Donald Trump is set to be frustrated in his desire for Turnberry to host The Open with the R&A opting to chase the cash at bigger venues. The US President has spent £200m on buying and improving Turnberry since securing it six years ago but in championship terms his purchase is in danger of becoming a white elephant.
Golf’s governing body confirmed Troon as the venue for the 2023 Open on Tuesday and at the same time spelled out its preference for high-capacity courses to maximise revenue.
That leaves Turnberry – the evocative setting for the Duel in The Sun between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in 1977 and Watson’s incredible near-miss to Stewart Cink at the age of 59 in 2009 – out in the cold as the course on the Open rota with the lowest attendances.
“The Open is growing, the size of crowds is growing,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.
“We’re heading into Royal St. George’s in just five months now where the previous record crowd attendance was 183,000 and we will be through 200,000 come July. So we are looking where we can get larger crowds.
“I think as you start to build out the scale of The Open and position it, infrastructure becomes really important. We need to have much more detailed conversations with the Scottish government and Scotland about infrastructure for Turnberry because it’s difficult to get people there. I think crowd there the last time was only 130,000.”
Muirfield, which attracted 143,000 spectators when Phil Mickelson won in 2013, is also on the danger list.
The East Lothian course might have expected to have landed the 2023 Open but the numbers worked in Troon’s favour.
“We think the R&A need to continue to invest more and more into our sport but that takes money and the prize money in the Open will only go one direction too. All of this is putting pressure on making sure that we drive up the revenues of The Open,” said Slumbers.
Trump’s son Eric, though, insists Turnberry will play host to the Open in future, saying: “the tournament will absolutely be back”.
Trump told the Ayrshire Post: “By almost everyone’s account, Turnberry is the best course on the Open rota.
“We know that the event will return here one day and we very much look forward to that day. The hotel has never been as successful as it is right now.
“The golf course is also widely recognised as one of the very best in the world and the accolades continue to come for it.”