New-look Castle Stuart to Test the Best / Round-up
Luke Donald, the World No 2, will defend his Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title over a new-look Castle Stuart Golf Links when the tournament returns to Inverness from July 12-15.
Using their experience of hosting the event in difficult weather for the first time in 2011, together with conversations with a number of players and European Tour officials, staff at Castle Stuart Golf Links undertook several changes to the course to ensure that the world-class field will face a more interesting and demanding test in the £2.5 million championship this year.
A total of four new bunkers have been added to the fifth and 14th holes, while new tees have been constructed on the ninth, 12th and 15th holes, meaning that the course now measures 7,193 yards - approximately 150 yards longer than last year.
Stuart McColm, the General Manager at Castle Stuart Golf Links, believes 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 what 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.
“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.”
In addition to the course changes, greenkeeping staff at Castle Stuart Golf Links have implemented an investment of more than £70,000 in an extensive and mostly underground storm-drainage system to ensure that the course is well-equipped to withstand the most severe weather conditions.
To facilitate easier movement, better viewing for the public, and an improved spectator experience, club staff have also added new paths and walkways, levelled the ground in several places and removed and cut back a number of gorse bushes.
Mike Stewart, Tournament Director of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, said: “The staff at Castle Stuart have carried out a magnificent job of making improvements in a number of areas, and we should applaud them for taking the initiative in making the tournament better for players, spectators and tournament organisers after thorough scrutiny of last year’s event.
“Everyone who competed at last year’s tournament was hugely impressed with the course layout. The changes – together with new drainage facilities – have improved what was already a world-class venue.”
A host of top players will again contest the title, with Martin Laird’s presence representing a huge boost to Scotland’s chances of producing the first home winner of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open since Colin Montgomerie in 1999.
Arizona-based Laird is the highest ranked Scot in the Official World Golf Ranking at No 31 and he is will be seeking a good finish to boost his Ryder Cup hopes.
Advance ticket savings are still available for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, with adult one day tickets currently costing £30 – a reduction of £5 on the gate price. Adult season tickets are currently priced at £70, offering a £10 saving on the gate price.
For full details of all Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open ticket and hospitality offers can be found at: www.europeantour.com/tickets or by calling the Ticket Hotline: +44 (0) 800 023 2557.
Club members in Scotland can take up an exclusive offer to play Castle Stuart by clicking here
* Paul Lawrie, sponsor of the Scottish Boys Championship, remains on course for a second Ryder Cup appearance after reaching the semi-finals of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain over the weekend.
The 1999 Open champion let slip a four-hole lead to lose his semi-final against Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, the eventual winner of the event, but the Aberdonian still banked more valuable Ryder Cup points.
Lawrie, in his 500th European Tour appearance, picked up a cheque for just under £150,000 and cemented fourth place on the European Points List as he seeks to make Jose Maria Olazabal’s team at Medinah in September.
Lawrie, who has climbed a place to eighth in the Race to Dubai standings and also up a spot to 40th in the world rankings, said: “If I get in The Ryder Cup, it would be the biggest achievement of my career. I really want to play on that team.”
* Motherwell’s Ross Kellett, who left the SGU ranks last year, finished as the top Scot in a share of 26th place at Austria’s Gosser Open on the Alps Tour.
Rookie pro Kellett sits eighth in the 2012 Alps Tour standings after three events as he seeks to graduate to the Challenge Tour.