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  • Alistair Tait

Turnberry can wait for The Open

Well done Martin Slumbers and the R&A for not making a knee-jerk reaction to remove Turnberry from the Open Championship rota after the PGA of America took the 2022 PGA Championship away from Donald Trump’s course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The R&A prides itself on taking a measured approach – sometimes a bit too measured for my liking, but hey ho – and Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, should be congratulated for doing just that on this occasion. He’s made the correct and wise move. Why deny one of the world’s greatest golf courses the game’s greatest championship because of one man? Especially when the R&A has already invested significant sums in infrastructure to stage future championships at Turnberry?

As I said yesterday, there was pressure on Slumbers to react, and the reaction is brilliant. In a pithy statement, Slumbers said:

“We had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future. We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances.”

The R&A is right to focus on the championship, the players, the course. You can bet if an Open was staged at Turnberry and the soon to be former 45th president owned it, then those three factors would have been the last thing on Trump’s mind. The only aspect he’d have been focused on is his ego, as when he hijacked the 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open. He helicoptered onto his property and a media circus ensued. No way was the R&A going to let that happen to its marquee event. Quite rightly.

I’d hate to know how many phone calls Trump made to Slumbers to try to persuade him to take the championship to his Ayrshire property. Trump made similar calls to former R&A boss Peter Dawson, and I can’t think for a second he didn’t also lobby Slumbers personally.

There was no obvious need for the R&A to follow the PGA of America since the R&A has no contract with Turnberry to stage an upcoming championship. Open venues are now set in stone until 2024. This year sees Royal St George’s stage the 149th Open, the 150th takes place at St Andrews in 2022, followed by Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon.

So the earliest Turnberry can stage the game’s oldest and greatest championship is 2025. Who knows what the lie of the land will be like in four years? If not four years, then five, perhaps 10 years.

It’s not as if the R&A is stuck for venues. The others in the rota are pretty decent golf courses.

So is Turnberry, especially since Martin Ebert oversaw a redesign. The Ailsa Course is arguably Scotland’s most scenic layout. It certainly is for me. Turnberry’s view to Ailsa Craig, beautiful Arran with Goat Fell peaking up on the skyline and the distant Mull of Kintyre is hard to beat. To sit outside the Turnberry Hotel with a glass of wine and watch the sun set over Arran is one of the best experiences in golf.

Turnberry will still be there long after Trump has no association with the place. The scenery isn’t going anywhere. Neither is the Open Championship. The course will be challenge enough for the world’s best when Turnberry stages its fifth Open Championship. Hopefully that will come sooner rather than later.

Well done to the R&A for bidding its time. Turnberry can wait for The Open.

#JustSaying: “While we’ve made significant changes to Turnberry, hopefully we’ve maintained and restored some of the original character Mackenzie Ross put into it”. Martin Ebert

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