The British Open, and More, Brings the Golf Spotlight to Scotland
Every few years in Scotland, the British Open unfolds right after the Scottish Open, giving golfers time to prepare for the major and providing fans some of the world’s best golf in tournaments only miles apart in Carnoustie and East Lothian.
“It’s absolutely huge for Scotland that we have these two events back to back and so close to each other on some of the world’s best links golf courses,” said David Connor, golf public relations manager at VisitScotland.
The Scottish Open, which was won by Brandon Stone of South Africa last week at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian, is about a 100-mile drive from Carnoustie Golf Links, the site of the British Open. “When it lines up and happens like this — which is by no mistake — the month of July is very much all about golf for Scotland,” Connor said. “There’s a real excitement having the venues so close. But as the crow flies, it’s a lot less. You could get in a boat and take it from Gullane right up to Carnoustie.”
It’s good for fans, but the lineup especially helps players looking to contend in the British Open, Connor said. “If you want to win a major championship like the Open, you should come and play the Scottish Open before it just to get your eye in and make sure you’ve had a bit of practice on a links golf course. It’s a slightly different way of playing. And being able to play their way into the Open like this is such a huge bonus for them.”
For Scotland’s Russell Knox, the two tournaments come after he won the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal earlier this month in a playoff against the Australian Ryan Fox for his second European Tour title. Knox views the Scottish doubleheader as an opportunity to continue his peak form.
“I’m preparing well for these two weeks,” Knox said in the week leading up to the Scottish Open. “I mean, it’s been an amazing couple of weeks for me before the Scottish Open and the Open, so the key for me this year is to try and keep the momentum going but balance that with trying to save as much energy as possible.”
Another homegrown player from Scotland is Stonehaven’s Sam Locke, a 19-year-old barista and golf amateur who qualified for the British Open after winning by seven under par at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick earlier this month.
“It was a great feeling to qualify for your first major championship — it was brilliant,” Locke said. “I just went out there and played. I went into it trying to play it like any other tournament. I went in just thinking only the top three get in, so just go for it. You never know what can happen. It’s golf.”
The next day, after securing his place playing beside his childhood heroes Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, he was back behind the counter serving coffee. “Some people came in to congratulate me. But generally it was just a normal day at work.”
Tournament officials expect roughly 40,000 to 50,000 fans to flood the small towns of East Lothian and Carnoustie during the two weeks for top-level golf, bringing millions into the local economy.
“Certainly from a spectator’s point of view, having these two weeks of golf really gets the juices flowing,” Connor said. “Fans love it. Scottish golf fans are quite an educated golfing crowd. While they may not be whooping and hollering, they appreciate great golf and great golf shots. They appreciate the skill that it takes to play a certain type of golf like the links course.”
We take golf seriously. We are the home of golf and we enjoy watching the best players of the world coming to compete on courses that have been around for hundreds of years.”
For Knox, the hometown support comes at the perfect time. “It’s been a pretty exciting couple of weeks for me. It doesn’t get much better for the Scottish players to play our national Open and then the Open in back-to-back weeks on home soil. Hopefully a few of us can give the home crowd something to really cheer about.”