Martin Dempster: Gullane to host Scottish Open

WHILE keen not to steal any of Royal Aberdeen’s thunder – it, after all, is hosting a world-class field this week – it seems almost certain that Gullane is about to be unveiled as the venue for next year’s Scottish Open.

Phil Mickelson: Champion. Picture: Getty

I believe an announcement will be made during the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event in the Granite City confirming that Gullane has edged out its near neighbour, The Renaissance Club, as the 2015 venue.

In the end, it appears it boiled down to what could loosely be termed a “turf war”, with Gullane looking as though it has got the nod due to it being a traditional old links compared to a young pup in The Renaissance Club.

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While Royal Aberdeen is undoubtedly a fitting course for one of the European Tour’s showpiece events, its turf is the single biggest factor in Phil Mickelson, the defending champion, being joined at Royal Aberdeen this week by Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler and a whole host of other big guns in the game.

They are all licking their lips at the prospect of hitting shots from the same turf as they will find down at Royal Liverpool next week, when it hosts the Open Championship, and, by keeping the event on a similar course, the Scottish Open’s three partners – the European Tour, the Scottish Government and Aberdeen Asset Management – are confident it will attract a star-studded line-up again in 12 months’ time.

That course, however, will be alien to Gullane’s huge membership and the thousands of visitors who generate green fee income of around £1 million per year. A composite layout will be used, incorporating holes on the No 1 and No 2 Courses.

Why? Well, for starters the main East Lothian coastal road runs too close to the first tee and 18th green on No 1, although, even if that was not the case, it is debatable whether either of those holes would be strong enough to bookend a challenge for some of the world’s top players.

The opening hole, therefore, is likely to be either the second – not everyone’s favourite due it being both tunnel-like and uphill – or, more probably, the par-5 third.

It sits adjacent to the 15th, which is likely to be used as the last hole for the purposes of a Scottish Open due to the 16th being a par-3 and the 17th being…well, it’s such a poor hole, let’s just move on!

In short, all the holes used are likely to be on the top of the hill, from where stunning views up towards Edinburgh and over to Fife will greet players and spectators from start to finish.

Logistically, the fact that the Gullane courses are so open could have been a headache which the European Tour might not have wanted and, if that had been a determining factor, The Renaissance Club would surely have been a preferred option.

It, in tandem with the Scottish Government and Aberdeen Asset Management, is keen to build an exciting future for the Scottish Open, however, and a run of Royal Aberdeen, Gullane, Castle Stuart and, possibly, Dundonald Links would do just nicely, thank you!

Heart in the right place

EASILY the best bit of marketing in the home of golf in recent years was East Lothian’s decision to claim the title of “Scotland’s Golf Coast”.

While no-one could really dispute that claim, other areas, notably Ayrshire and Fife, could easily have got in there first.

Now, in the build-up to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Perthshire is also trying to raise its profile with a similar marketing move – in its case, “Heart of Scotland Golf”.

It should be applauded, too, because way too often people involved in Scottish golf have been accused of sitting on their backsides doing nothing, expecting visitors to flock to courses and, in turn, accommodation providers.

Gleneagles, where the Ryder Cup battle will take place in September, is undoubtedly the jewel in Perthshire’s golfing crown and will continue to be busy long after the three-day frenzy in September.

With the likes of Blairgowrie in particular to back it up, though, it is easy to see why, in a welcome spin-off from the biennial bout, so many could fall in love with “Heart of Scotland Golf”.