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What's Stopping The Open From Being Played in Wales

By: | Mon 11 Sep 2023 | Comments

Following suggestions that The Open Championship could one day be played at Portmarnock in Ireland, Golfshake's Derek Clements asks why the historic major hasn't yet been hosted in Wales?

RORY McILROY says that he hopes The Open will be awarded to Portmarnock and he will clearly support any moves to take the world’s oldest tournament to the Republic of Ireland.

You can call me old-fashioned traditionalist if you like but I would like to point out that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom. As Americans will tell you, the R&A’s showpiece event is The British Open and has only been contested in the UK. If we take it to Ireland, where do we stop? [Editor's Note: The Amateur Championship has already twice been played at Portmarnock with Ballyliffin set to host in 2024]

Can you imagine the outcry if it was taken to France? Or Spain? What about Portugal?

However, it does raise another question - why don’t the R&A take The Open to Wales? Before anybody starts talking about road systems and infrastructure, I would remind you that the same thing was said about Carnoustie.

And did you ever try to get out of Turnberry or Royal St George’s at the end of The Open?

The closest it has ever got to the Principality is Royal Liverpool, just a few miles from North Wales.

Wales has hosted the Ryder Cup but never The Open. Clearly, Celtic Manor could never be chosen because none of the courses there are links.

But Royal Porthcawl in Bridgend, which has hosted the Amateur Championship and the Senior Open, would be perfect. 

Royal Porthcawl

Sadly, it is unlikely to happen, with the R&A making it quite clear that it is perfectly happy with the existing courses on the rota.

There are those who will point to the 40,000 spectators who attended the Senior Open at a time when The Open is now pulling in crowds in excess of 200,000, but I think it is fair to say that Porthcawl would be a hugely popular venue, and would provide a massive boost to the Welsh economy if it were to host The Open.

It is one of the top-ranked courses in Britain but would need to extended to host The Open. It currently measures just over 7,000 yards but a few new tees would easily get it up to standard. It is a magnificent links course and a proper test in any conditions.

Just ask Bernhard Langer, who won two Senior Opens there. “One was bone-dry: The ball was running 100 yards on the fairway,” Langer, who also won two Masters Tournaments, said in an interview. “And one was wet and windy and just as miserable as can be, and that’s links golf.”

It hosted the tournament again this year and reduced most of the field to their knees. Just ask Alex Cejka, who won the 2023 Senior Open at Porthcawl with a five-over-par total how difficult a test it can be in inclement weather. Or all the players in the field who struggled to break 80.

And it is located just 45 minutes from Cardiff, so it is hardly in the middle of nowhere.

Ken Skates, a member of the Welsh parliament has been fighting to get The Open staged in his homeland for years and is clearly frustrated by the R&A’s intransigence. He said: “Not all parts of the UK are being touched by the Open, and leaving an entire nation out of it doesn’t ring true to that mantra of golf being open to all. It’s a little frustrating,”

Back in 2019, The Daily Telegraph urged the R&A to “cut out the politics” and “ignore the concerns about ‘infrastructure’ and the strength of the links because they are mere smoke screens.”

Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, was actually questioned about Porthcawl’s suitability during the 2023 Open Championship, describing the course as “world class”. But he also said: “We need a lot of infrastructure. We need a lot of facilities for a championship of this size. At present, that is just not possible in that part of the country.”

The same was once true of Celtic Manor. It took the vision of billionaire Sir Terry Matthews to create a venue that was fit to host the Ryder Cup. He may be 80 years old now but Matthews is a proud Welshman. Perhaps he can be persuaded to throw his weight behind a campaign to get The Open to Wales.

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