Sport Golf

Sunday 22 October 2017

Irish Open draws more fans than Muirfield

28 June 2013; Rory McIlroy, tees off at the first, infront of the PGA Trophy, during the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
28 June 2013; Rory McIlroy, tees off at the first, infront of the PGA Trophy, during the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Karl MacGinty

There were fewer paying customers at Muirfield on Sunday to watch Phil Mickelson's march to the Claret Jug than there were at Royal Portrush last summer to see Jamie Donaldson wrap up the Irish Open title.

Attendance figures for all four days of the British Open also were exceeded by the record-breaking numbers who flocked to the Dunluce Course last June.

The overall figure for Open Championship week at Muirfield fell from 160,595 back in 2002 – the last time golf's oldest Major was played on Edinburgh's doorstep – to 142,036.

Subtract the 31,320 who attended practice last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and that leaves 110,716 for the tournament itself, lower than the 112,280 at the 2012 Irish Open.

Meanwhile, 29,247 were on the property last Sunday, more than a thousand fewer than the 30,362 who witnessed the Irish Open come to a climax on Antrim's Causeway Coast.

Naturally, there's a lot more to staging a British Open than capacity.

Accommodating the event's 35,000 square metres of corporate and other tented areas close to the action would be a stumbling block for Portrush, while the political situation in Ulster in July is a cause for concern.

Yet Portrush clearly can hold its own when it comes to accommodating Open-size crowds.

Several reasons were offered for the marked decline in crowd numbers at Muirfield this year, yet the greatest, inevitably, is the cost of attending golf's oldest Major.

Daily ticket prices went up by £5 this year to £75 but, more significantly, no concession was offered to senior citizens. The season ticket cost £260, incidentally, with a further £60 for parking for the week.

Interestingly, the crowds at practice, when admission prices were a fraction of those for tournament days, were up on 2002, offering clear evidence that cost is a major factor.

If two people decided to go to the Open last Sunday, it would have cost them £150 at the gate, plus £15 for parking. Souvenir programmes were £7 each and a radio, vital to monitor the on-course action, cost £9.

Throw in a couple of bottles of water at £2 each, maybe a burger (£5.60 each) and fries (£3 each) for lunch, with a pint to wash them down (£4.20) and our couple spend more than £210 (that's €245).

That's a hefty price to pay for just one day, even at the Open!

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