WITH nine courses on the rota already and one more having recently been invited to go on it, is there room for another venue to come into the Open Championship mix?
Probably not but, on the evidence of how well it hosted the Senior equivalent, then Royal Porthcawl certainly deserves to be given serious consideration by the R&A in future deliberations for its flagship event.
It’s no secret that the South Wales club has applied to host the game’s oldest major, a move that has the full backing of the Welsh Assembly. Based on the course alone, it’s difficult to see very much that the R&A could use to knock that bid on the head straight away.
Indeed, if you had listened to Tom Watson waxing lyrical about it last week, then you’d have to think there is a distinct possibility of the season’s third major heading to Porthcawl at some point.
“In my opinion, it would be a great course for The Open,” said the five-times winner. “I really fell in love with it immediately. From the first hole on, it is just one great hole after another and one great green complex after another.”
Watson made those views known in person to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, who, I believe, has written to Royal Porthcawl indicating what it would take for the venue to be capable of hosting the Claret Jug joust.
The main concerns are to do with space. Royal Porthcawl sits on a small pocket of land, even smaller probably than Royal Lytham with its houses all around. There’s scope, though, to make provision around the perimeter for the infrastructure that comes with a modern-day Open Championship and, in fairness, the club are already in the throes of purchasing some surrounding fields as well as the land that an unoccupied care home sits on close to the clubhouse.
With the M4 relatively close by, it would be easily more accessible than many of the current venues on the rota and the total attendance for the Senior Open beat the figures at Carnoustie (2010), Walton Heath (2011) and Turnberry (2012).
In short, if Royal Portrush is worthy of consideration – and it has been invited to host the event again, having last welcomed it in 1953 – then why not Royal Porthcawl, too?
In geographical terms, the south-west of Britain is the one area that the current rota doesn’t cover and it certainly wouldn’t be a case of adding a venue just for the sake of it.
Royal Porthcawl would sit comfortably alongside St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Royal Troon, Turnberry, Royal Lytham, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal St George’s, as, of course, would Royal Portrush.
Is there a danger of the R&A ending up with too many courses to choose from? Not at all. Indeed, with a list like that to work with, an exciting future would lie ahead for the Open Championship at a time when it is clear that heading back to the same areas too often can have an impact on its appeal to the paying customers.