FOR decades watching The Open golf championship on television has meant tuning into the BBC with its uninterrupted coverage and distinctive commentary by Peter Alliss.

But it now appears that those days are over as the BBC has pulled the plug on its 60-year partnership of the major championship.

The BBC, having already lost future live television coverage of the most famous golf competition in the world to Sky Sports, has walked out early on the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

However, Sky Sports said will step into the breach to take over live television from next year.

It means golf fans will have to pay to watch the premier contest on television, which next year comes from Troon in Ayrshire, a year earlier than thought.

Sky winning the £15m deal for the oldest major golf contest in the world - the 145th Open - means it will cost fans without Sky subscriptions £6.99 for one day.

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said the decision to quit early was made because her department is “not immune” to cuts in the wider corporation.

She said: “Now, more than ever, it is critical that the BBC targets its resources to ensure maximum choice and value for money for licence fee payers."

Following the BBC’s announcement the R&A said it was approached by the corporation to discuss being released from its contract a year early.

The BBC will broadcast highlights only in 2016 but will continue its radio coverage along with enhanced digital offerings.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the St Andrews-based R&A, said: “We are looking forward to world-class coverage of the Open from our partners at Sky Sports and are grateful that they have stepped in a year early.

“It is sad to see the BBC’s live coverage of the Open end and I know some fans will be disappointed.

“The relationship between the R&A and the BBC spans more than 60 years and we understand the challenging circumstances that the BBC is currently presented with."

He added: “I know the BBC will produce compelling highlights, which will be enjoyed by a large prime-time audience.

"We are committed to delivering a spectacular edition of the Open next year at Royal Troon and working with both Sky Sports and the BBC we will ensure compelling coverage for millions of fans throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland."

Sky Sports will offer live coverage of all four days from Royal Troon including extended build-up throughout the week,

Barney Francis, Sky Sports managing director, said: “We’re pleased to begin our commitment to The Open a year early and look forward to bringing unprecedented coverage of this wonderful Championship. We have exciting plans to take coverage of The Open to the next level across our TV, mobile and digital outlets.”

The agreement means that next year Sky Sports viewers will have four majors, the Ryder Cup, the European Tour and PGA Tour, as well as other live events and programming.

Ms Slater added: “We have already made long term commitments to a wide range of major sporting events, including the Wimbledon Championships to 2020, the next two Football World Cups, Match of the Day to 2019, Six Nations to 2021 and the next three Olympic Games.

A spokesman for the Royal Troon Golf Club said the matter was one for the Royal and Ancient but that it was “not a concern”.