A multi-million pound economic boost is on its way to East Kent, after it was announced that The Open Championship is to be held at Royal St George’s in Sandwich three times between now and 2036.
The tournament, administered by The R&A, is the oldest of the four major international championships in professional golf and is the only ‘major’ outside the United States.
The news follows the decision by South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) to contribute more than £1.9m to upgrade the railway station near the golf course in time for the first of The Open’s three visits in 2020.
Christian Brodie, Chairman of SELEP, said: “The 2020 event is expected to bring more than 200,000 people to the county. The economic impact is forecast to exceed £85m, with at least £26.8m expected to be direct additional spend. This means that the investment case to upgrade the station at Sandwich is a very strong one.
“The R&A has made it very clear that The Open cannot return to Sandwich without the current transport problems being fully addressed and brought up to par.
“Kent County Council, Dover District Council and neighbouring districts in East Kent have campaigned tirelessly to secure this funding and commitment from The R&A, Network Rail and DfT to ensure The Open remains on Kent’s sporting calendar.”
The decision of SELEP’s Accountability Board to award the money from the Local Growth Fund followed the decision of The R&A that the Royal St George’s course will host The Open on three occasions cycle between 2020 and 2036.
Councillor Mike Hill, KCC Cabinet Member for Community & Regulatory Services, said: “I am delighted that East Kent has been awarded this series of Open Championships. The support of Government and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to enable this important international sporting event to be staged in our County is a great boost for our tourism and inward investment programmes.”
The project will also mean the extension the platform at Sandwich station to allow 12 carriage High Speed rail services in time for The Open and will provide a further footbridge for passengers.
Currently, the station can only support trains with eight carriages, with longer trains blocking the nearby level crossing and causing delays for road vehicles including park and ride buses, as happened when The Open was last held at Sandwich in 2011.
In that year Darren Clarke showed his mastery of links golf in challenging weather conditions to hold off Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to become Champion Golfer of the Year.