sport

Open to embrace changes

Open Championship officials have vowed to lead the way with new technology to enhance the experience of spectators at Hoylake this summer.

Ticket prices of 75 were blamed for a drop in attendance at Muirfield last year, but the R&A believes that figure still represents good value compared to other sporting events given the number of hours of play each day.

And a six-figure sum has been spent on hi-tech infrastructure aimed at allowing fans to see more of the action no matter where they are located on the course.

Large LED screens will be placed on each hole apart from the 18th, which will retain the iconic yellow scoreboard, with a wifi mesh again surrounding the course to allow fans to follow the action on mobile devices.

The R&A's director of communications Malcolm Booth said: "We think this is the most innovative technology at any golf championship in the world.

"We intend to lead the way on this technology moving forward. I used it at Muirfield last year and it worked well and we think in the next three to five years the technology is going to become extremely robust.

"The big challenge at a golf tournament is that you are only able to be at one hole at a time and we hope this allows spectators to keep up to date with what is happening around the course. We think the benefit is significant."

There will be seating for 20,000 spectators at Hoylake with a unique "horseshoe" structure of grandstands surrounding the 18th green.

Rhodri Price, the R&A's director of operations, added: "That's something we can't do at any other venue and we think it's a great chance to wrap the 18th and create a great atmosphere."

A total of 230,000 fans attended the last Open at Hoylake in 2006, which was won by Tiger Woods, with officials confident of large crowds again even if Woods is unable to play after undergoing back surgery earlier this month.

"There's no doubt that Tiger Woods' impact on the game of golf is huge and he is still a massive draw, but we've had Opens without him before in 2008 and 2011," Booth added.

"The Open has always drawn a great crowd and we are sure we will again this year. We saw huge novelty and excitement in 2006 when we returned for the first time since 1967 and so I think that created very, very high crowds. We don't anticipate the same 230,000 this year, but we expect around 200,000."