Friendly welcome guaranteed, but Castle Stuart is ready to bare teeth
CHANGES have been made to the Castle Stuart course to toughen it up. More than £70,000 has been spent on improving drainage in a bid to avoid a repeat of the landslides that occurred 12 months ago and Barclays have been replaced by Aberdeen Asset Management as the title sponsor.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that last year’s weather-hit event left Scottish Open organisers having to rip up the whole masterplan and start all over again.
While it was a major disappointment to all concerned that the tournament’s inaugural staging at the Inverness venue had to be decided over 54 holes, a whole host of aspects confirmed the bold decision by the European Tour to try out the Highlands for the first time had been well worthwhile.
The city of Inverness, for instance, welcomed the event with open arms, as did the towns and villages around it, and when Mother Nature dealt Castle Stuart its cruel hand, the locals rallied round in a way that confirmed to Tour officials the area had both the desire and capability to stage one of its flagship tournaments.
“We were delighted with the support we received last year from the local community,” said tournament director Peter Adams in the build up to the start of the 2012 instalment on Thursday. “There was a friendliness surrounding the event, but I don’t think that was necessarily a deliberate policy. It was more a case of it happening naturally due to various relationships. That came through in the atmosphere of the tournament.”
Stuart McColm, Castle Stuart’s director of golf, concurred. “The support we received last year from all sectors was a revelation,” he declared. “I think there probably was a wee bit hesitancy on behalf of the European Tour about coming to the Highlands, but we sold them on the community spirit and that shone through. Everyone got behind it. When the chips were down, the support we received from everyone was fantastic. We had people phoning up asking what they could do to help and we had an army of volunteers helping us out. I think that showed just how important it is for the community up here to have an event of this stature.”
Even though it was reduced by 18 holes, Luke Donald’s winning aggregate 12 months ago was 19-under-par, the world No 1 following a brace of 67s with a final-round 63 to finish four shots ahead of second-placed Fredrik Andersson Hed from Sweden. While it was the design philosophy of Gil Hanse and Mark Parsinen to make Castle Stuart a course that was playable to all levels, it has been tweaked in the past year to make it a tad tougher for the professionals. We made no apologies for the low-scoring last year as we wanted to see players making birdies and eagles. But we took on board comments from players – Graeme McDowell and Colin Montgomerie, for instance, both said it was a wee bit wide – and from the Tour and we are pleased with the changes to the course,” said McColm. “In total, we’ve added around 140 yards, principally on three holes.
“The tee at the ninth has been put back about 40 yards, while, on the 12th, we’ve gone to 599 yards and also changed the angle to make it a tee shot that needs a cut around the gorse.
“We’ve also tightened up some holes and brought in the semi-rough and the rough a wee bit and added bunkers at five, which was a very open fairway. We’ve put in bunkers at 275 yards off the tee and they have to take it over there and there’s bunkers waiting at 360 yards which with the wind behind is eminently reachable for these guys.
“We are trying to make them think a wee bit more off the tee in terms of shaping a shot rather than hitting one down anywhere that will do. The new bunkers on five and a new one on 14 at 295 yards in the middle of the fairway will get them thinking. Straying off the fairways won’t be as generous as last year.”
As revealed in The Scotsman a year ago, plans are in the pipeline for a Dormy House, which would include on-course accommodation, with the total cost for the overall Castle Stuart project estimated to be in the region of £60 million when that is finished.
“Opening up in a recession has been a tough gig,” admitted McColm. “But, to grow, we need more beds and that has always been in the game plan. Recession sometimes gets in the way of investment, but we see this as a clear path now to take it on to the next level. We dreamed this up as the Gleneagles and Turnberry of the north – that was our original remit.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west