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4 Courses We’d Like To See Host The Open Championship

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Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, Scotland, plays some of the most dramatic dunes we have seen. It would make a spectacular Open site.

Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, Scotland, plays some of the most dramatic dunes we have seen. It would make a spectacular Open site. (Brian Morgan)

I loved watching the Open Championship from Royal Liverpool this weekend. Rory McIlroy’s performance was tremendous. I’m already counting down until next year, when the Open returns to The Old Course at St. Andrews.

I do have one minor concern, though.

The “Open rota.”

As it stands, there are currently ten sites in the Open rota (counting Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, host its first Open in 68 years in 2019).

The Old Course seems destined to host the event on every year ending in a 0 or a 5 going forward, which is fine. The game’s oldest championship should return to its most iconic championship venue that often. But as for the rest of the rota?

Let’s share the wealth a bit more.

For example:

Here are four courses I’d personally love to see added to the Open rota.

These venues are not total pie-in-the-sky choices, either. They are all long enough, tough enough and they have enough room to accommodate the thousands of fans and other structures that make up the Open Championship scene each year.

As always, please add your own nominations in the comments…

Trump International Golf Links

Trump International has length, challenge and space - all prerequisites for any Open site.

Trump International has length, challenge and space – all prerequisites for any Open site. (Brian Morgan)

He can be a polarizing figure, but Donald Trump succeeded in his mission to build a world-class seaside course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Architect Martin Hawtree routed holes through some of the most striking dunesland in the Isles and the early returns from the course have been almost uniformly positive. It’s no secret The Donald would love to host an Open Championship in Aberdeen…and this course could actually do it. He’s already purchased his way into the rota with Turnberry, and we think Trump International is also good enough to earn the nod from the R&A.

Castle Stuart

Castle Stuart Golf Links is Gil Hanse's second course in Scotland, but it is by far his most heralded, and for good reason. (Golf Odyssey)

Castle Stuart Golf Links is Gil Hanse’s second course in Scotland, but it is by far his most heralded, and for good reason. (Golf Odyssey)

Up-and-coming architect Gil Hanse, who won the right to design Rio’s Olympics golf course, burst on the scene with Castle Stuart, his links gem near Inverness, Scotland. Hanse mixed larger, more rugged sandy hazards with the more traditional pot bunkers to give this course a particularly wild look. It hosted the 2013 Scottish Open to great acclaim, with its par-5 finishing hole serving as the stage for some late drama from Phil Mickelson. It would be the northernmost Open Championship site by far, which would up the possibilities of seeing the sort of volatile weather that golf fans love to watch the pros play in. Also, the Open rota could use a truly modern course for variety’s sake. Will we see Castle Stuart awarded an Open in the next couple decades? We hope so.

Gullane Golf Club 

A composite of Gullane Golf Club's No.1 and No. 2 courses will host the 2015 Scottish Open. Will it be a trial run for a future Open Championship? (Gullane Golf Club and Glyn Satterley)

A composite of Gullane Golf Club’s No.1 and No. 2 courses will host the 2015 Scottish Open. Will it be a trial run for a future Open Championship? (Gullane Golf Club and Glyn Satterley)

Located practically next door to Muirfield, Gullane has three courses on-site. Location: check. Open-caliber infrastructure: check. The European Tour recently announced the 2015 Scottish Open will be held at Gullane over a composite of holes from courses 1 and 2. Worthiness to host top-level professional golf: check. Good reviews from that event will surely stir talk of a future Open, especially if Muirfield’s current policy of male-only membership becomes a sticking point against its continued presence in the Open rota. All three courses start from the town and play out toward the sea before returning back to the town, echoing The Old Course’s charming routing. Also, greens fees at Gullane’s courses are much lower than any other current Open course, making them affordable by a wider range of people.

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club

Wales would cherish the opportunity to host an Open Championship. Royal Porthcawl has the Senior Open this year, is the main one coming soon? (© Crown Copyright (2010) Visit Wales)

Wales would cherish the opportunity to host an Open Championship. Royal Porthcawl has the Senior Open this year, is the main one coming soon? (© Crown Copyright (2010) Visit Wales)

Every now and then, voices will rise in support of the R&A awarding Royal Porthcawl, Wales’ foremost links, an Open. With Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush reentering the rota in 2019, now is the perfect time for the R&A to continue to promote the entire United Kingdom by virtue of its Open Championship site selections. Needless to say, we would be in favor of an Open in the 2020s at this rugged old site which has hosted the Women’s British Open, British Amateur and Walker Cup and ranked in the top 50 best courses outside the United States by Golf Digest. A bit of lengthening of the golf course might be required for the pros, but that happens practically every year throughout the rest of the rota. There are also mild concerns about Porthcawl accommodating the crowds for an Open, but there’s no reason why the R&A couldn’t do what the USGA did to make a U.S. Open at Merion work in 2013. Porthcawl hosts the Senior Open Championship this week; we hope it ultimately serves as a trial run for a future Open.

What course(s) do YOU think would make great Open Championship sites?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

39 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    July 22, 2014 at 8:02 am

    How about Ballybunion?

  2. Fran

    July 22, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Machrahanish (championship), Sunningdale, Kingsbarns, Royal County Down

  3. Tom Morris

    July 22, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Ballybunion, Dunebeg, and Lahinch should be added to the Open Championship list. These links courses are world renowned and also located in Ireland as is Portrush.
    In fact, these Irish courses are rated higher than most courses on the current Open rotation list.

  4. bruce bedard

    July 22, 2014 at 8:13 am

    PLayed them all !! I Port stewart! the best of those listed …. I agree any or all could be added to the british open….

  5. James Wise

    July 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Royal Dornoch. Royal Aberdeen. Prestwick.

  6. J Franklin

    July 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Completely agree with Porthcawl…..Awesome track and wonderful venue. Not as sure on Gullane, until I understand/remember the course better…..the region already hosting @Muirfield probably puts that one toward the bottom.

  7. Matt Wood

    July 22, 2014 at 8:31 am

    I doubt they will play an open at Trump International – although it looks great from afar, when we played the fairways were terrible, US style PGA standard fairways on a links course – why? Very slow greens as well. The other issue will be the dunes, which are still under SSSI protection and so it’d be highly unlikely they’d be allowed to have 200,000+ people tramping over them for a week.

    Finally local feeling will no doubt come into play, friends/relatives that I have in the area all say that it’s still running strongly against the development and his treatment of a few locals in particular continues to turn people away. Would those people be likely to attend an open on a Trump course, even if the money isn’t going to him?

    theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/10/donald-trump-100m-golf-course

  8. Matt Wood

    July 22, 2014 at 8:36 am

    That said, I’d love to see the Open at Gullane, it’s a wonderful course and one that is much more accessible than anything else on the current roster. Given the huge decline in playing numbers, the impact of a major tournament on a course where you can mostly just turn up and play should be seriously considered ( and for under £50 on No. 2, under £35 on No. 3 which is still a cracker of a course) – compared to £200 at Trump…..

  9. Rick Kimsey

    July 22, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Bless you for including Gullane – #s 1 and 2 are both phenomenal plays.

  10. Grant McCausland

    July 22, 2014 at 8:39 am

    These four are great choices. I played Royal Dornnoch Golf Course and found it to be one of the most challenging courses. Maybe its too far north to hold the Open.

  11. Ian MacGruer

    July 22, 2014 at 9:13 am

    You are having a laugh, surely. I have been privileged to play Castle Stuart many times. It is a beautiful course but not taxing enough to be an Open Championship venue and in any event arguably not a true links. Gullane is one of my favourite courses but I think a poor version of Muirfield that has all the history behind it. Can’t comment on Trump or Portcawl because I don’t know them well enough.

    The sniping criticism of the R and A who have yet again provided us with a magical championship is unjustified and becoming tedious. They have evolved a winning formula over decades and the numbers of courses on the rota feels about right. Why risk diluting the appeal by making unnecessary changes?

    Kindly unsubscribe me from your newsletter.

  12. Chris

    July 22, 2014 at 9:17 am

    In addition to Royal Portrush being added to the Rota, it would be nice to see Royal County Down added as well.

  13. Chuggers

    July 22, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Guys, stop suggesting courses in Ireland. That’s equivalent to suggesting Canadian courses to host the US Open. Royal Portrush and Royal County Down are valid contenders because they are in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. Ballybunion, Lahinch etc are excellent contenders… for the Irish Open.

  14. John R

    July 22, 2014 at 9:40 am

    All great courses– but need to add Crudden Bay to the list–one of the best/challenging courses in Scotland that I have played

  15. John

    July 22, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Ireland isn’t British!

  16. Roxster

    July 22, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Trump would be a great site and can be made “Open ready” with little effort. The dunes are an issue, but imagine that there are means to accommodate the crowd and preserve the dunes. At the end, so what, it is television that matters.
    The opposition to the project is a bit ironic: You cannot touch our dunes to build a golf course that will guarantee their preservation, but we want to build a forest of power-generating windmills at sea so that when you look over those magnificent dunes, you will be looking at a truly hideous sight. Can’t wait for Scots independence…NOT.

  17. roger

    July 22, 2014 at 10:31 am

    if scotland become independant in september then really the open championship should be held in uk, which would then exclude all scottish courses? therefore should this happen royal county down and princes should be added to the rota

  18. nick b

    July 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I think that the R&A normally only hold the Open within the confines of Great Britain – now that Portrush has been added to the rota- this means that they have extended it to the whole of the United Kingdom. However although Ballybunion, Waterville,Killarney, Ballyliffin, Lahinch are located in Ireland – a totally different country

  19. John Charles

    July 22, 2014 at 11:10 am

    You must be an idiot if you think the Scots will ever allow the Open to be played on the Trump course after Trump insulted all of the Scottish courses when he announced that he was building the “greatest course in Scotland”. The guy is a lout, and the Scots will not reward him, unless he buys the powers that be.

  20. marilyn

    July 22, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Why Trump when Cruden Bay is just up the coast. also royal dornach.

  21. Terry

    July 22, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I love Gullane & North Berwick but do you think they would have reasonable rates if The Open goes there.

  22. Harvey Sadow

    July 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

    There are plenty of wonderful golf courses in the UK. I have played many of the ones in Scotland that you mentioned in these two articles, and I love them. But I have have to wonder why you feel the need to mess with the wonderful traditions Open golf. The infrastructure necessary to house, feed, park and move 100,000 people in and out of one golf course and the surrounding comunities would rule out many of the courses suggested by other readers. If anything, Royal Aberdeen certainly has the quality, the history, and possibly the infrastructure to merit inclusion, but why? Several of the courses mentioned are a stone’s throw from current Open venues. Would you replace them or play them less often? (St. Andrews or Muirfield every 20 years, perhaps?). Further, adding the Trump course (for which there was neither need nor popular sentiment) to the rota would be an insult to the Scottish people and to the Open tradition, especially with Royal Aberdeen right down the road. The idea of a new links-oriented rota for the Scottish Open is brilliant and should provide exposure, kudos and other benefits for a number of great courses and their neighboring communities. The Open Championship is fine as it is.

  23. David Forman

    July 22, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    why isn’t the best links course in the world mentioned even though it is in Northern Ireland ?- The Royal County Down – I am assuming not enough hotel accommodations but the best links course in the world for my money – Tiger had a hard time breaking 70 there when he first started playing there as a tune up for the Open.

  24. Keith

    July 22, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I would throw Kingsbarnes in there…great track I have had the privilege to play a number of times. Although it might be weird to have the Open in St. Andrews and not be at the Old Course.

  25. mario piragibe

    July 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    I strongly agree with Roxter. He is right!Preserve the dunes? How? And more,we must consider the advice from Matt Wood.

  26. Ray

    July 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    My picks are based on the Golf Digest listing of the World’s Top 100 Golf Courses.

    Royal County Down in Northern Ireland is rated #4 in the world well above Royal Portrush at #16.

    Royal Dornoch rated #6 is the highest rated course in Scotland not on the rota.

    Sunnindale rated # 41 is the highest rated English course not on the rota.

  27. Dave

    July 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Cruden Bay for sure. Royal Dornach, too. Do they have the facilities to “host” all those fans, though?

  28. JGM

    July 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    One of the only courses that can hold its own with the big boys with
    18 championship golf holes is Waterville. Will never happen with no housing

  29. John Curtin

    July 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    North Berwick is way better than Gullane. Cruden Bay and Royal Dornoch are the other 2 I would recommend.

  30. Fred Henning

    July 22, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Portmarnock in Dublin.
    Very British-style course.

  31. hitman

    July 23, 2014 at 1:14 am

    lahinch, ballybunion and RCD could never host a Open simply because they don’t have the room to host all the TV and merchandise venues needed at an open. Portrush does have the space down the first fairway and over the road in the caravan park. Lahinch and RCD don’t have driving ranges either. Ballybunion could host as they can put all the tv and merchandising on the second course.

  32. Anonymous

    July 23, 2014 at 9:18 am

    How about Royal Dornoch in Scotland? I believe this is one of Tom Watson’s favorite British Isle courses.

  33. Kevin Markham

    July 24, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Thanks to Chuggers for pointing out the obvious (on this side of the Altantic anyway) – The Open Championship will never be held on Ballybunion, Lahinch or any other Irish course because Ireland is not in the UK. Only Northern Irish courses qualify.

    Royal Dornoch is always being mentioned as a perfect golf course to host the Open, but it is considered to be too far away from anywhere and would never have the infrastructure to cope.

    I wouldn’t want to see Trump Aberdeen host The Open in a million years. I suspect the R&A won’t either. Such an old organisation, firmly rooted in tradition and process is not about to welcome a new course – let alone Trump – into the Open family. Same applies to Castle Stuart. They’ll stick with the old courses – so Gullane and Royal Porthcawl are strong choices… and Royal Porthcawl has a real shot after Royal Portrush has been added to the rota.

    Royal Aberdeen could be added to the list, too.

    For photos of Royal Porthcawl: flickr.com/photos/kevinmarkham/sets/72157631558653763/

  34. Tom Morris

    July 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

    What’s the difference between Portrush or County Down hosting the Open and the rest of the great links courses on the island of Ireland. There is only one golfing body in Ireland, the GUI which governs golf in Ireland. Note the Irish Open is played throughout the island including Portrush. Hence, the precedent is set.
    Trump Aberdeen will host a future Open as such a huge investment is not without sound commitments. The same economics apply to Trump Dunebeg for hosting an Irish open.

  35. Kevin Markham

    July 25, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Sorry, Tom Morris, but that’s simply not the way it works. Yes, the GUI is the governing body of Ireland’s 4 provinces, but they have no say in the operations of the R&A. We’re talking history and geography here. Ireland and Northern Ireland are different countries, and the R&A are only interested in the Northern one when it comes to The Open Championship.
    As for Trump Aberdeen… it’s the same thing… it’s up to the R&A and not Salmond and the government. And let’s not forget how the Scottish government out played Trump on the wind farm situation. An Open may be played there, but not for a long time. One suspects that’s one of the reasons that Trump bought Turnberry.
    Finally, it’s Doonbeg, not Dunebeg… although it is now called Trump International Golf Links Ireland – one of the world’s catchiest names.

  36. Jim J

    July 29, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Kevin Markham, Chuggers, nick b, and John are INCORRECT. The oldest world championship in SPORT can be played in the Republic of Ireland, or in France, or in Portugal, or in Canada. IT IS NOT CALLED “THE BRITISH OPEN,” DAMMIT! It is called THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP. Always has been, always will be. In fact, the Chinese announcers for last year’s Open suggested that the official Chinese name be changed from “Yingguo Gongkai Sai”(英国公开赛)to “Shijie Gongkai Sai”(世界公开赛),since it is the first open championship in any sport. The official Chinese name translates into “United Kingdom Open.” Their suggestion translates into “WORLD OPEN.” I couldn’t agree more.

  37. Anthony Mann

    August 5, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Lahinch, Ballybunion, & a few others mentioned are in Ireland, therefore not British.

  38. Philip Winter

    August 19, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Not a chance for Trump International I think. It’s too ‘young’, the fairways aren’t ‘links’ type at all and the dunes being SSSI just can’t be ignored. The comment ‘at the end, so what, it’s television that matters’ is simply ludicrous (maybe it was intended to be). So unless ‘big money’ in some way trumps tradition at the R&A, which is highly improbable, no chance for Trump.

    Obviously courses in the Republic of Ireland won’t qualify to host the The Open. It’s the (British) Open.

    I’m more than happy to leave the choice of courses to wise heads at the R&A. They may be ‘fuddy duddy’ traditionalists but I think that’s a very good thing so far as The Open is concerned.

    Maybe playing The Masters on different courses is another idea that uou may wish to pursue?

  39. Alan Holland

    August 20, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Jim J: you are wrong! Yes it is The Open Championship, but it is run by the R&A, who run the game in the UK, and will only stage their Tournament in Great Britain. That rules out all courses in Eire.
    Porthcawl would be an excellent addition to the rota, as well as Portrush, allowing The Open to be held in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Plus the addition of these two will mean a rota of 11/12 years, ideal.

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