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Preparations for Open on course

While every aspect of new technology is available to course manager Colin Irvine and his staff at Muirfield as preparations for the Open championship continue, traditional methods of tending the famous links still play a significant part in manicuring the turf.

Captain John Prideaux, the secretary of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh golfers, reports that Muirfield’s greens have only been cut by hand mowers for over a month. The last thing anyone wants is for one of the greens to be damaged by an oil leak from a mower so the club has taken the risk out of the equation.

Prideaux says the greens are as good as he can ever remember them. "Truthfully, they’ve never been better," he said. As to the conditioning of the rest of the links, most of the courses in East Lothian have seen rough flourish in recent weeks.

The Honourable Company, though, are determined not to repeat the mistakes of Carnoustie and are monitoring the thick stuff. "We’ll have light rough and medium rough before you get to the ‘oh, cor blimey’ stuff," he says. "It’s true the rough has grown in recent weeks but we’re keeping an eye on things."

This is Irvine’s first experience in charge of an Open course, though he was deputy to Chris Whittle (now at Birkdale) when Nick Faldo won in 1992.

Unless Mother Nature intervenes, Muirfield hopes to provide a firm, fast test of classic links golf. To that end, a period of drier weather would be much appreciated.

As to facilities for spectators at Muirfield, the Royal & Ancient will offer a new radio service on sets available at the course for £7. Radio Opengolf will be broadcast by Radio 5 Live and help keep everyone up to date with events. Two giant TV screens will also show the action in the tented village.

More than 20,000 grandstand seats, an increase of 4000 on the championship held in East Lothian ten years ago, will also be in place, while youngsters will have their own junior tent where PGA professionals will give free lessons. Autograph hunters will be encouraged to use a special area set aside for them rather than approaching players in other parts of the course.

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