Competitors at this year’s Scottish Open championship will find the Castle Stuart course significantly different from the one that made its professional debut in 2011.
Last year’s event was reduced to 54 holes after catastrophic rain caused flooding and landslides on the Inverness course. The course’s owners and managers have responded by installing an extensive storm drainage system, an investment of more than £70,000.
Course manager Chris Haspell said: “Our added storm drainage will help low spots drain faster, and along with tying new bunker drains into the system, it will help keep play moving at all times. In any normal weather year, this wouldn’t be necessary, but we were very keen to work with the European Tour and the players to help make Castle Stuart a great venue for tournament golf under the severest of conditions. Normally, our micro-climate is one of the driest and brightest in Britain.”
New bunkers have been added on the fifth and fourteenth holes, while new tees on the ninth, twelfth and fifteenth mean the course will play 7,193 yards for the tournament, approximately 150 yards longer than last year.
General manager Stuart McColm reckons the changes will challenge the players without removing the enjoyment and feel-good factor which were integral to the original vision of how the course, and indeed the game of golf, should be approached even for professionals.
He said: “We’re confident the changes will make the course more challenging without losing any of its original character or charm. The changes certainly weren’t knee-jerk – it was always our intention to consider making changes after last year’s tournament to see what might improve the experience for players and spectators alike.
“A number of our fairways are considerably wider than the players usually encounter on tour; but, they require precise positioning off the tee to improve the odds of making birdies to certain hole locations and to reduce the risk of making bogeys or worse. We gathered data on last year’s tournament-tee-shots and scoring on several holes to show that indeed this is true. Our changes have been made to make positioning and choice even more important and demanding on several holes. If we get a stiff prevailing wind and greens less receptive than was the case during last year’s wet conditions, the players will be very grateful for the wider fairways.
“We want the players to enjoy coming here and the spectators to enjoy the drama of the best golfers in the world making birdies and eagles. With the Open Championship being played the following week, we see this as a links golf opportunity where the players can both compete on a course where they feel they can score well if they play well, and adequately prepare themselves for the following week’s test. The new changes, should guarantee a challenging yet fair test of the players’ full set of skills, both with regard to ball-striking and decision making.”