Amateur Championship
- Location: Less than 45 minutes from South Wales’ two biggest cities; Cardiff and Swansea
Has the Royal status, is Wales No1 ranked course and has a proven track record of hosting major amateur and senior tournaments.
The main European Tour is yet to visit Royal Porthcawl in recent times and it would need to host a Wales Open or professional event before being considered a suitable candidate.
Formby Golf Club, England - GCS OVERALL RATING: 7/10
- Par: 72 – 7031 Yards
- Designer: Willie Park Jnr, Harry Colt, James Braid and Donald Steel
- Past tournaments: The Curtis Cup, The Amateur Championship, Arnold Palmer Cup
- Location: 40 minutes north of Liverpool
Ranked as one of England’s finest links courses. Very accessible on England’s Golf Coast.
Perhaps too many trees for the links purist and lack of recent professional events.
Castle Stuart Golf Links, Scotland - GCS OVERALL RATING: 8/10
- Par: 72 – 7009 Yards Designer: Gil Hanse
- Past Tournaments: The Scottish Open
- Location: 5 minutes from Inverness Airport
Regarded as one of the worlds top 100 golf courses with a spectacular setting on The Moray Firth. A four-time host to Scottish Opens in the last decade shows it can handle the world’s best professionals.
The northerly Highlands location may prove challenging, but Inverness Airport and the city has come a long way in the last 20 years. At a little over a decade, Castle Stuart could be too new for consideration.
Western Gailes Golf Club - GCS OVERALL RATING: 7/10
- Par: 71 – 7014 Yards
- Designer: F Morris, Fred Hawtree, Tom Mackenzie
- Past Tournaments: The Curtis Cup, European Men’s Amateur Team Championship, PGA Championship
- Location: 45 minutes from Glasgow
The coastal dune holes from the 5th – 13th is a wonderful stretch of links golf with almost unrivaled views of The Isle of Arran. Very accessible from Glasgow and minutes from Troon, Irvine and Prestwick.
The course is situated on a narrow area of land between the railway and the sea, so typical of the classic Ayrshire links. This means limited space for all the infrastructure, access and facilities required to host The Open.
Royal Aberdeen Balgownie Links, Scotland - GCS OVERALL RATING: 9/10
- Par: 71 – 6922 Yards
- Designer: Archie & Robert Simpson, James Braid, D Steel and M Hawtree
- Past Tournaments: The Scottish Open, The Walker Cup, The Senior Open
- Location: 15 minutes from Aberdeen City Centre
The sixth oldest golf club in the world with one of the best front nines in Scotland. This prestigious Royal Club tested the best players when Justin Rose won the Scottish Open in 2014.
Questions over whether the thriving membership would be in acceptance of the likely course modifications required to accommodate The Open.
Kingsbarns Golf Links, Scotland - GCS OVERALL RATING: 9/10
- Par: 72 – 7224 Yards
- Designer: Kyle Phillips
- Past Tournaments: Dunhill Links, Women’s Open
- Location: 15 minutes from St Andrews in The Kingdom of Fife
Kingsbarns is on a wonderful stretch of links land and has the necessary length and practice facilities. They already host men’s professional golf with the annual Dunhill Links and held a successful Women’s Open in 2017. Accordingly, they have all the required infrastructure and space for tented villages.
Scoring always tends to be favourable at Kingsbarns with generous fairways. Kingsbarns is a youngster after celebrating its twentieth birthday in 2020.
Our Top pick for the prestigious honour of being added to the Open host would be Kingsbarns Golf Links. However, would the R&A select a modern course to host golf’s oldest major? Perhaps in the next 20 years!
Narrowly missing out on our list but in our view all worthy of hosting a future Open Championship are: Royal County Down, Royal Cinque Ports, Gullane Golf Club and Dundonald Links.
Many of these courses and the surrounding regions are available to view on our website: www.golfconciergescotland.com