Golf's democratic championship — the British Open


Last night in the travel section, I posted a story I wrote after my first trip to Scotland, a visit that included a round at Turnberry’s Ailsa course, which will host the British Open this week

Good times, great golf: Two pairs of brothers enjoy a glorious day at Turnberry in 2003.

Good times, great golf: Two pairs of brothers enjoy a glorious day at Turnberry in 2003.

 for the first time in 15 years. I was — and remain — very fond of the course, and will do something longer on it tomorrow. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that — for the most part — the public can play each of the Open Championship courses. That’s surely a big difference from the U.S. Open or even the Canadian Open, both of which are primarily played on private courses.

In the meantime, here’s a fine hole-by-hole of what many think is the most stunning seaside course without the word “pebble” in its name.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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  • RT…That’s surely a big difference from the U.S. Open or even the Canadian Open, both of which are primarily played on private courses.
    Get your facts right. The Canadian Open has been played on a public golf course, likely 90% of the time in the last 30 years (Glen Abbey). In the last 11 years, the US Open has been played at public courses as follows, 99 and 2005 at Pinehurst, 2000 at Pebble Beach, 2002, and 2009 at Bethpage Black, 2008 at Torrey Pines. In other words, 6 out of the last 11 times the event has been at public courses. If you count next year’s event at Pebble Beach that would bring the total to 7 out of 12. This is another example of you not knowing what you are talking about. If you are going write, please check your facts.

  • Jimmy (or whatever name you are posting under today):

    I appreciate that you come to the site. It doesn’t even bother me that apparently you dislike everything I write. To each his own — fair enough.

    But let’s be clear — Joe Public can get a round at every one of the British Open courses. Can they play Hamilton? No. St. George’s. No. Pebble? Maybe, but only if they are willing to kick out serious coin. Winged Foot? No. Oakmont? No. Pinehurst is now nearly $500, BTW, while most of the British Open courses can be played for half that.

    And since the plan is to only play at Glen Abbey every few years going forward — and the rotation (Hamilton, St. George’s, Shaughnessy, Royal Montreal, etc.) is entirely private, I don’t think your point holds up very well.

  • Jimmy:

    People in glass houses should not throw stones. You should get your own facts straight. In the last 30 years, the Canadian Open has been played on public courses (mostly Glen Abby) 83% of the time and in the last 5 years is trending toward private courses (90% on PRIVATE courses in the last 5 years with next year at the ultra exclusive private club – St Georges). And when it was played on public courses in the last 30 years, most of those were at Glen Abby with one of the highest greens fees in the GTA…not necessarily widely accessible except to the suits and deep pocket players.

    The US Open is recently trending toward public courses but the fees for these courses are also sky high…not exactly accessible for the vast majority of the population. And the 30 years prior to 2002, over 80% of the time, the US Open was played on a private course….many highly exclusive.

    The British Open courses, however, are by and large accessible to the public and fees are very reasonable for the locals. As an example, I played Carnoustie with three locals who played the course weekly, a whisky salesman, an engineer, and a local shopkeeper. Not sure the Canadian equivalent of those occupations would be playing Glen Abby weekly this summer…

  • W.E. – I’m glad you added the ‘for the locals’ qualifier there. When I was in the UK, costs for the rota courses were anything but reasonable for a ‘non-local’. I seem to remember numbers in the 200 pound range, which would put them very much on par with with those pricey American courses.

  • DSL:

    The average cost of the Open courses in the UK for a non local is significantly less than the average cost for the public US Open Courses (Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, and Bethpage Black). Everyone can play the UK courses. The private US Open courses are not accessible while the public US Open courses for non locals is exceedingly expensive with the only exception being locals for Torrey Pines and Bethpage…Overall, I believe that accessibility and quality combined with lower cost of the UK Open Courses makes them a better golf experience than that of the US Open Courses (public). I base this statement on having played every Scottish based Open course (except Turnberry) and 3 of the 4 US Open public courses.

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