Open Championships will go to Turnberry - eventually

Martin Slumbers: Wants focus to be on quality of the course. Picture: The R&A
Martin Slumbers: Wants focus to be on quality of the course. Picture: The R&A
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Turnberry is still in the R&A’s “pool of courses” for the Open Championship but Donald Trump’s hopes of staging the event at the Ayrshire resort for the first time under his ownership will not be happening until 2022 at the earliest.

It had been claimed within the last few weeks that Turnberry had been dropped from the list of courses used for the game’s oldest major on the back of some of the controversial comments made by Trump in his bid to be the Republican Party’s US presidential candidate.

According to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, that is not the case, although, having already lost out to Royal Portrush for the 2019 event, Trump has now suffered a fresh blow with the news that Turnberry won’t be getting to stage the Claret Jug joust in either of the following two years.

Speaking in St Andrews during an annual discussion with members of the golfing media, Slumbers confirmed the 2020 event will be staged in England, with Royal St George’s seeming to be the likely favourite, before the 150th Open Championship takes place in St Andrews in 2021.

Those annoucements are likely to be confirmed in the near future, but decisions on where the event goes thereafter are unlikely to be made for another couple of years and, as Slumbers pointed out, the gap between the last two Opens at Turnberry was 15 years, so nothing too much can be read into so-called sequencing with the R&A’s flagship event.

“We have announced venues out to 2019 and we are in advanced negotiations around 2020 and 2021, one of which will be in England and one of which will be at St Andrews,” said Slumbers.

“At no point during those discussions has Turnberry been part of that and 2022 and beyond is something we don’t have to think about for a few years.

“Turnberry is still part of a pool of ten courses that we have and we take it year-by-year. We consider the venues, we consider the macro-environment that’s around it and make the right decisions around the venues that are most suited for those years.”

Referring to the fact the game’s oldest major has been held on the Ailsa Course only four times – in 1977, 1986, 1994 and 2009 – Slumbers added: “Turnberry has not been a frequent venue There have been quite a lot of gaps in between. There’s no regular rhythm to what order we take the courses, apart from being conscious of the balance between England and Scotland and taking it to St Andrews on a regular basis (every five years).”

Trump turned last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry into a circus after he flew over the course in his helicopter as the first round was taking place then held a news conference to discuss his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants. He has since called for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States and just last week got into a spat with the Pope.

While Peter Dawson, in the final few months of his stint as R&A chief executive, said he felt political comments made in the US shouldn’t influence future Open Championship venues, his successor declined to comment on that directly but made it clear that he wouldn’t want to see the event hijacked by anyone in such a way.“I would much rather see championships focused on the golf and what’s going on,” stressed Slumbers. “We host the Open Championship to crown the Champion Golfer of the Year and, frankly, it’s much better to focus on the golf because that’s what we’re there for.

“The quality of the venue has to be one of the major driving forces to where we play and I think Turnberry is a most wonderful course, a brilliant test of links golf and it certainly ranks as one of the ten best links courses that we have in this country. But we are also very focused on the macro-environment and we are aware of that. As an organisation, we have said that we believe golf should be open to all regardless of gender, race, nationality or religion.”

It could be argued, of course, that the R&A should be leading the way in golf and taking a stand against Trump over some of his comments, but it seems that won’t be happening and, with time on their hands, perhaps that is understandable.

“At the moment I am more focused on making sure the 145th at Troon in four months time is going to be a great success,” insisted Slumbers during an hour-long chat that was dominated by Turnberry. “We have constant dialogue with all the venues, but we are very focused on the golf. We don’t think it’s appropriate to comment on politics.”