English golf courses make up three of the four layouts chosen by the R&A to host Final Qualifying for the 2018 Open Championship.
Notts (Hollinwell), Prince’s and St Annes Old Links, as well as The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, will stage the shoot-out for some of the last remaining spots in the world’s oldest and most international major championship.
As well as Scotland, they cover the north west, central and southern regions of England to make the qualifying events as accessible as possible for players. They will also replace the current venues – Woburn, Royal Cinque Ports, Gailes Links and Hillside – where, this year, there will be a total of 12 places available from a starting field of 288 players.
Among those who secured their places at Final Qualifying for last year’s Open at St Andrews were two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, Irishman Paul Dunne, who went on to lead the championship after the third round and played in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, and his fellow Walker Cup player American Jordan Niebrugge, who went on to finish tied sixth and win the Silver Medal as the leading amateur.
“Final Qualifying is a hugely important part of the Open Qualifying Series and provides a gripping spectacle as leading tour players compete with club professionals and elite amateurs for places in the championship,” explained Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, the R&A’s executive director of championships. “The success that Jordan and Paul enjoyed last year shows just what is possible for those who qualify and gives players a huge incentive to follow in their footsteps.
“We very much appreciate the support we have received at the current Final Qualifying courses and look forward to moving on to four outstanding new venues in 2018.”
Notts (Hollinwell) has hosted several professional tour events, including the Dunlop Masters, and was the venue for the Brabazon Trophy in 2015. Matthew Fitzpatrick won the Boys Amateur Championship there in 2012.
Gene Sarazen, meanwhile, became the ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ at Prince’s, when it hosted the Open in 1932. The course has also been joint host of the Amateur Championship on two occasions and will do so again in 2017. It hosted the Curtis Cup in 1956 and the 2006 Ladies’ British Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship. This year, it will host the St Andrews Trophy and the Jacques Leglise Trophy.
St Annes Old Links has been a qualifying venue for the Open on many occasions, most recently in 2012, and it has held a number of elite amateur events including last year’s English Women’s Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship.
The Renaissance Club, meanwhile, opened in 2004 and, along with neighbouring Muirfield, will host the Boys Amateur Championship this year.