Royal Portrush looks likely 2024 Open Venue
The announcement last week by R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers that Royal Troon would host the 2023 Open Championship has made it highly likely that the Open will return to Royal Portrush in 2024. The return to Troon after only seven years since it last hosted the Open in 2016 is highly significant as they would appear to have jumped ahead of Royal Lytham (2012) and Muirfield (2013). In discussing future Open venues Slumbers said “We spend as much time talking about the infrastructure getting the crowds into the tournament as we do about the golf course. The balance has very much changed in the last five years. You know, you can have a great golf course but if you can’t get the crowds and the media in there and the sponsors in there then it doesn’t work for how we see the championship today”.
The resounding commercial success of the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush in attracting a record attendance (237,750) outside of an Open at St Andrews means we can expect it to return there as early as 2024. The R&A is expected to maintain its’ policy of St Andrews hosting the championship every five years meaning it will return there in 2025. The commercial success of the Open is essential to Slumbers plan to develop the game at the grassroots level. That is why Turnberry, Lytham and to a lesser extent Muirfield will struggle to host an Open in the very near future. Put quite simply if a venue cannot guarantee around 200,000 spectators it will struggle to host a future Open. Turnberry has always struggled in this regard with only 130,000 spectators attending in 2009 but Muirfield wasn’t that much far ahead with 142,000 when Phil Mickelson won in 2013. Traditionalists mightn’t like some of these courses disappearing from the Open rota but the commercial reality is that the Open has to be a “cash cow” for the R&A if it is to help grow the game in the way in which Slumbers envisages.