Every Open Championship I have ever attended has had a policy of re-admission. In some cases, it was a godsend. When the wind seriously affected play in St Andrews back in 2015, the play came to a halt and lasted nearly the whole day. Rather than wait around, I ventured into the town only a stone's throw away from the course. The town was buzzing in a way I had never seen before. The local economy boomed and despite the conditions, there was still a party mood. Everyone benefited from the policy of re-admission.
Fast forward to 2017 and the R&A announced that there would be no re-admission at Royal Birkdale. Whilst many patrons might not have noticed the introduction of the policy (after all, they have come for the golf) it leads to an interesting question. Is the policy of no re-admission here to stay or was it introduced as a one off?
The town of Southport, that was offering free bus shuttles to and from The Open Championship, certainly felt the effects of the policy. This was their opportunity to enjoy an economic boom. Instead, it had the feeling of many coastal towns struggling. It didn’t have the feeling that a major sporting event was in town. As Morrissey said in his song, Every day feels like Sunday, “This is the coastal town that they forgot to close down.” The R&A certainly didn’t forget to add nails to the coffin.
The policy of re-admission allows for all to benefit, instead, once you entered the gates at The Open you were trapped. Trapped in the culture of hyperinflation with expensive food and drinks. Fancied a little break away from the golf and a trip to the local boozer? Not on the R&A’s watch.
They claimed that the policy was there to protect patrons. Unofficial hospitality has been on the rise and the R&A claimed that they have received a number of complaints from previous championships and have decided to act. This alone is interesting. Does that mean that no re-admission is here to stay?
I doubt it. I can not imagine St Andrews tolerating it. It is always important to remember that for the locals, hosting an event of this magnitude is actually an inconvenience. Road blocks, changes to parking and of course the mass influx of outsiders. Give and take has to be acknowledged, the town itself has to reap the rewards, it really has to be a case of share and share a like.
Instead, with the exception of day trippers entering Southport with little interest in golf, the Town was relatively deserted. There were things available. The Summer of Golf gave non-golfers the chance to try the game for the first time. It was an area of town that was busy in places. Just imagine how much busier it would have been if re-admission was still in place?
Now The Open Championship heads to Carnoustie. Non-re-admission has already caught the eye of the local businesses.
David Valentine, the owner of Simpsons of Carnoustie, the world’s second oldest golf shop, said the policy would be a “big blow” if it is still in place next year.
He said: “It would affect pubs, cafes and shops in the town. To do this at major events is a big blow to the very people who support the golf courses year in, year out.”
“Without the businesses and the people of Carnoustie, who purchased the links in 1892, The Open would not receive the wonderful welcome it has always enjoyed. I can only hope the R&A can reverse that decision.”
All that remains to be seen is whether the R&A will like what happened at Royal Birkdale. If more profit was generated then I’m sure that they will sit on their ivory chairs prepared to condemn the town of Carnoustie to the similar fate as Southport. However, I would seriously beg them to reconsider this. Once the towns lose their faith, once the host towns are destroyed, when people see it as an expensive exercise and in a time of economic uncertainty following the triggering of Britain’s departure from the E.U. Will there be anything left to salvage?
From a personal opinion, this policy has to stop. There may have been winners and losers but surely the whole point is to spread the wealth, grow businesses and more importantly, grow the game.