The Open keeps growing in attendance, viewership and purse size. The same can be said for the popularity of the venues - all of which provide some level of public access. That is of course something that can't be said for the three U.S.-based majors.
An examination of the visitor policies of the rota shows that the clubs are continuing to raise their green fees, but that is in large part because of the weakness of the pound versus the U.S. dollar. Posted 2020 green fees are £5-25 more year-over-year, though, in the case of 2018 host Carnoustie, they will soar £42.
Just because the green fees are rising, it doesn't necessarily mean the courses are getting more expensive, so long as your bank account has the right currency, and right now, Americans do. Consider the recent exchange rate trend of the USD vs. the British Pound. The dollar has continued to gain strength, so even if U.K. clubs are gradually raising their fees, it's not translating to foreigners, and especially Americans, paying more.
Case in point: 2016. The Old Course in St. Andrews was £175 that year and if you paid to play right before the pound crashed after the Brexit vote at a $1.47 exchange rate, your round would have cost $257.
In 2019, the Old is £195 but in current USD conversion of $1.24 that's just $235. And it seems like the pound continues to slump as the country's Brexit woes mount.
Another example is Turnberry's Ailsa course, which in 2009 had a green fee of £210. Now a Trump property and following extensive renovations, fees have soared to among the U.K.'s most expensive rounds. But the U.S. cost from 2009 to 2019 is $350 ('09) vs. $403 ('19), and in fact it's less expensive to book now if you splurge on a hotel room ($310 green fees for guests).
Here is a breakdown of what the current rota courses cost in 2019, and most have already posted green fees for summer of 2020. Some courses offer shoulder season rates in April and October. over the years, it seems the April and October shoulder seasons have shrunk at many courses from one month to two weeks or even gone away entirely. For some comparison, Prestwick Golf Club, the original home of The Open in 1860, is currently charging £195-225.
We've sorted the rota by cheapest to priciest summer fees in 2019. Caddies are extra, and good luck hiring a golf cart.
Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry
2019: £325 (£375 Fri-Mon) | Hotel guests: £250-325
2020: £325-395 | Hotel Guests: £275-350
The most expensive round of the ten rota courses and the only bonafide "resort" course, the R&A still considers Turnberry to be in the rota even if they haven't announced a future hosting date since Donald Trump acquired the property. Since 2009, new seaside holes have been added to the famous course. (Read more)
2019: £250 (£350 including afternoon foursomes)
2020: £270 / £400
While St. Andrews is the most popular tee time to get, Muirfield is the most exclusive tee sheet, offering visitor play on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Old Course at Royal Troon
Host of the 2020 Women's British Open, Royal Troon only allows visitors on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
2019: £235 (weekday) | £265 (weekend)
2020: £245 (weekday) | £275 (weekend)
The "Links along the line" are chock full of courses to sample and Birkdale, where Jordan Spieth won in 2017 in emphatic fashion, is the main attraction. Plan your trip right and you can save on a car hire.
Royal St. George's
The links hosts the 2020 Open, so be advised that like Royal Portrush this year, play will be off mats in the months prior to the event. One oddity at St. George's is that most visitor play is in the 2-ball format and only on Tuesdays are fourballs permitted.
Dunluce links at Royal Portrush
The newest course in the modern rota, Royal Portrush is actually slightly less expensive than its stellar neighbor, Royal County Down (2019 green fees £240-250).
Carnoustie Championship links
Quite a leap in green fees between 2019-2020, even if Carnoustie is typically the most accessible links to book in the rota. One way to spread out the cost would be to book the three-day package that includes the club's other two courses, Burnside and Buddon, and pay £300 total. Great value can be found elsewhere around Carnoustie Country.
2020: £215 (summer times not yet listed on website, but shoulder season rates are up £15 YoY)
Royal Lytham & St. Annes
2019: £200 (£250 on Saturdays and bank holidays)
2020: Not posted yet
This is a rare links in the rota that provides a signficant discount of £45 for those who stay at the club's dormy house.
Old Course in St. Andrews
Getting a guaranteed Old Course tee time without a tour operator markup isn't easy but possible, especially if you plan ahead, have a small group or can be flexible (or don't mind missing a night's sleep).