The R&A won’t backtrack on their planned “no readmissions” policy for the Open at Carnoustie but local clubs will be “on site” for the duration of the championship, chief executive Martin Slumbers revealed yesterday.
Clubs directly adjacent to the course in Links Parade will be inside the security zone for the championship allowing members to use their club houses freely for the entire week from within the championship boundaries, he said.
However the R&A’s battle against “unofficial” hospitality they feel is eroding the Open experience for ticket holders means they won’t reconsider the policy introduced at Royal Birkdale that stopped fans exiting and re-entering the course after they have entered for the first time.
That policy has provoked irate complaints from local traders in Carnoustie and a petition campaign led by Simpson’s Golf Shop owner David Valentine. The dispute initially included the clubs closest to the course – the Carnoustie Golf Club, Carnoustie Caledonia Golf Club, and Carnoustie Ladies Golf Club.
However Slumbers said yesterday that the clubs would be part of the Open site – within the security zone – because of their importance to the Open.
“At Carnoustie, the clubs are so important to our staging of the Open,” he said. “Many of their members are volunteering to work at the championship.
“They’re important to the ambience. Actually the clubs are, in effect, inside the course for this no‑readmission, so you’ll be able to go in and out of your club if you’re a member, because they are so important to us to make this all work.”
Slumbers continued that he “fully supported” the letter distributed by Carnoustie Councillor David Cheape which pleaded with traders to look at “the bigger picture”.
“What we’re trying to do is move this world-class championship forward,” continued the chief executive. “I think Councillor Cheape saw the bigger picture.
“The Open brings about £100 million of value to the region in that week and a half that we are there. It will put Carnoustie in 600 million households around the world that watch the Open on TV.
“Most importantly, the playing of the Open at Carnoustie brings people to play the course and to stay in the town or in Dundee, to eat, to buy, go shopping if they wish to, for decades afterwards.
“I think that’s the big picture, and we have to make sure that we keep to that while making sure that we deliver a fantastic championship that makes golf proud and Carnoustie proud.”
The policy was first enacted at Royal Birkdale last year when record crowds attended the championship. The only club close to the course there, neighbouring Hillside Golf Club, was incorporated on to the Open site.
The R&A face similar issues having announced – as widely expected – that the Open returns to St Andrews in 2021 for its 150th staging, but Slumbers said he wanted to see how the policy worked at Carnoustie worked before addressing St Andrews, where many more local clubs are situated directly adjacent to the 18th fairway and green.
Slumbers stressed the no re-admissions policy was the only effective way of dealing with the problem of unofficial or “pirate” hospitality fleecing ordinary fans.
“What we want to do is to protect people who are coming to the Open and spending good money,” he said. “Unofficial hospitality degrades and undermines the Open experience.
“Security is another, smaller aspect. We had three terrorist atrocities in the buildup (to Birkdale). We had armed guards inside the gates for the first time in Open history, not something I felt very comfortable with.
“There was a lot more that you could see in terms of security, and there was a lot more that you couldn’t see, and that’s what we will try to do again at Carnoustie.
“We’ll try to keep it hidden because we want to reassure the fans that we are going to do everything we can to possibly keep them safe but not impede on them having a wonderful day.”