Sunningdale is a Poor Choice of Course for Womens British Open
Money. It is the only possible reason for the powers-that-be to have selected Sunningdale Golf Club as the site of the Ricoh Women’s British Open. By staying relatively close to London they figure to draw the largest crowd possible. But I think it’s shortsighted and a big mistake. The very phrase “Open Championship” in Great Britain is synonymous with links golf. Why on earth would the event be hosted on an inland course? British golf fans are arguably the most knowledgeable in the world and will make a small trek to watch a major championship contested over a great site.
Look, Sunningdale is a wonderful course - of that, we have no quarrel. It is over 100 years old and has played host to many big events. But for this particular event to take it’s proper place in history, it should only be contested over a true links. If it’s a matter of none of the Rota for the Open Championship being available, then there are many magnificent links throughout England that could hold such a prestigious event. You can bet I have a few suggestions.
My number 1 choice for 2008 would have been, since they felt the need to stay in proximity to London, to go to the nearby South East coast and hold this contest at Royal Cinque Ports. This magnificent course is very close to Royal St. George’s and every bit as good. It’s only problem – if you want to call it that – that keeps it out of the Open Rota is the length, which tops out at 6,900 yards. Obviously, that would not be a concern for the ladies. And this will be the case for the rest of my suggestions as well.
Choice No. 2: Had the Open Championship not been played at Royal Birkdale this year, they could have gone down the coast 20 or 30 minutes drive and selected either Formby or Hillside to hold the Women’s Open. These two wonderful links are used for Open qualifying and would stand up well to any players in the world, regardless of the slightly sub-7,000 yard length.
Choice No. 3: The best course in the South West region of England is indisputably the East Course at Saunton. It is too great a course not to have a world championship on it. And it would draw from all over, including nearby Wales, which brings me to my final and best suggestion.
No. 4: How about a major championship in the Wales for a change? For goodness sakes, the Ryder Cup itself is coming to Wales in 2 years time. The Women’s Open ought to break new ground and try out Royal Porthcawl which is about 40 minutes drive from the Welsh capital of Cardiff. This links, the shortest of my suggestions at 6,740 yards from the tips, has held nearly every major competition in the British Isles below world championship level. There is not one thing about this place that wouldn’t suit the LPGA and LET to a tee.
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Historically the tournament has been hosted on inland courses rather than links (it's been at Woburn, Wentworth, Foxhills etc). It is only comparatively recently that links
The comment that the British Open should be played on a links bears more reference to the Mens game than the Ladies. If, that comparison is important to you, let me remind you the gulf between the games in terms of sponsorship. Position one on the Mens' European tour has banked over €1.7m whereas the leader on the Ladies Tour has less than 400k. the inequities are even more apparent as you run further down the list. If and if, the choice of Sunningdale does have something to do with money, could you begrudge the womens game this?
I'm sure Sunningdale will host a great championship as it's an excellent venue.
Marcus, I agree that Sunningdale will host an excellent tournament. It's a great venue. But the single thing that sets the Open Championship apart from the other Majors in the men's game is that it is contested on true links. Had the men taken their Open inland 50+ years ago, the Open would probably not be a major anymore. Hogan & especially Palmer would not have made the then arduous trek. It's just my opinion that the ladies should follow suit.
Whilst it may be true that most fans would be prepared to make quite a trek to watch The Open, I don't think that's equally true for the Ladies British Open. It therefore seems commonsense to me to select venues based upon drawing the biggest crowd, with relative ease of access and perhaps other nearby attractions, particularly for overseas visitors and/or non golf-playing partners being important criteria.
As long as they are magnificent courses, I am happy to have an inland tournament. Of course, I may be prejudiced as the venues so far, including Sunningdale, are within easy reach for me!! Unlike your suggestions.
Consider this. The Women's British Open was in 2001 officially recognised as a major championship; before then, it was just another tournament. The national championship of the UK, yes, but not greatly important. Pre-2001, it was played over a wide variety of venues, Marcus is correct in this respect.
Since 2001 is has been played over links courses (except when it has been played over Sunningdale). Taking it back to inland courses would just make it 'any other tournament'; that it is played on a links course is the thing that makes it special.
Though the UK golf fan is a fanatic bunch and will watch good golf wherever it's played.
However, the idea of holding the Senior Open Championship (which IS ran by the R&A) at Sunningdale DOES surprise me. A lot.
I think it's bloody appalling actually.