EDINBURGH – For the 150th iteration of the British Open, organizers are expecting the thickest galleries in the competition’s history, with around 290,000 fans flocking to the Old Course at St Andrews for the event.
But there’s no guarantee they’ll all make it to the eastern edge of Scotland: for this Open, the labor rivalry has already produced more stars than many golfers will have before the tournament ends on Sunday.
“You may not be able to get on course,” Phil Campbell, head of customer operations at ScotRail, the publicly owned train service, warned would-be spectators.
“There is a risk that fans traveling by train may find there are no services to take them home,” said the R&A, the Open’s organiser.
Disagreement and uncertainty surrounding the rail service has been a staple of life in Scotland since May, when a dispute over pay forced unionized ScotRail drivers to refuse overtime and holidays that train operators in Britain regularly use to fill their schedules. The result was a severely curtailed timetable which has caused transit problems in Scotland since the spring. ScotRail and its drivers He struck a deal on Monday After the union vote, however, the unrest has already spilled over into Open Week, an important period for Britain’s tourism economy.
Making matters worse, of course, is that this year, of all years, is likely to draw the largest crowd in Open history.
The R&A, which set the previous attendance record of 239,000 in 2000 when Tiger Woods won by eight shots at St Andrews, said it had received more than 1.3 million requests for tickets for the 2022 Open. It’s a reflection of the tournament’s anniversary, return to the old course and the sensibility of the day, which has recently swept much of Western Europe.
The specter of 290,000 fans looked ambitious enough back in April when the R&A announced the attack on the seaside town of around 20,000 people. Now it just looks like a nightmare.
Discontent surrounding train services in the UK is not limited to ScotRail. Trains full of fans traveling from London to Edinburgh were delayed for several hours due to an electrical fault in northern England on Monday. Last month, Britain suffered its biggest rail strike in three decades, and Britons are bracing for a summer of labor unrest in several sectors.
The union representing ScotRail drivers said on Monday its members had voted to accept the new deal, but the rail service said it would take time, possibly more than a week, to resume normal operations. He urged golf fans to prepare for difficulties throughout the Open Championship, going so far as to issue a “travel warning”.
So, perhaps unimaginably, the camping and glamping options around St Andrews, or perhaps Gary Player’s 1955 strategy of sleeping on a sand dune, seem more appealing. But everyone seems to agree – and in the age of LIV Golf, big hitters and a clash between Brooks Koepka and Bryson de Chambeau, agreement is in short supply on courses these days – that Leuchars, the closest train station to St Andrews. There will be chaos, and so will the roads that take spectators in and out of St Andrews.
A ScotRail spokesman said the operator was expecting 25 per cent of the trains it had planned for the Open, suggesting thousands of fans would fill the roads from places such as Dundee and Edinburgh. The R&A, which does not offer refunds on Open tickets due to travel issues, is looking to add parking spaces.
There is also an official helipad.
What’s certain, though, is that, transit chaos or not, the Open will have far more spectators this year than last year. In 2021, with Britain still under public health protocols, just 152,330 fans attended England’s Royal St George’s, the lowest since 2013.