A THREE-YEAR stint as home of the Scottish Open has helped put Castle Stuart on the golfing map, with bosses at the Inverness venue reporting a 25 per cent increase in forward bookings for next year.
While its first year in the spotlight was plagued by bad weather that caused two landslides on the course, Castle Stuart came through its subsequent two Scottish Open stagings with flying colours.
The latter, of course, was won by Phil Mickelson, who then went on to become Open champion the following week – the third year running that the player lifting the Claret Jug had prepared for the game’s oldest major by warming up in the Highlands.
“We were delighted with our final year which, by many accounts, was the best of the three,” Mark Parsinen, Castle Stuart’s managing partner and co-designer, told The Scotsman.
“Phil Mickelson winning and then hoisting the Claret Jug was fantastic for us, as were his extremely kind remarks about Castle Stuart both during the Scottish Open and then again after his victory at Muirfield.”
Mickelson’s play-off win on the banks of the Moray Firth was captured by NBC as the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored tournament became the first European Tour event to be shown live on a major US television broadcast.
The viewers on the other side of the Atlantic included Parsinen due to the fact he was recovering after a hip replacement.
“I got to watch every minute of it and the Sky Sports production this year was superb,” he declared of the event’s host broadcaster.
“They pulled out all the stops with their camera work and the weather co-operated, too. The live network coverage by NBC in North America was sensational, to boot.”
While the event is moving to Royal Aberdeen next year, it’s not the end of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. As part of the European Tour, Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government taking it on a tour of the country, it will be back in Inverness, probably in 2016.
“We are delighted about that,” admitted Parsinen. “It’s been a great run and we’re glad to stay in the picture for the future. There is no doubt that the Scottish Open has helped us gain awareness throughout the worldwide golf community.”
General manager Stuart McColm added: “We have seen a marked upturn in bookings since July, including a spell in August/September when we were busier than ever before.
“Forward bookings are also 25 per cent up for next year and there is no doubt that Sky Sports and NBC have made a significant difference.
“We are currently pursuing our options for tournaments, but we want to wait until the next three years [2015-17] are announced as we are not certain which of the three years we have been given.”