Money talks. And when it comes to The Open, it doesn’t just talk, it roars right into your face like a frothing Alex Ferguson lambasting an under-performing superstar for an insipid first half.

As the R&A announced yesterday that Royal Troon will stage The Open in 2023, 100 years on from the first time it held the championship, the wider impact on other courses on the rota, namely Turnberry and Muirfield, was clear;

unless you’re bringing in the big crowds and the big bucks, you’re going to have to wait even longer for your turn.

In Turnberry’s case, of course, the small matter of Donald Trump’s involvement has meant it had already been kicked so far into the long grass we’ve just about had to declare it lost.

The enchanting Ailsa, that haven of legends and landmarks, of the Duel in the Sun of ‘77 and old Tom Watson’s age-defying heroics in 2009, has been a no-go area since Trump got his hands on it.


In his annual round-table blether with the golf writers, Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, suggested that “I’m sure we’ll stage an Open there in the not too distant future.”

Given the way the championship is going, however, we shouldn’t hold our breath. And if President Trump is reading this, he’s probably turned an even stranger shade of orange.

“We have this desire for The Open to be one of the world’s greatest sporting events, and I think that a big-time sport needs a big-time crowd,” added Slumbers. “So we are looking [at venues] where we can get larger crowds.”

There is a clear hierarchy now developing as the R&A seek hosts that can easily accommodate crowds around the 200,000-plus mark.


St Andrews is always huge, the north west of England powerhouses like Hoylake and Royal Birkdale pack them in while Royal Portrush made a triumphant return to the scene last year.

Royal Troon, which hosted a thrilling championship in 2016, will get another crack within just seven years of that particular staging when many expected Muirfield to be awarded the 2023 showpiece.

The last time the East Lothian course held The Open in 2013, the attendance dropped to around 142,000, down by 20,000 on the 2003 event there.

When Muirfield members voted not to allow female members, the R&A removed it from The Open rota. It was swiftly put back on after another vote welcomed the good ladies but one of the best courses can’t guarantee the best attendances.

“How do we get 200,000 people around Muirfield?,” said Slumbers. “How do we get Edinburgh city to embrace it?”

Meanwhile, the relatively isolated Turnberry had about 120,000 through the gates in 2009 and cost the R&A £1m in lost revenue.

Those kind of figures just won’t cut the mustard now as The Open continues to march into more fertile, financial lands, while the R&A seeks to make as much money as possible to fling back into the development of golf in their role as custodians.

“The game needs investment at the amateur level and there is an absolute demand for us to invest more,” Slumbers added. “All of this is putting pressure on making sure we drive up the revenues of The Open.”

This year’s Open will head back to Royal St George’s and, while it can be something of a footer getting in and out, it still ticks boxes.

“The previous record for size of crowds at Royal St George’s was 183,000 but we will be through 200,000 come July,” insisted Slumbers.

The times they continue to change and even The Open’s turn up and pay at the gate policy for spectators will be consigned to history.

“The world changes and the all-ticket [policy] creates a scarcity and real interest in The Open,” said Slumbers.