Renaissance and Castle Stuart eye Scottish Open

THEY may not be as well known as some of Scotland's more established golf courses but the people behind The Renaissance Club, near Gullane, and Castle Stuart, which sits on the banks of the Moray Firth just along from Inverness, insist their venues are both ready and able to stage next year's Barclays Scottish Open.

Having been open for less than two years, neither of the courses has yet staged a tournament anywhere near as big as the Scottish Open, which looks certain to move away from Loch Lomond for the first time since 1996 due to the ongoing uncertainty about its future ownership.

However, according to Jerry Savardi, managing director of the partnership that runs The Renaissance Club, and Fraser Cromarty, director of golf at Castle Stuart, both venues received favourable reports during recent site visits by European Tour representatives.

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They've been tasked with looking at alternate venues should a contract in place to stage next year's event at Loch Lomond have to be ripped up and it was confirmed yesterday both The Renaissance Club and Castle Stuart are "in the mix". "We had a visit from two European Tour representatives ten days ago. They were the technical guys who look at all the logistics, inside and outside the ropes," said Savardi, the American who put together the US investment group that came up with the money for Tom Doak to build the highly-rated course next door to Muirfield.

"They did a site visit and we discussed the possibility of staging the Scottish Open here. Those discussions, I believe, are now in the hands of Barclays."

Savardi said he had first learned of the European Tour's interest just over a fortnight ago and was delighted to make a special trip across from Florida to meet with the aforementioned officials. "Since the course opened we have always made it known to the R&A, the European Tour and even the PGA Tour that we would be interested to listen if the right tournament came along and there are only a couple that are bigger (on this side of the Atlantic] than the Scottish Open," he added.

"We are definitely in the mix. I have received positive e-mails from the European Tour since their visit and I would imagine a decision will have to be made soon.

"While the discussions we held were for a multi-year agreement, we were not told what that actually entailed. However, it was definitely to start in 2011."

The Inverness area is untested in terms of an event as big as the Scottish Open, which carries a 3 million prize fund and regularly attracts a whole host of the world's top players. However, Cromarty is hoping that won't deter the European Tour from breaking new ground by choosing Castle Stuart, which was designed by Gil Hanse and Mark Parsinen, who also created Kingsbarns, though his collaborator there was Kyle Phillips.

"We had a visit by the European Tour, regarding the possibility of staging the Barclays Scottish Open," said Cromarty."I would like to think we are still in the reckoning."

Asked if he felt Castle Stuart was ready to stage one of the biggest tournaments on the European Tour, Cromarty added: "Without a shadow of doubt."

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The Scottish Open was last held on a links course in 1995, at Carnoustie, and it is believed more top players would be attracted if it moved back to a links so they could prepare better for The Open Championship.