A town councillor has warned that “damaging negativity” over the R&A’s ‘no re-admissions’ policy could put Carnoustie’s staging of future championships at risk.
Independent David Cheape said the actions of local businessman David Valentine in organising and marketing a petition has taken criticism of the policy “to an unwarranted level”.
Mr Valentine, who owns Simpsons of Carnoustie, the world’s second oldest golf shop, said he hoped “people power” would send a clear message to golf’s governing body when he launched his petition last week.
“While I understand the fundamental basis of his concern, I am surprised that the former head of economic development of Angus Council does not see the bigger picture or the potential consequence of his actions on both the Carnoustie and the greater Angus economies,” said Mr Cheape.
He said the R&A “must be left to run the event in the best way they consider appropriate” and “while suggestions for improvement are, I’m sure, always welcome, continued criticism is not constructive”.
Mr Cheape said: “Consequently to be on the Open ‘circuit’ is highly prized and as a result, many other golf courses from Great Britain and Northern Ireland are actively promoting themselves to the R&A in the hope of being added to the list of potential host sites.
“Compare this to continued criticism aimed at those bringing the gift of The Open to our town and it creates a much less positive impression.”
He said staging the event brings vast long term economic benefits to the area and the business community of Carnoustie benefits every day that Carnoustie remains a host venue for The Open.
“The only outcome of the petition may be to damage Carnoustie’s reputation as an outstanding and welcoming venue to championships,” said Mr Cheape.
“The R&A wants to get on with planning the success of the event and not be distracted by having to respond to negative criticism.”
Mr Cheape said people signing the petition should be aware “that to do so is counter-productive and damaging”.
“Continued negative publicity will only work to the detriment of Carnoustie while other Open ‘hopefuls’ incentivise and promote themselves as potential hosts seeing the huge economic benefits it would bring to their areas instead.”
Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee chairman Pat Sawers said it was “disappointing that a minor change in policy designed to protect spectators which The R&A have introduced is being criticised for having a substantial economic detriment to the town”.
She said: “There is no evidence to support this and the facts are quite the opposite.
“Overly negative comment on the event will not help Carnoustie and will present a detrimental image to the world.”
The golf body insists the no re-admissions policy is required “to protect golf fans from the mis-selling of tickets and hospitality products by unofficial operators”.
Mr Valentine said: “It sounds like Councillor Cheape agrees that the “no-readmissions policy” will do untold damage to the town but doesn’t want to upset the R&A by telling them – that’s a sorry situation.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to join with fans from around the UK in asking the R&A to think again.
“Neither should the fear of losing The Open be used time and time again to justify costly decisions in Carnoustie that most local people don’t agree with.”
Carnoustie will host The Open for just the third time in 19 years this summer. The links returned to the Open rota in 1999 after a 24-year-gap.