Like all sports around the world, golf was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with global tours coming to an immediate halt in the first half of 2020 and Major Championships either postponed or cancelled altogether.
However, despite the significant challenges posed by travel restrictions and a ban on live spectators, Scotland lived up to its reputation as the Home of Golf by hosting four world-class elite tour events across both the men’s and women’s game.
Underlining Scotland’s commitment to equality, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open in August at The Renaissance Golf Club in East Lothian was the first female tour event to take place outside of the US since lockdowns began across the globe, providing a vital playing opportunity and welcome media profile for the competitors.
It was swiftly followed by the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon in Ayrshire, the first women’s major to be played in 2020, meaning back-to-back women’s events in Scotland during a time when no other elite-level women’s golf was being supported.
Although both events took place behind-closed-doors with players and officials operating in bio-secure bubbles, they afforded an opportunity to showcase Scotland and women’s golf on a global stage when there was still little sport being broadcast. Their staging was a triumph of partnership efforts between IMG and The R&A as organisers of the events and The Scottish Government, EventScotland and public health officials to ensure they could be held safely.
October saw the return of elite-level men’s golf to Scotland with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Golf Club in East Lothian, originally scheduled for July but pushed back to form part of the European Tour’s Autumn swing which also featured a newly-created Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews.
Like the women’s events, both were held behind closed doors with co-operation between the European Tour, Scottish Government, EventScotland and public health officials pivotal to the development of comprehensive delivery plans to mitigate risk.
Such was the appetite for live sport, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open delivered significant media profile for Scotland becoming the most-watched European Tour event on Sky Sports since records began as well as more than 40 million impressions across social media.
As well as global media coverage, Scotland’s portfolio of golf events also delivered powerful moments for good across sport and society, supporting official charities such as the East Lothian Foodbank and the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) and key initiatives such as health & wellbeing, public safety messaging and recognising NHS workers and other key frontline staff.
Nicole Broch Larsen tees off at the 2020 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open © Tristan Jones
Even managing to stage four golf events during a year that has been so disrupted by the global pandemic is a great success story but to see each of them deliver on so many levels has been really pleasing and outlines the benefits both golf and events has across society.
From underlining our commitment to women’s golf to showcasing the country once more on a global stage our golf events in 2020 will have played a key role in Scotland’s COVID-19 recovery efforts as we look forward to a brighter 2021.
Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open 2020 at the Renaissance Club East Lothian © Paul Severn
Key stats for 2020 golf in Scotland
Total Broadcast Hours
Social Media Impressions
Social media posts
Online press articles
In excess of $22.5m
Media value to Scotland