The Open and St Andrews swing into record books

Zach Johnson celebrates winning the  2015 Open Championship in St Andrews. (Picture by Michael Gillen.)
Zach Johnson celebrates winning the 2015 Open Championship in St Andrews. (Picture by Michael Gillen.)

St Andrews has the undoubted ‘X Factor’ when it comes to The Open Championship and visitor appeal.

New research this week revealed that the ‘St Andrews effect’ of last year’s Open brought a boost of £140 million of economic benefit to Scotland - the largest amount ever achieved by a golf event in the UK or Ireland.

An economic impact assessment, commissioned by the R&A, shows spending by visitors to Scotland for the tournament generated £88 million – nearly double the £47.5 million in visitor impact achieved in 2010 when the event was last held at the Old Course.

And there was a further £52 million in marketing benefit as a result of St Andrews and Scotland being broadcast to more than 500 million households worldwide, according to separate research by Kantar Media Sport Intelligence.

The R&A study, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre, estimates that Fife alone benefited to the tune of around £52 million, and suggests there is a ‘St Andrew’s effect’ that has seen visitor numbers to the Old Course exceed all previous years.

The study found that total spectator admissions (including practice days and Championship days) were 237,024, with 93,000 unique spectators. There were 26,400 spectators from overseas - 28 per cent of the total, compared to 20 per cent in 2010.

More than two-thirds of the total visitors, and 80 per cent of visitors from the UK, said they expected to return to Scotland within one year thanks to their positive experience.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We all know that golf and its origins are synonymous with Scotland but these excellent figures show that the connection between the game and its spiritual home is as strong and productive as ever.

“It is always a special homecoming for players and spectators alike when The Open returns to the Old Course – they have the opportunity to experience not only one of the finest courses in the world, but also take in such a stunning setting on the Fife coast.”

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “The R&A brings The Open to Scotland more often than to any other part of the UK and we are delighted that a long association with VisitScotland produces measurable and sustained benefits for the Scottish economy. For the millions who watched on television and the many thousands who attended in St Andrews, the 144th Open was a wonderful celebration of golf.”

Roderick Campbell, SNP MSP for North East Fife, said: “These are very welcome figures – indicating huge economic benefit not just to Fife, but to Scotland as a whole from hosting the Open.

“That much of the growth in visitor numbers has been attributed to the ‘St Andrew’s effect’ is particularly welcome – and highlights exactly what one of the finest golf courses in the world and the beautiful Fife coast has to offer.”