Toby Ingleton wants the European Tour to visit England more often.
Blink and you’ll miss it. The coming two weeks represent the PGA European Tour’s fleeting visit to England for this year, with stops at Wentworth and London Golf Club.
With the British Masters last week joining the English Open on the Tour’s cancellation list, and the World Match Play having moved to Spain, England is now hosting just two events on the European Tour. This ranks it alongside Australia and Hong Kong, but behind South Africa, UAE and China.
The ‘European’ tag is clearly questionable, and was long before it represented the Race to Dubai, but that’s not the issue of concern. It’s that England, a country thought to be relatively developed both in terms of golf and beyond, can’t maintain a national open, alongside Wales, Scotland, Ireland and... the Madeira Islands.
I doubt the loss of The Belfry and St Mellion (respectively the originally planned venues for this year’s British Masters and English Open) as venues for the professional game will be mourned by many, and certainly not for long given their planned reinstatement next year, but it seems like England is missing a huge opportunity to showcase its amazing golf courses.
In my mind, an ideal situation would be to have the English Open played at one of the great historic links courses. The choice of Baltray to host last week’s Irish Open was rewarded with a fantastic event, where the elements played a huge role and the course even greater. The playoff demonstrated how strategic holes can turn the sport from brawn to brains, playing out more like a game of chess. The top UK amateurs play week in, week out on links courses and this experience proved valuable for the surprise winner. Congratulations to Shane Lowry on a superb victory that will be long remembered.
An English Open won’t place the same infrastructure demands – whether it be car parking, travel links or nearby hotel accommodation – as the Open Championship, so it’s a great opportunity to test the top professionals on courses that won’t make it onto the Open rota. Herbert Fowler’s Saunton or Willie Park Jnr’s Formby, which hosts the Amateur Championship in June, would make ideal choices.
For the British Masters, we could look to one of England’s inland gems. Another of Park Jnr’s courses, Notts, would be at the top of my list along with Woodhall Spa, designed by its longtime owner Colonel SV Hotchkin, and featuring some of the most severe bunkering in the country. If more of a stadium feel is desired or required, the best of the few new English tracks, such as EGD’s Marquess course at Woburn or Kyle Phillips’ The Grove, are worthy tournament venues, as the latter has already demonstrated with the 2006 World Golf Championship.
Tour events are an opportunity for us to share and celebrate the finest golf landscapes and architecture. That’s an idealistic view, as the professional game requires much more than a supply of great golf courses. By definition it needs money, and in difficult economic conditions when sponsors are hard to come by, those opportunities for celebration are rare.