Image: Wikimedia Commons/Dave Souza

The Open 2016: under-par scorecards, over-par camping

This time last year I wrote an article for the Boar lamenting the future of The Open’s television coverage as it moved from the BBC to Sky Sports. I can only assume that golf’s governing bodies read said article, as in April they announced plans for free-of-charge camping facilities near Royal Troon for this year’s tournament. The scheme was rather grandly named ‘The Open Camping Village’ and even more grandly described as a place for the “next generation of golf fans”; this fanfare part of the Royal &Ancient’s “commitment to ensuring the Championship is open to all”. Along with the camping facilities, 16-21 year olds could purchase tickets for a very respectable £25 and under-16s could enter for free if accompanied by an adult. In light of the costs of watching the Rugby World Cup and of course the Premier League, this all seems admirable.

Although the campsite food was extortionately priced , the whole experience left me with no complaints.

The campsite accommodation was far better than being packed in like sardines ala a post A-level trip to Reading festival, with spacious four and six-man tents and inflatable mattresses provided. Furthermore, with the course a 15 minute stroll away, the location was ideal. Although the campsite food was extortionately priced (I even ate the complimentary salad to get something resembling my money’s worth), the whole camping experience left me with no complaints.

As for the golf itself, watching the professionals in the flesh is very hard to articulate, primarily thanks to being in such close proximity to the players. I have had the pleasure of seeing Jonny Wilkinson, Andy Murray and even Heurelho Gomes in the flesh, but being mere yards away from Phil Mickelson (even allowing me to overhear his discussions with his caddie, ‘Bones’) was something substantially different.

It is sad but true that being on the course lacks the complete coverage of watching on the sofa.

Alas, Troon did have its drawbacks: namely the weather, which tried its best to live up to the well-known Scottish stereotypes. The necessary but obstructive umbrellas of the Friday somewhat hindered the viewing experience, while six layers were not enough to keep me warm on the Saturday. It is sad but true that being on the course lacks the complete coverage of watching on the sofa – whilst I certainly enjoyed the trip, I was glad to be at home on the Sunday to see every shot of the epic finale between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson.

And what a finale it was. Already way ahead of the rest of the field, Stenson and Mickelson played some of the finest final round golf in major history, with Mickelson finishing 11 shots ahead of J.B. Holmes in third. A friend texted me asking why these two golfers were so far clear of some of the best golfers in the world – although conditions certainly helped throughout the tournament, the raw competitiveness of the final grouping over the weekend was surely a factor: as Stenson put it, he knew he “had to keep pushing”. It was spectacular to watch or, as my mum so aptly put it, “phenomenal golf – bloody brilliant”. Butch Harmon, watch out.

Despite this glorious piece of sporting theatre, Sky’s viewing figures peaked at a mere 1.1 million.

Despite this glorious piece of sporting theatre, Sky’s viewing figures peaked at a mere 1.1 million (down from 4.7 million last year). The Open camping village is a brilliant idea – the whole trip, including eight hours of driving to Troon and two full days of golf, cost under £100. The downside is that the camping facilities could only hold 500 people; such schemes are a drop in the ocean compared to overall golf viewing and participation. Either way, the PGA Championship is only a week away – bring it on.

To read Jonny’s article on The Open 2015, click the link below:


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