An amphitheatre of nearly 10,000 seats will create a “cauldron” around the final holes of the Old Course during the Open Championship this July.
A new two-tiered stand at the 18th green built on top of the famous Links Golf Shop and over the R&A members’ car park and a new stand complex at the 17th green are being constructed.
The R&A will provide more than 21,000 seats across the course, including just short of 10,000 around the famous final two holes as they seek to emulate the “horseshoe” stands at Hoylake last year with something even bigger.
“There is an incredible atmosphere at the Open and particularly at St Andrews,” said Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, the R&A’s executive director of championships. “We want to ensure as many spectators as possible can experience that and enjoy wonderful views of play on the opening and closing holes of the Old Course.”
The usual stands down the north side of the first fairway are already under construction, but the innovation is the structure to be built directly behind the 18th green, seating more than 2,000 reserved and public spectators.
The stand is being constructed on a steel arch to bear its weight without damaging the Links Golf Shop below. It will also feature the Open’s traditional hand- operated yellow scoreboard.
A new 4,000-seater stand along the back of the 17th green with TV studios enclosing the space to surrounding buildings will create what the R&A describe as a “cauldron” around the most famous finishing holes in golf.
Logistics for the championship have also changed, with a second park and ride facility at Cairn Mill Farm to the south of the town in addition to the established site for traffic coming from the north and west at Guardbridge.
“We are very conscious to try and minimise the effects of traffic to the centre of the town as much as possible,” said Rhodri Price, the R&A’s director of championship operations.
The R&A will also subsidise catering operations to the tune of £150,000 for the championship after some criticism in recent years.
A bottle of water will be down to £1.50 after £2 a bottle was charged at Muirfield in 2013, while a fish and chips meal will cost £8.50 rather than £10 as last year at Hoylake. Alcohol prices will remain the same, however, at £4.80 for a pint.
On-course spectators will be able to utilise the same free wi-fi service across the course which was installed at Hoylake at a cost of more than £200,000.
The R&A estimate that a total investment between £1.5 to £2 million will be made purely on the “spectator experience” at St Andrews this year.
Ticket prices have risen to £80 for “walk-up” entry on championship days they are discounted at £70 until the end of May but the R&A report that ticket interest so far shows that demand to attend the Open at St Andrews, traditionally the best attended venue on the rota, is as great as ever.