Behind the scenes at Genesis Scottish Open - what it takes to tee up world-class event

Golf correspondent Martin Dempster talks to some of key people involved in Rolex Series event

Worth $9 million and featuring a world-class field, the Genesis Scottish Open is one of the biggest events on the Scottish sporting calendar.

It occupies one of the prime spots on the global golf schedule, having been held the week prior to The Open since 1987, with its status being further elevated after becoming co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and PGA Tour in 2022.

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American Xander Schauffele won that edition at The Renaissance Club before another of the game’s top players, Rory McIlroy, got his hands on the coveted trophy at the East Lothian venue last year.

American Xander Schauffele, the 2023 winner and now the PGA champion, is among the star names teeing up in this year's Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.American Xander Schauffele, the 2023 winner and now the PGA champion, is among the star names teeing up in this year's Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.
American Xander Schauffele, the 2023 winner and now the PGA champion, is among the star names teeing up in this year's Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.

As both McIlroy and Schauffele prepare to compete in this year’s Rolex Series event along with the likes of Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland, Ludivig Aberg, Matthew Fitzpatrick and, of course, home hero Bob MacIntyre, we talk to those involved in a partnership that tees up a special week on Scotland’s Golf Coast.

Rory Colville

Championship Director for DP World Tour

As Championship Director - this is my seventh year in the role and, as a Scotsman, I take great pride in being heavily involved in the Genesis Scottish Open and helping to grow it and really make it one of the premium sporting events in Scotland - I carry overall responsibility for the event from the DP World Tour’s perspective. That means ensuring that the event is safely staged to the requirements of the partners, the players, the fans and any stakeholder who is attending the event. We have a responsibility to provide the facilities and experience that is right for them. It’s my job to drive the event forward and I am very much focused on trying to grow the event, aligning with the goals of Genesis and our other key partners, including VisitScotland and Rolex.

As a proud Scot, Rory Colville feels honoured to be the Genesis Scottish Open Championship Director for the FP World Tour. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.As a proud Scot, Rory Colville feels honoured to be the Genesis Scottish Open Championship Director for the FP World Tour. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
As a proud Scot, Rory Colville feels honoured to be the Genesis Scottish Open Championship Director for the FP World Tour. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

We’ve got a team of ten in the Championship Management team who have been on site at various stages for the last ten weeks overseeing the infrastructure build. We have colleagues covering marketing, commercial aspects, communications, content, ticketing, sustainability and Miguel’s team of referees which creates a broader event team of around 40 staff. All feed into the event working towards a successful week.

It’s such a global and significant event for ourselves and the PGA Tour, so it’s an event that requires a lot of staff to be in attendance. That means there’s a much wider pool of staff on site during the event itself. It’s definitely a week when a lot of the people in my team are working over 14-hour days. We are first in the door, so to speak, and last out. You want to be there to make sure that when the first player or first fan arrives, everything is working and up and running.

We are making some significant changes this year to the spectator experience as we are determined to grow the event through the fans. We’re actually changing the Spectator Village to a Fan Zone and the main enhancement for this year comes thanks to an introduction made to us at last year’s event by Visit Scotland. We’ve announced a collaboration with Fringe by the Sea, the successful music and entertainment festival held in August every year in North Berwick. Fringe by the Tee will host Scottish musical talent and entertainment in our fan zone, including music from Edith Bowman and entertainment from Fred MacAulay. It should have something for all the family and is a really exciting direction for the event.

One other thing I’d say about the fan experience is that we are also creating a stadium on the sixth, so that will be a fully surrounded fan experience on the par-3 sixth hole with a host providing entertainment. An exciting development as we build the place to go on the course.

John Sarvadi has taken over as CEO of The Renaissance Club, where the Genesis Scottish Open is being held for the sixth year in a row, from his brother Jerry. Picture: The Renaissance ClubJohn Sarvadi has taken over as CEO of The Renaissance Club, where the Genesis Scottish Open is being held for the sixth year in a row, from his brother Jerry. Picture: The Renaissance Club
John Sarvadi has taken over as CEO of The Renaissance Club, where the Genesis Scottish Open is being held for the sixth year in a row, from his brother Jerry. Picture: The Renaissance Club

The weather plays a big part, of course it does. If you look at the last couple of years since Genesis became involved, we had glorious sunshine year one with them then last year we had to finish early on both the Saturday and Sunday. But last year we had such an exciting finish, arguably the best finish we’ve ever had and that was it despite being interrupted by the weather. I have to admit I’ve not paid too much attention to the weather forecast yet, but I will start looking soon.

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We are very, very grateful for all the support that the Sarvadi family - Jerry, John and Paul - who own The Renaissance Club provide. We were determined to find a home for the event to help it grow and a home nearer a big market like Edinburgh and the Sarvadis have been very important in that respect as they have helped us whether it be investing on off-course infrastructure that helps the event logistically or investing in golf course changes and progression.

Graeme Russell

Genesis Brand Advisor

Miguel Vidaor is the Genesis Scottish Open Tournament Director for the DP World Tour, having taken over the role from Mike Stewart last year. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images.Miguel Vidaor is the Genesis Scottish Open Tournament Director for the DP World Tour, having taken over the role from Mike Stewart last year. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images.
Miguel Vidaor is the Genesis Scottish Open Tournament Director for the DP World Tour, having taken over the role from Mike Stewart last year. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images.

Genesis was launched in 2015, so the brand is not yet ten years old and from the very beginning golf has been a significant component of our marketing and communications strategy and we really sum this up as an audacious commitment to golf, which has over time manifested itself with the Genesis Championship in Korea, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles and, most recently, the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, as well as the Presidents Cup and, as was just announced, TGL, which is the new ‘prime time’ golf league in the US, which is being backed by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. So golf is a fundamental lynchpin of the Genesis brand and how we communicate.

The Genesis Scottish Open title sponsorship came about as conversations were taking place between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour and since 2022 I think it’s been a fantastic event for Genesis. The calibre of the winners for starters in Xander Schauffele in 2022 then Rory McIlroy in 2023, the current world No 3 and world No 2 respectively. For us, we see this as an opportunity to present our brand to a global audience, particularly with a focus on the UK and Europe, introducing people to our key attributes of design, technology and, more important, hospitality. That’s the distinctly Korean element that we believe is part of our Genesis ownership experience, so we bring that to life at the golf and, fundamentally, that involves looking after everyone who attends and participates in the tournament. That starts with the players, the caddies, their families. It also starts with the fans who are on site and also those who are engaging with the tournament off site and it also includes our guests from around the world who we host.

We have looked at how we can enhance the experience at a golf tournament and the key to that has been the Genesis Lounge on site at the 18th green where we partner with local chef Tom Kitchin and Korean chef, Chef Mun, and they create a wonderful culinary experience for our guests that really has resonated as the fine dining at the Genesis Scottish Open has been a hallmark of the last few years. We host guests for both the pro-am on the Wednesday and also the am-am, which is played on the Monday after the tournament. We also do our best to try and introduce them to a lot of the elements of Scotland whether that is cuisine, whisky, golf and also locations. This year we are visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith, visiting the Kitchen restaurant and then hosting our final event at the National Museum of Scotland. It is designed to be an immersive experience of Scotland with the Genesis Scottish Open as the feature.

We host guests from Korea, the United States and from Europe and the UK and we use the golf tournament to express our hospitality for our business partners and our customers. We find it a great event and great location to look after people in our Korean Son-Nim philosophy, which is really treating everyone as a guest in your own house. I think one of the key success factors in the Genesis Scottish Open is the strong partnership with everyone involved, the PGA Tour, DP World Tour etc. The co-sanctioning gives it a great focus with the players and from the media as well. I think The Renaissance Club does a great job hosting the tournament and investing in the infrastructure needed to create a great experience. Then the likes of VisitScotland, Rolex and obviously Genesis, I think we’ve all brought our own elements to the tournament and I hope everyone agrees that from year to year the tournament continues to be elevated.

This year’s event is going to be magic, to use that well-known Scottish expression, and, of course, with The Open at Royal Troon, it’s going to be two mega weeks of golf here in Scotland. We are very conscious that the Genesis Scottish Open has that nice relationship and dynamic with The Open and the players enjoy being over here a week early and playing links golf and getting ready. The Renaissance Club and the atmosphere around the event is all conducive to a really nice peak before a major and, of course, the final major of the year.

Miguel Vidaor

Scot Graeme Russell, a keen golfer who plays at Prestwick, is the Genesis Brand Advisor.Scot Graeme Russell, a keen golfer who plays at Prestwick, is the Genesis Brand Advisor.
Scot Graeme Russell, a keen golfer who plays at Prestwick, is the Genesis Brand Advisor.

Tournament Director for the DP World Tournament

I will get there on Saturday around midday. We have an advance referee, Mats Lanner, who arrived Wednesday of the week before while PGA Tour Tournament Director Stephen Cox arrived on Monday. They will be in charge of marking the golf course and getting everything ready for the arrival of the rest of the Rules team.Basically, my responsibility is anything inside the ropes, that’s how we describe it. Rory Colville will be dealing with the commercial side, the sponsors, the infrastructure etc - whereas I deal with course preparation and the competition itself and also making sure the player facilities are as they should be. By that, I mean transport, catering, medical facilities, gym - all that sort of thing.During the week, we’ll assess the golf course, we’ll mark it, we’ll prepare the local rules and also a course evacuation plan and then obviously we need to plan the course set up for the week. The PGA Tour sets up the front nine and they will have referees doing that and Mats Lanner will be doing the back nine.I inherited the Genesis Scottish Open from Mike Stewart last year and it is a great honour for me to be part of such a huge event. It changes from year to year, very much depending on weather conditions and we are obviously talking about Scotland and links golf and that has a huge impact on how we set up the golf course. It obviously depends on whether it is playing bouncy, fast and firm or whether we have a lot of rain in the forecast or a lot of wind.

Remember last year when we had the crazy weekend with the unusual storms on Saturday afternoon and the super strong winds on Sunday. We will have our weather people on site from the Sunday prior and they will be able to give us a very good outlook of how the weather looks even though it is very changeable in Scotland, but we can create a good plan based on the forecast.

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Basically on the course set up it will be Stephen Cox, who is the PGA Tour tournament director, another of the PGA Tour refereeing team and also myself and Mats Lanner. Then, on the top of that, you have the rules side of things and we have Mark Litton, who is the director of rules on the DP World Tour, as the chief referee and also have the pleasure of having Gary Young, who is president of rules on the PGA Tour. Between all of us, we’ll compile a local rules sheet which reflects what we have on a golf course.My first season with the DP World Tour was in 1993. I got interviewed by John Paramor in November 1992 at the World Cup and back then all the staff on the tour were basically British or Irish. Due to the amount of Continental players playing on the tour - Seve, other Spanish players, French players and other nationalities - Ken Schofield had the idea to bring on officials from the Continent and I was in the right place at the right time.I was working for the local federation in Catalonia and here I am 31 years later. I’m still loving it. I still get that buzz on a Sunday. It’s not come to the point of it being a routine. I love golf and you have to feel that way to do this job.

John Sarvadi

CEO of The Renaissance Club

Though the build up begins for us in earnest probably in mid-May, the prep starts right after the previous event. We hold a lot of meetings post-event with the tour from a course set up perspective, from a fan experience perspective, from the Genesis perspective. Then, as we get closer to the event, you see the build out on the course, you see the conditioning of the course and the set up coming into play and, by all accounts, the golf course is in the best condition it's ever been. Candidly, we were worried after a tough winter, when it was wet, cold and windy, but our grounds crew has done a phenomenal job getting the course ready and it looks wonderful right now.

Every year we have a meeting after the event and we also had a meeting earlier this week with Padraig Harrington, who is our player consultant, and the man who designed the course, Tom Doak, to talk about things we can do in future years as well. There’s been some bunker work for this year, but for this event there haven’t been as many dramatic changes as maybe in previous years. We did some refining to rough areas on tournament hole No 16 in particular. There was some marin grass and mounding work done on the side of the fairway to make it a little bit more difficult by not giving them a bailout as they had before. There’s a couple of other tweaks and we also re-did some of the bunkering. We’ll be talking to Padraig and Tom about things that we can look to improve for next year and beyond.

I’ve told several people this that it’s a bit surreal being here during the week of the event as friends across the world are watching the tournament. A lot of them get in touch to ask about the hole numbers and I spend quite a bit of time explaining the routing used for the event. For the most part, it’s people who are excited to see the course and it makes them want to come to Scotland and play golf here.

We are very honoured and excited to be hosting the national Open in the home of golf for a sixth time. I pinch myself every time when I think about when we planned and founded the club that one of our goals was to be able to host competitive golf at the highest level and it is quite gratifying to be doing that.

You know, the members are very excited about seeing their golf course host such a prominent event. There are sacrifices members make throughout the prep as there’s a build that goes on in advance of the tournament and obviously the tear down afterwards. But there’s still a great deal of excitement and pride that the membership take in being the host venue for the Genesis Scottish Open. There are strange pin positions in the build up to the event and areas that are restricted but it’s a sacrifice everyone understands and is willing to make.

Genesis is the title sponsor of the Genesis Scottish Open, the first ever co-sanctioned event by DP World Tour and the PGA Tour. For more information visit www.genesis.com

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