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 At the 19th

Darren to defend at Dale Hill?
...well, that won’t be happening, as the 2012 Open Championship has already been awarded to Royal Lytham & St Annes. But why, the author ponders, does the Open always have to be held on a links?

Dazza’s magnificent triumph at Sandwich has opened up, if that’s an appropriate phrase, the whole question of suitable venues for the Open. It just so happens that I’ve played Royal Portrush and can confirm that it’s an exceptional course which, doubtless to the delight of all those connected with it, immediately made it into my personal top-50. Never one to fight shy of controversy, I should perhaps add that I thought the last couple of holes a bit anti-climatic as it would appear they ran out of dunes.

However, my principal criticism of Royal Portrush is that, in common with all the other venues that are presently on the Open Championship rota, it is yet another links course. Because I don’t possess much of a short game and am happy to putt from about 75 yards in, I’m quite a fan of links courses because putting from off the green is considered acceptable on a links and in keeping with the game’s finest traditions whereas it’s frowned upon elsewhere, where the authorities would appear to discourage the practice by letting the grass grow far too long. But why restrict the Open to just links courses?

My main concern is that the billions of viewers watching around the world must form the mistaken impression that Great Britain is simply one continuous length of coastline. What’s wrong with going inland and revealing what a wealth of woodland, hills and parkland these great islands possess?

From generalities to specifics, and my nomination of Dale Hill Hotel and Golf Club as worthy of consideration by the Open Championship Venue Selection Committee. Before going any further, I should like to declare an interest and reveal that I am a proud member of Dale Hill. Although I wouldn’t stand to gain directly if it were selected, I live just seven miles from the course and would seriously consider renting out my three-bedroom detached house for somewhere in the region of £10k for the week, to include gas, electricity, unlimited access to Sky Sports on a 32-inch plasma screen TV and my (almost) complete collection of back issues of this magazine.

Although Dale Hill has not yet officially had ‘Royal’ status conferred upon it, it can surely only be a matter of time. Meanwhile, for those to whom these things are important, there is nearby ‘Royal’ Tunbridge Wells which, among other things, boasts a Fenwicks, a recently opened Marks & Spencer at Home and is twinned with Wiesbaden, which I gather is not all that far from where Martin Kaymer lives.

From what I understand, it is in the infrastructure department that Royal Portrush struggles to meet the standard required of an Open Championship venue. With both an asphalt surfaced car park and well-stocked pro shop, not to mention sauna and 20-foot swimming pool, when it comes to infrastructure, Dale Hill can stand comparison with the very best. And with what I would regard as the clincher, there’s a magnificent 32-bedroom, 4-star hotel which, assuming they are prepared to double up, could comfortably accommodate 64 players.

All the rooms, by the way, have an en-suite facility. To avoid disputes, perhaps they should be first offered to the top 64 players in the world according to the world rankings, with the higher placed players being offered rooms overlooking the course. The rest, by the way, enjoy uninterrupted views over the nicer part of Ticehurst. The car park presently accommodates about 200 cars but, if necessary, could be extended around the back of the greenkeeper’s shed.

I’ve spoken informally to the General Manager who has no objections in principle to the idea of hosting the Open but the Head Greenkeeper has concerns about the tented village flattening the grass and so we may have to look at that one.

Another area where Dale Hill has a huge advantage over, say, Muirfield and most of the other Open venues is that it’s blessed with not one but two exceptional courses. This means that the field could be split thereby obviating the need for ridiculously early tee-off times.

Assuming they play off the very back tees, at 6,500 yards the more impressive Woosnam Course is plenty long enough but at a tad under 5,900 yards the Old Course might be regarded as a little short and no doubt the bigger hitters in the field will fancy their chances of overwhelming it. However, it’s no pushover and some discreet bunker adjustments could nullify the advantage of being long. While on the subject of bunkers, I am confident that fresh and softer sand could be shipped in especially for the Open.

Most importantly, bringing the Open to this part of Sussex would provide a significant and very welcome boost to the local economy that would extend well beyond the borders of Ticehurst, Flimwell, Wadhurst and even Tunbridge Wells. Not only that but it would also create a precedent that would surely inspire other clubs around the country, including yours, to up their game in the hope of hosting the greatest golf tournament in the world bar none.

August 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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