Teeing up Open treat for golf fans

Royal Lytham St Anne's, Fylde Coast, Lancashire

Royal Lytham St Anne's, Fylde Coast, Lancashire

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IT’S our turn in the spotlight – and it’s going to be better than ever.

That is the message from Royal Lytham and St Annes as they prepare to welcome thousands of golf fans to the resort for the 2012 Open Golf Championships.

It is now just 12 months until the prestigious four-day tournament rolls into town for the first time in a decade, and both the club and Fylde Council are working hard to ensure the course and the towns are both in tip-top condition ahead of the event.

Last time the tournament arrived on the Fylde Coast, in 2001, it was dubbed the “friendly” Open and club professional Eddie Birchenough wants that image of the Fylde Coast to continue after 2012.

He said: “I’m so proud we were dubbed the friendly Open because it reflects so well on Lytham St Annes.

“It’s a huge, huge event. There’s a great air of anticipation building up and when the 2011 Open finished on Sunday the spotlight turned on Lytham St Annes.”

The course has been altered to make it more challenging for golfers and Mr Birchenough added: “The course preparations are complete and new dunes have been built so the course is severely toughened from the last two Opens.

“It was a challenge before but it’s a master challenge now and we hope we will have exciting play. We want some excitement and some birdies as well as the odd player falling away.”

Fylde Council and the Local Strategic Partnership have shelled out thousands on projects to make sure visitors have the best possible time on the Fylde Coast.

Both Lytham and St Annes train stations are set for a makeover and work is already underway to improve the shopping experience on Lytham’s Station Road and Orchard Road, St Annes.

But traders have been left disappointed at the news golf spectators will not be free to come and go from the course during the day.

Robert Silverwood, vice-chair of Lytham Enterprise Group, said: “For the people in that vicinity it will be terrible.

“The shops need to benefit from the footfall these events bring, otherwise what’s the point? They will not see what we have to offer.”

And Arnold Sumner, co-ordinator at St Annes Chamber of Trade, added: “It’s not fair, with any other event people are free to come and go as they please.

“I think the organisers should reconsider this policy. The Chamber of Trade would naturally like people who are on the golf course to come into town.”

The Open runs from July 19-22.