Brandon TuckerThis Week at July 18, 2007

Public access a big reason why British Open's tops among golf's four majors

In many ways the British Open is the signature event of golf's four majors. It's an undeniably unique and challenging test of golf, and tradition plays no bigger role than here.

But what ultimately sets it apart, especially to the masses of worldwide golf fans, is the fact you can play every venue in the current rotation without being a member. Scotland gave birth to golf, and today it's doing a fine job keeping its most inspiring links open to anyone with a passport and handicap certificate.

Keeping these links public, even though they could easily keep a full, exclusive membership, is a win-win for everyone. Scottish golf tourism booms in the summer as North Americans flock to the world famous links they've all seen on TV. The members at these clubs pay virtually nothing compared to club dues in most other places in the world because of the premium rates that guests pay. Residents and students of St. Andrews pay only about 100 for unlimited access. In most other Scottish towns, their club dues are seldom more than about 400. Golf course conditions are also usually top notch as well.

It's good to finally see the USGA hosting more U.S. Opens at public venues. (it is the "Open," right?) America's next three Opens are at public access courses: Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Bethpage Black. It's a trend that is continuing with the recent announcement of Pinehurst receiving the 2014 Open. It's been the standard since 1860 in Scotland at the first inaugural Open Championship at Prestwick.

2007 Open host Carnoustie itself isn't the kind of links that offers stunning scenery - that's reserved for courses like Royal Dornoch, Turnberry, or the dramatic links of Northern Ireland. But its pedigree of past Open winners, including Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tom Watson - validate it as a golf course where the real players triumph.

You too can have a crack at "Hogan's Alley," and try and beat Jean Van de Velde's famous 72nd-hole implosion. At the moment, the only thing stopping Americans from teeing it up here is a shoddy currency exchange rate. But that's an obstacle preferable to three generations of country club exclusivity at the highest profile golf courses in the U.S.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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Carnoustie Championship CoursePlaying British Open venue Carnoustie isn't pretty (just like Van de Velde's legs)

The British Open comes to Carnoustie this week, but the great thing about the famed club is that you don't have to be a pro to play here, Brandon Tucker writes. Anyone willing to travel to Scotland can play Carnoustie. But watch out: This is one of the Open Championship's most difficult venues. Just ask Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, whose embarrassing triple bogey on No. 18 cost him the 1999 championship.

Photo gallery: The Championship Course at Carnoustie

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