Fans in the stands
Open Championship to have up to 32,000 spectators during competition days at Royal St. George's
The claret jug sits by the first tee at Royal St. George's, host of the 2021 Open Championship.
Over the last few months, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has more than once been at pains to underline that the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s will not suffer the same fate as last year’s event, which was postponed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now there is even better news.
Despite the United Kingdom government’s recent announcement that the planned easing of social restrictions is to be delayed until July 19—one day after the Open’s final round—the 149th edition of golf’s oldest major will be played out in front of as many as 32,000 fans on each of the four days. That figure will include existing ticket-holders and hospitality guests who have already purchased tickets.
“We are pleased to now be able to proceed with our plans for having a significant attendance at this year’s Championship,” said Slumbers in a statement on Saturday. “These fans will play a huge role in creating a very special atmosphere as the world’s best players compete for the claret jug and we look forward to welcoming them to Royal St George’s.”
The 32,000 total is 80 percent of the maximum 40,000 capacity the R&A would have been planning for under ordinary circumstance for St. George’s. Still to come are any specifics on mask and other safety protocols that spectators might face.
“I would like to acknowledge the support and understanding we have received from the government and public health authorities, fans, players, our patrons and partners, as we have worked through this extremely challenging process,” Slumbers said. “The Open is a very special championship in the world of sport and we are fortunate that so many people care as deeply about it as we do.”
Speaking of which, U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was quick to voice the government’s enthusiasm for the R&A plans.
“The Open Championship returns to Royal St George’s for the first time in a decade and what better way to welcome its return than with more than 30,000 fans each day watching the best golfers in the world battle it out for the famous claret jug,” he said. “We have always said we will do everything possible to return fans to our iconic cultural and sporting events as soon, and as safely, as possible—and thanks to the phenomenal success of our vaccine rollout and uptake of the NHS App, we’re able to take another step forward through our flagship Events Research Programme.”
Slumbers said in May that the R&A was in the process of building out much of the traditional infrastructure for the championship, including the large grandstands surrounding the 18th green and first tee. The hope was for an announcement similar to way was made on Saturday.
This year’s Open will be the 15th held over the Kent links overlooking the English Channel. Past winners there include two members of the “Great Triumvirate” in J.H. Taylor and Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Bill Rogers, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman, Ben Curtis and, most recently, Darren Clarke in 2011. This year the course will measure 7,189 yards and play to a par of 70.