The Open’s return has “huge value” and has “transformed” Carnoustie as town, and they have no plans not to return, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers insisted yesterday.
The championship organisers disputed the comments of Carnoustie GC captain Bill Thompson claiming the event had outgrown the Angus town and casting doubt on whether golf’s oldest major championship should return to the course in the future.
Thompson, speaking to the BBC, said the disruption to the town for the weeks of preparation leading up to the modern championship was “changing the balance”.
“There are roads closed, parking [issues], no cars allowed between 7am and 9pm,” he said.
“The balance was always that you’d put up with an element of disruption, a number of weeks with no play on the course and a number of weeks with less play. But for the first time, we’ve actually seen pieces of the golf course torn up for corporate hospitality tents.
“We’ve already lost several weeks of play and we will lose several more before they come back into play. There are 14,000 residents here. We’re not built for 40,000 or 50,000 people.”
Thompson added that the modern Open was run as “a corporate machine”.
“There is very little input, very little communication,” he continued. “We are absolutely on the periphery of this tournament. When it goes away next week, we will be hopefully to try to re-baseline our business back to what we do which is looking after our members and welcoming any visitors.”
The R&A, however, believe that their co-operation from the Carnoustie Links Trust, the local clubs and the local authorities have made this “one of the most positive experiences” in preparing for an Open.
Slumbers pointed out that a few weeks’ disruption was the price of “huge value to Carnoustie as a golf course and as a town for decades to come”.
“The Open has grown as golf has grown. As we have sought to ensure that The Open is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, and the infrastructure definitely has grown around it,” he said.
“If you go back to 1999, by bringing The Open here transformed Carnoustie. It transformed it in terms of the money that was invested in the golf course, in the links, in the infrastructure around here to make it happen.”
The perception that there were serious difficulties staging an Open at Carnoustie was inaccurate, he added.
“It is a challenge that the railway line is right there but once you get here, there is plenty of space to build,” he continued.
“At the heart of every Open has to be a classic links golf course, and that’s what we havehere , and we work around that. I wish we talked more positively about here.”
The R&A’s director of championships Johnnie Cole-Hamilton said there was “absolutely adequate space and no concern” about building the championship complex.
“I would actually say as well, from my perspective, in the twenty Opens I’ve been involved in, this has been one of the most positive experiences I’ve had in building a modern Open Championship,” he said.
“The co-operation we’ve had from clubs, from Carnoustie Links and Angus Council has been a positive experience.
“Every Open venue has strengths and weaknesses, and they all cooperate fantastically with us. At the moment, we have no concerns over any of our Open venues from an infrastructure point of view.