The course at Royal Troon is shaping up nicely for July, Ivor Robson’s successors have been announced and Glenmorangie is seeking the greatest Open finish.

I’ve just returned from two hectic but excellent days in Ayrshire for the R&A Media day at Royal Troon and an event at Dundonald Links, which will play host to the 2017 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. In the space of less than 48 hours there’s been quite a bit to take in but I’ll try and summarise it here.

Fine test at Troon

Troon-with-grandstands
The course at Royal Troon looks to be in excellent shape with less than three months until the 145th Open Championship. After a winter of extremely heavy rain, the greens team has had to work extremely hard and they’ve done an incredible job. Industrial pumps had to be brought in to remove hundreds of thousands of gallons of standing water from the course. As we made our way round, Chairman of the R&A’s championship committee Peter Unsworth pointed out areas where the water had been knee-high back in February.

It was amazing then that the ground was firm and fast yesterday. Years of fairway sanding has created excellent surfaces that deliver the true links effect – the ball running on and on downwind (often towards trouble.) Bunkers and approaches were immaculately presented and the greens extremely true. Although a little slower at this stage, they will doubtless be pretty sharpish come mid July.

The grandstands are going up and the infrastructure needed to support the great championship is going into place. I was struck by the logistical challenge of staging this great event. Peter Unsworth pointed out that every season presents new considerations and demands. Unlike at The Masters where much of the infrastructure is fixed, The Open has to start from scratch at a different venue each year. It’s quite a feat of planning and organisation.

The links at Royal Troon poses all the questions you would expect from a championship track and I would say that, aside perhaps from Carnoustie, it’s the most challenging of the Open courses. Strategy is required on the downwind holes (prevailing wind is down on the front nine) and powerful, controlled hitting is essential on the hugely testing run for home.

Tips for driving in the wind:

I’m writing a piece on the challenges of the back nine at Troon for the Open issue of Golf Monthly – look out for that.

Under starters’ orders

Matt Corker and David Lancaster

Matt Corker and David Lancaster

Following Ivor Robson’s retirement, the R&A has announced two new starters for the 145th Open Championship.

David Lancaster will become the official Open starter and he will have support from Matt Corker. Both men are experts in communication and should, the R&A believes, be confident of announcing the players in front of the thousands of spectators at the event and the many millions watching on television.

Lancaster served in the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He left in 1989 and set up a company that specialises in coaching individuals and companies to deliver high-impact presentations. Corker was a superintendent in the Hong Kong police before returning to the UK in 1997 and joining Lancaster’s company as an associate.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be given the opportunity to become the official starter,” said Lancaster. “The Open is one of the most prestigious events in world sport and I have long been inspired by its heritage and the tremendous performances of the golfing greats over the years. Matt and I are very much looking forward to playing a part in history by introducing the players on the first tee.”

Youngsters’ Open camping opportunity

Spectators under the age of 25 will be able to camp for free at Troon this year at the “Open Camping Village,” which will be run by The R&A’s official accommodation partner and will be located just a short walk from Royal Troon at Marr Rugby Club.

The village will feature two, four and six person tents and there will be inflatable camping beds for every guest. There will be 500 camping places available with shower and parking facilities on-site.

Children under the age of 16 will be required to be accompanied by at least one adult of any age, up to a maximum of two adults.

This year is the 20th anniversary of The Open’s Kids go Free campaign – All children under the age of 16, accompanied by an adult, gain free entry to the Championship.

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