Open Championship at Carnoustie generated £120m for Scots economy

Hot on the heels of chief executive Peter Lawwell raising eyebrows by claiming that Celtic are worth more to Scotland than golf, it has emerged that this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie alone generated a £120 million benefit to the country.
Francesco Molinari celebrates after winning the Open Championship. Pic: Francois Nel/GettyFrancesco Molinari celebrates after winning the Open Championship. Pic: Francois Nel/Getty
Francesco Molinari celebrates after winning the Open Championship. Pic: Francois Nel/Getty

The figure has been revealed in an independent report by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and comes a few days after a review of Scotland’s National Golf Tourism Strategy extended the industry’s target for the value of the sector to £325m.

According to the study on the Open Championship by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre, a total attendance of 172,000 fans at an event won by Italian Francesco Molinari delivered an economic impact of £69m.

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In addition, the report reveals that Scotland also benefited from £51m in destination marketing activity thanks to game’s oldest major being broadcast on television to more than 600 million households in 193 countries worldwide.

Commissioned by the R&A, VisitScotland and Angus Council, the study also discovered that the Angus area alone received a £21m injection of new money from the 147th Open Championship.

Commenting on the report, Sturgeon said: “The Open Championship is synonymous with Scotland as the home of golf, and this year’s Open at Carnoustie once again showcased Scotland internationally as the perfect stage for major events.

“The figures released today also demonstrate the economic benefits of hosting major events and I’m pleased.

“The 147th Open generated significant income for both the local Angus area and for the wider Scottish economy.”

The breakdown of spectators at Carnoustie showed that 49.8 per cent travelled from outwith Scotland while more than 80 per cent came from outside Angus. More than 20,000 spectators under the age of 25 attended the event this year.

“The Open has a proven track record of generating substantial economic benefit for the host country in which it is staged thanks to the tens of thousands of spectators who attend each year,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.

“The return of the Open to Carnoustie has been a great success. We enjoyed a memorable week in which we welcomed a record number of fans to one of golf’s great championship venues to witness Francesco Molinari create history by becoming the first Italian to lift the iconic Claret Jug.”

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Speaking last month, Lawwell called for greater appreciation from local and national government of Celtic’s value to the Scottish economy after a study by the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde found the Glasgow club generated a gross of £165m to Scotland’s GDP in 2016-17.

“Celtic generates more for the Scottish economy per annum than golf tourism. That’s a remarkable comparator,” he said. “The contributions that Celtic and Scottish football make to the country – economically, socially and culturally – is sometimes forgotten. There are a lot of positive fundamentals in this report we can hopefully start a debate around.”

According to Scotland’s Golf Tourism Development Group, the value of golf tourism to the country was already £220m in 2013 and, on the back of a strong period of growth, the target for 2020 has been increased from £300m to £325m.

Allan Minto, project manager with Golf Perthshire, was part of the team reviewing the strategy. He said: “The results of the 2016 study into the value of golf tourism indicated that Scotland was well on its way to achieving its target of £300m by 2020, having already reached £286m annually.

“Scotland is known around the world as the home of golf and factors such as increased accessibility via air routes, exchange rates, international media profile from major events and the continued development of Scotland’s world-class golf tourism product are all expected to see the industry maintain this excellent growth and hit a renewed target of £325m by 2020.

“These figures outline the importance of the golf tourism industry to Scotland’s economy and with £5 spent elsewhere for every £1 a golf visitor spends playing golf, the ripple effect is felt far and wide across the visitor economy in shops, hotels, restaurants and other tourism attractions.”