Where should The Open go next?
The Open’s triumphant return to Royal Portrush after a 68-year hiatus made us ponder which other courses deserve a spot on the rota...
Royal County Down
I’m going to keep this pretty simple. Why wouldn’t you host the UK’s greatest golf tournament on its best golf course? It’s nothing short of a tragedy that RCD has never hosted the Open. It’s one of Ireland’s oldest courses and has hosted the Irish Open, Senior Open, Amateur Championship, British Ladies Amateur Championship, Curtis Cup and Walker Cup. It’s the toughest and most complete test of links golf known to man, the scenery is spectacular, and its combination of challenge and beauty make it close to being the perfect golf experience. There’s a reason it takes top spot in our Top 100 Golf Courses in UK & Ireland. “The more you play it, the more you recognise it for the class place it is,” says Graeme McDowell.
Northern Ireland has done a sterling job hosting top-tier events. The 2012 Irish Open at Portrush was the first European Tour event ever to sell out in advance, a feat repeated at RCD in 2015, and at the Open this year. NI shouldn’t have to wait so long to host the Open again, and this time should do so at the jewel in its crown.
Burnham & Berrow
Burnham & Berrow is a world-class links that ticks almost every box required to host an Open Championship. It has the history, with golf having been played through its towering sand dunes since the 19th century. It has the quality, having been laid out by Herbert Fowler, revised by Harry Colt and reshaped and remodelled in places by Martin Ebert. Their work combines to make a world-class links, arguably the most underrated in Britain.
The only causes for concern come in the form of its length and one brief stretch of holes. At just a few yards under 7,000, it comes up short against recent Open venues (Carnoustie was 7,400, Royal Portrush 7,344), while the run of holes 6, 7 and 8 feels slightly flat after what comes before and goes after. But remember Martin Ebert? The R&A’s go-to guy for Open revisions would have little trouble getting Burnham & Berrow Open ready.
B&B ticks the logistical boxes too, lying just five miles from the M5 and within two hours of both London and Birmingham. All in all, an easy decision.
As Britain’s only major, the Open should visit all of its countries, but Wales remains conspicuous by its absence from the R&A’s rota. That is unfathomable when you consider that, in Royal Porthcawl, the Principality boasts one of Britain’s finest links courses. It’s proven a fitting host of prestigious events, from the Amateur Championship and Walker Cup to the Senior Open Championship in 2014 and 2017 – where Bernhard Langer triumphed on both occasions. “It is a gem,” says the German. “It can certainly measure up with any of the courses that host the Open and Senior Open.”
At just over 7,000 yards, its length isn’t the challenge – it’s all about the second shot and the choices you make around green complexes that are the equal of any you’ll find at Britain’s more feted links. Add an opening stretch of holes that betters many Open venues and a closing quartet capable of causing leaderboard havoc and it’s hard to believe the R&A isn’t moving heaven and earth to take the Open across the newly toll-free Severn Bridge.
An overseas or international venue
While many readers will be foaming at the mouth at the mere suggestion of taking The Open outside of the British Isles, bear with me for just a moment. I promise you there is some logic to my argument. As we all know, the Open is organised and administered by the tournament arm of the R&A – a sibling of the governing body that administers the sport outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Given the wide reach of the R&A’s jurisdiction and its broad remit to grow the game worldwide, surely you can make a case for playing golf’s most venerable championship overseas every so often? While there may not be huge links golf pedigree and strength-in-depth outside of these shores, imagine the knock-on effect in terms of global participation if, say, the Open was hosted at the marvellous Kennemer in the Netherlands or at one of Australia’s spectacular new links. Major championship golf is far too US- and UK-centric. Venturing overseas once in a while would enable The Open truly to live up to its label as the most international major.