Open Venue Testing: The R&A Championship Committee
STRI has been the official agronomic consultant to The R&A Championship Committee for over twenty years, advising on the majority of Open Championships, Final Qualifiers, Regional Qualifiers, Amateur Championships, home based Walker Cups and a number of other Championship events during this time.
The Open, the oldest of the four major championships played in professional golf, is hosted annually on a rotational basis by nine links venues throughout the United Kingdom: St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Royal St. George’s, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Royal Liverpool.
- To deliver quality playing surfaces to the standard demanded for The Open Championship whilst upholding the traditions of The Open courses.
- To produce an authentic links challenge to test the best golfers in the world and provide a course that can adapt to changes and extremes of weather.
- To ensure the ecological impact is kept to a minimum on the course.
- To work with the club, the greenkeeping team and The R&A Executive to ensure that the course is in optimum condition for The Championship and the playing traditions of The Open courses are upheld.
- To provide objective data on a continuous basis to inform decision making in the build up to and during The Championship.
- To provide advice on the environmental and ecological management of the links to ensure the challenges and experiences provided are authentic.
STRI agronomists perform regular site visits to all Open venues to ensure that standards are continually met throughout the year. Visits always incorporate the STRI Programme where a series of performance measurements are taken to establish the current state of the course. The results of these form the basis for the development of a structured and targeted maintenance plan, developed in conjunction with the staff of the host club. STRI staff are also involved in the monitoring of any modifications or adjustments that may be necessary, and ecological appraisals are continuous.
Area of ecological interest cordoned off during The Open at Royal St George’s
STRI is the official ecological and environmental consultant to The Open and works with The R&A and Course Managers to help measure and minimise the ecological impact of The Championship. Many Open venues are located within SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and we work to maximise the biodiversity of each site. In previous years, foot traffic has been measured, carbon audits undertaken and areas cordoned off, where protected species such as nesting skylark and orchids may be found. A senior ecological specialist is on-site during The Championship and provides post-Open recommendations for habitat reinstatement.
In preparation for each of The Championships, site inspections and discussions take place between The R&A, Course Manager and STRI. It is necessary for STRI to understand the complexities of the course, the game and the requirements of The R&A. The week prior to The Championship, STRI agronomy and research specialists arrive on site. Preliminary testing is done to fine tune the maintenance programme and to take account of local weather conditions.
Performance measuring with the STRI Trueness Meter at Royal St George’s
Measurements are taken each morning and evening during The Championship, before players go out and after they finish. This establishes benchmarks and measures performance, determining changes that occur during the day and how these may influence and inform the maintenance programme for the following day. Tests are conducted across six greens (including the practice green) which are indicative of all greens, e.g. the driest, the firmest and the wettest. Measurements are taken for green speed, smoothness and trueness, firmness and soil moisture, providing real-time data, which is immediately analysed by STRI specialists based on-site. Results are discussed with the Course Manager and The R&A and then, through a combination of experience and technical knowledge and by reviewing measurement data, decisions are taken on preparations for the following day(s).
- Successful delivery of desired playing quality standards demanded for Open Championships, including presentation of the course.
- Production of an authentic links challenge to test the best in world golf and a Championship course that can adapt to changes and extremes of weather.
- Following the 2011 Open, Steve Isaac, The R&A’s Director, Golf Course Management, commented: “As the official agronomists to The R&A Championship Committee, STRI has worked closely with the greenkeeping team at Royal St George’s to ensure the course is at its very best and is delivering the true, firm and running conditions that are characteristic of The Open.”