The R&A are to re-introduce readmissions for the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews next year, allowing spectators to leave and re-enter the Old Course during play.
The organisers of the golf’s oldest championship removed the long-standing readmissions policy at the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale – two years after the championship was last at the Old Course.
Policy to deter unofficial hospitality effective’
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 5, 2015
The R&A’s reasoning behind the move was partly security-related but mostly to try to curb unofficial “pirate” hospitality sited some miles off course.
They now believe that has worked and as a result will allow readmissions next year, subject to future review. It’s likely, however, that the difficulty of imposing the policy at St Andrews has been a factor.
A spokesman for The R&A said, “We have reviewed our no readmission policy following The Open at Royal St George’s. We believe it has proved effective in deterring unofficial hospitality providers and protecting fans.
“In light of this, we have decided to amend the policy for The 150th Open at St Andrews and future championships. Ticketholders will be able to come and go from the venue.
“We will monitor the situation closely, however, and if these problems re-occur we will consider reinstating the policy.”
Policy caused anger in Carnoustie in 2018
The change in policy brought a furious protest at the 2018 championship at Carnoustie from local traders and businesses, with Angus Council and local clubs raising concerns with the R&A.
The club eventually enclosed the Carnoustie clubs on Links Parade as part of the Open site. But no spectators were permitted to temporarily leave the site during hours of play once they had entered.
The R&A had been accused of trying to enforce fans to use their official hospitality packages and specifically their on-course food and drink outlets. Other major golf events, such as the Masters and US Open, allow re-admissions as does the tennis championships at Wimbledon.
A ballot for tickets has been introduced for the first time next year. The base ticket price of £95 on tournament days. The Open’s own catering is not cheap, with a bacon roll costing over £5.
An Open spectator can easily double their admission price once parking, travel, food and drink and merchandising purchases are factored in.
The club denied they were ring-fencing in favour of their own outlets. They claimed that pirate hospitality “degraded the fan experience” at the championship.
The vast majority of complaints about the Open the R&A received prior to the no readmissions policy, they said, were from customers who had bought unofficial hospitality packages.
Bringing back readmissions now is no surprise
The change now, just before the Open returns to St Andrews, will not surprise many. The close proximity of the town and specifically the other St Andrews golf clubs on Links Place made it a tricky proposition to keep the policy.
The cost of bringing all of Links Place into the Open “campus” would have been prohibitive. The street, adjacent to the Old Course’s 18th hole, includes some of the most valuable properties in all of Scotland.
In addition, the R&A have stepped back from a potential conflict with the businesses and traders in St Andrews.
The Open’s five-yearly visit to the Home of Golf causes considerable disruption to the town. But more than 200,000 spectators also make it a lucrative week for residents renting out houses and for local businesses.
The five-year cycle for St Andrews was broken for the 150th, and the Covid-19 cancellation in 2020. After next year’s milestone championship The Open is unlikely to return to St Andrews until 2030.