OPEN Golf organisers say they are looking forward to a successful championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes this summer – and have given the clearest indication yet that the staging of the biggest event in the global game will continue at the course.
The Open stretches back to 1926 and will be staged at Lytham for the first time since 2001 from July 19-22, and the Royal and Ancient said they already have firm plans to return.
The course has undergone several important modifications since David Duval’s triumph 11 years ago, while two new tented villages – appropriately named ‘Lytham’ and ‘St Annes’ – will be constructed on the 400-acre site where the world’s finest players will compete for the Claret Jug at the 2012 Open.
R and A chief executive Peter Dawson said that bringing the Open to Lytham had a number of advantages, and that they were happy with the course and the infrastructure of the area.
Dawson said: “We are very fortunate here in terms of the traffic plan that has been put together as well as the car parking.
“We don’t have any particular fears about getting people to and from the course – certainly our past experience would indicate that.
“We have accommodation issues with some venues but this is not one of them.
“As long as the club and the local authority are willing to have us back, we will be coming.”
Dawson added: “While Lytham is tighter than some courses, there is still plenty of room out there. Lytham is firmly in our future plans.”
Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of championships, added: “All of our Open venues have strengths and weaknesses.
“Royal Lytham is one of the tightest venues but we have a good plan and no concerns about people getting around.
“The marshalling is very well advanced to allow us to bring spectators in from two different points.”
A total of 180,000 spectators attended the Open when it was last at Lytham and organisers are hoping to better that.
Dawson added: “Our corporate hospitality sales are storming along, well up on last year.”
He said the strength of British and European golf in general, spearheaded by the charismatic Rory McIlroy, was an obvious draw.
All but four holes – the first, ninth, 12th and 15th – have undergone redevelopment, with almost 200 yards added to the overall length of the course and a completely new seventh green constructed.
The links will now play 7,086 yards as opposed to the 6,905 11 years ago – the par is now 70
The 492-yard sixth hole has also been downgraded to a par four for this year’s Open.
Dawson admitted the R and A had probably reached their limits in terms of lengthening Lytham.
“There is always room to do something but we are very close to the maximum,” he said.
Jim McArthur, chairman of the Championship committee, said: “We are delighted to be back here for the 11th time for the Open.
“Royal Lytham has always been a very difficult but fair test of golf.
“We are beginning the build-up to July. We have had a great start with Bubba Watson winning the Masters and Rory McIlroy becoming the world No.1, so we feel we have really good Championship lined up.”