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.
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
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.
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
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
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.