World Number Two Luke Donald will defend his Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title over a new-look Castle Stuart Golf Links when the £2.5 million event returns to Inverness from July 12-15.
Using their experience of hosting the event 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 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.
“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.”
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.
Chris Haspell, Course Manager at Castle Stuart Golf Links, said: “Our added storm drainage will also 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 even under the severest of conditions. Normally, our micro-climate is one of the driest and brightest in Britain.”
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.
“We look forward to welcoming the players and spectators to Castle Stuart in July for what promises to be another superb edition of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.”
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.
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