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Credit crunch bites as Tour revises schedule

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Iain Carter | 14:51 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

There are few events more lavish than the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The tournament is proof that golf attracts money, with financial interests extending well beyond its $5m prize fund.

The majority of the amateur players competing in the team event come from big business and pay handsomely for the privilege of playing alongside some of the best golfers in the world.

But despite the abundance of champagne corks popping and the air of wealth around the East Coast of Scotland last week, it would be wrong to assume that golf is breezing through the current choppy economic waters.

On top of the recently announced 25 per cent cut in prize money for the Race to Dubai there will be more evidence of how the credit crunch is impacting on the European Tour when it announces its early schedule for the 2010 season.

JP McManus and Dermot DesmondIrish businessmen JP McManus and Dermot Desmond were among the amateur contingent

The first indicator is that it will begin this year despite the Tour's commitment to turn the Race to Dubai into an easier to follow calendar year campaign.

"From the end of the 2009 season when the Dubai World Championship will finish the Race to Dubai, we will then have a reasonable break through until the calendar year in January," Tour chief executive George O'Grady promised last November.

The Tour were keen to end the anomaly of a season starting in the wrong year, but haven't been able to do the deals to turn this into reality and O'Grady's prediction has proved wide of the mark. "It's just not been possible," said a Tour source.

So the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa and the South African Open will both be played in December 2009 and will count towards the European money list for 2010.

Sponsors hold all of the aces in the current climate and tours around the world have to bend to them rather than the other way round.

The European Tour can ill afford to lose tournaments and the new schedule will confirm the demise of the popular Johnnie Walker Classic which had been a permanent fixture in the Australasian swing of events.

Furthermore, the clubhouse for the Dubai World Championship to be staged on the new Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates will not be completed in time for the inaugural running of the season-ending tournament on 19 November.

Temporary accomodation will be in place for players and officials, but television directors will have to work hard to make sure this prestigious event doesn't appear to be taking place in a building site.

So golf needs all the good news it can get and assuming it gains Olympic inclusion on Friday it can set about growing the game in the relatively untapped Brazilian market.

The International Golf Federation is taking nothing for granted despite having been officially recommended for the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro. Padraig Harrington, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen along with 16-year-old amateur Matteo Manassero will participate in the final push in Copenhagen.

Michelle WieMichelle Wie will be supporting golf's bid for Olympic status

These are articulate and photogenic ambassadors for the game and Wie and Manassero represent its future, one that the game fervently hopes will include the Olympics in its schedules.

On a completely separate note - although it does concern innovative thinking which never goes a miss in the current economic climate - I wanted to applaud a piece of catering common-sense encountered on St Andrews' spectacular Castle Course.

As you arrive at the 9th tee there's a phone link to the halfway house and a quick call allows you to pre-order refreshments. The result is you can complete the hole, stop at the window pick up your food and proceed to the 10th with no delay.

I'm sure other courses offer similar facilities, but most don't and it's a mighty fine idea.

As for the course, the newest at the home of golf, my advice would be to bring along a camera (the views from high above the South of the town are spectacular), a sense of humour and leave behind scorecard and pencil.

Trying to compile a decent medal score is nigh on impossible given the undulations which are too severe on the huge greens - but as long as you can laugh about the odd four-putt you'll have great fun and the closing two holes are truly breathtaking.


  • Comment number 1.

    The Castle Course ????

    Oh dear, dear, dear.

    I liken it to a full course version of the famous Himalayas putting green.

    It's no Kingsbarns !

  • Comment number 2.

    is pre-ordering that rare on european courses? in florida we order from the yardage screen on the golf cart/buggy...

  • Comment number 3.

    The Castle course greens are just like the greens at other courses in that you have to get used to them. I've played it half a dozen times now and had a mere 26 putts the last time I played, you just have to know where to put the ball with your approach shot. The greens are true and fast, and it's a falacy that they are unfair.
    It's a great course for the long straight hitter and certainly favours a draw. Can't undertand the criticism it gets.

  • Comment number 4.

    Pre-ordering is a great idea. I was a member at Sand Martins and this system worked a treat. But it's not about pre-ordering, it's about the quality of the food at the half way house. At Sand Martins we were treated to simply brilliant fried egg and bacon sandwiches.

    But the best half way hut food has to be the Edinburgh Course at Wentworth. Freshly picked mushrooms from the woods around the course, sauteed in garlic butter, smoked streaky bacon and real french bread - mmmmm!

    Who has the best half way house? Now that's a real golf blog topic.

  • Comment number 5.

    Can tour golf survive the current economical times....? Of course it can as there are enough pompous twits to chuck money at it. Where golf is struggling is at the affordable end where age old courses are unable to keep members due to green fees simply being too much and the image simply off putting.

    I am on a good wage but to play Wentworth, St Andrews and the like as a member is totally unrealistic. Golf needs new players to enjoy the game and not be put off by the image of elietism that peppers golf. Fortunately my club (an affordable MacKensie course) is far from snobby, but struggles to survive amongst the current climate. The R & A needs to focus its ideas on 'Grass roots' golf a little more.

  • Comment number 6.

    If you live in Fife, being a member of St.Andrews is one of the cheapest annual fees around.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    The golf tours have got to figure out what they want. We have the ridiculous situation on the PGA Tour where the number of tee-times for rank and file players is diminishing year on year, especially with two fewer events in 2009 compared to 2008. But against that there are tournaments who want to improve and the PGA Tour won't permit it.

    This week Turning Stone announced that next year's event (with possibly even crappier dates han this year's) may be the last unless a summer date is secured. As it stands, the Turning Stone Championship pays more than seventeen (17!!) "regular season" events and apparently wanted to pay an even larger purse this year, but were denied by the Tour.

    Fabulous course, a boatload of cash, the players (and caddies) are looked after superbly. So what's the problem?

  • Comment number 9.

    Pleased to report that here in Wales the Montgomerie course at Celtic Manor also offers a ring thru menu - Perhaps the course designer insisted on it :-)

  • Comment number 10.


    its folk like you who advertise st andrews as a cheap place to play golf that ruin it for the local st andrians for whom the cheap rates were designed for.

    on another note. the castle, great course for a mates 4 ball and good players. it is possible to score well, though hard, and a great challenge unlike than the courses on the links

  • Comment number 11.

    #7 not all americans are obese, raycastleunited, just like not all brits have bad teeth. personally i am 6ft 3 in (1.92 meters) and 190 lbs (86 kilos) and am more fit than most running/working out every day. but then again perhaps i am not the norm being ex-profi. the comment was more surprise at the authors phone box mention b/c europe is normally regarded as more technologically advanced than usa esp in mobile communications. in thinking it over perhaps the difference is the cart/buggy. but i can assure you that walking in fl in the summer in 90 degree heat and high humidity would not be much fun for terms of food- in north fl the players club at ponte vedra beach is quite good as is st john's golf club south of jacksonville. in orlando bay hill is tasty as is orange county national. in south fl doral seems to have slipped in the last years. if you ever go to the masters in augusta they have excellent eats at low prices which were probally the biggest surprise of the week!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I can see why the phone ahead system could be seen as a good thing, but surely when on the golf course all you want is a sandwich or a roll to tuck into (maybe a soup during the winter months), and there's nothing like getting the chance to eyeball the options before choosing what you want. When you put the halfway hut near to toilet facilities - not everyone wants to nip into the bushes - it all makes perfect sense as it creates teh perfect reason for a 2 or 3 minute stop.

    A nice simple sign saying "If you use these facilities you forfeit your position on the course to the group behind" means that there are no issues should the group behind not wish to stop off.

  • Comment number 13.

    The Players and the tournaments may still be doing ok.

    It is the golf equipment industry that is suffering due to the lack of golfers both in the clubs and the casual golfer who still find it intimidating to play at the better courses.

  • Comment number 14.

    I still find the concept of 'ordering food' anywhere and by any means on the course slightly ridiculous as it reflects the problem of 4+ hr rounds. If you're getting hungry you ain't playing expeditiously enough and no golfer is in fear of starvation

    What's wrong with a bottle of water and an apple/banana in the bag? Oh, I forgot, the over the top commercialization of golf...silly me, what will they think of next; carts so you don't have to walk? machines that tell you the exact distance to the pin (which assumes you have enough control to hit it such)...doh!

    Just play.



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