As soon as Ernie Els holed the winning putt at Lytham yesterday, the R&A’s attention already turned to the event in East Lothian in 12 months’ time. It will be Muirfield’s first Open since 2002, when, ironically, South African star Els won a four-man play-off to claim the Claret Jug.
The total attendance then was around 160,000 and the man who will be responsible for the 2013 event is looking to beat that figure. “We will be working with the local authorities and Edinburgh City to embrace the fact Muirfield is close to the Capital to increase the crowd figures from 2002,” Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, the R&A’s director of championships, told the Evening News.
“It is a venue that can accommodate big crowds as it is logistically very strong for us, as well as being a strong course.”
Parking proved the R&A’s biggest headache at Lytham due to the Lancashire links being surrounded by houses.
In contrast, there is plenty of space at Muirfield, where the event will be staged next year for the 16th time in its history.
“There is more room on the course at Muirfield and around it,” added Cole-Hamilton. “That allows us to get reserved car parking closer to the course than it was at Lytham. The road network is also good in East Lothian while there’s also a good train station at Drem.”
The initial groundwork for next year has already been done and the R&A’s focus will now switch from Lancashire to East Lothian. “We’ve already done quite a bit of preparation for Muirfield,” said Cole-Hamilton. “Land rental, for instance. There’s still a lot of work to be done, though, and once we have finished with the breakdown at Lytham we will get on with that straight away.”
Already on sale for next year are official hospitality packages. “It gives our corporate customers the location they want, on course, close to the action,” said Robin Bell, the R&A’s director of marketing.
As part of a £2 million investment in spectator facilities, two fine-dining restaurants at Muirfield will be housed in a new fairway-edge, double-deck pavilion overlooking the ninth hole. Additionally, there will be a bistro-style restaurant in the tented village to meet the needs of smaller businesses and golf fans treating themselves to a packaged day-out at golf’s oldest major.
The packages range from £250 to £699 per person and feature priority parking and fast track-entry.