Credit crunch bites as Tour revises schedule
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.
Irish 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 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.