As the 140th Open Championship swings into life more than 3,000 enthusiasts chose to take on the fearsome St Andrews Road Hole bunker which has been stunningly recreated at the HSBC Golf Zone.
Almost one third of Wednesday’s spectators lined up to try their luck including Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and a host of golf fans from all over the world.
The HSBC Golf Zone – built to celebrate HSBC’s first year as Patron of the Open Championship – is the first experiential golf zone of its kind and scale in the UK and covers an area equivalent to almost five tennis courts in the Tented Village.
The Road Hole Bunker was recreated by Royal St George’s green keeper Sean McLean.
Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship at HSBC commented: “When you think about it we are here in Kent for The Open Championship but there are twenty times as many people playing St Andrews than Royal St George’s – there’s 156 out on the course and over 3,000 in the HSBC Golf Zone. This really demonstrates how much golfers love a challenge. The numbers are more than we dared to hope for and the feedback we have received has been fantastic.
“We are very grateful to the R&A for their vision and help in creating this area for the first time at an Open Championship, utilising their golf knowledge to allow us to offer visitors to Sandwich a truly interactive experience. Having been involved in golf since 2002, we underpin all our programmes around the world with a desire to bring the game to life and to grow the game at a grass roots level and the HSBC Golf Zone represents all that we have learnt over the years from our experiences.”
After escaping – or otherwise – the confines of the Road Hole bunker, visitors have been enjoying the Longest Drive and Nearest the Pin competitions on the Tri-Screen Golf Simulator and comparing their swings to those of the best golfers with the help of FlightScope, the latest in tracking technology, while younger spectators are honing their golf and gaming skills in the Children’s Zone.
Information Pods featuring the iPad2, video walls and touch screen televisions are available throughout the HSBC Golf Zone containing everything a fan would wish to know about their favourite players, past and present.
A Heritage section demonstrates that while pressing buttons and touching screens is one way of getting a feel for the history of the game, wrapping hands around the kind of hickory-shafted clubs used in the days of Old Tom Morris is another, highlighting how the manufacture of golf clubs has changed across the last 300 years.
Those who would like to see our Open Championship links courses asking tougher questions of the players are enjoying the unique opportunity to design their own Open course. Finally, the Nikon Photo Experience is proving to be extremely popular with visitors embracing the chance to don a “Champion Caddie” bib and stand next to one of the best players in the world – for a memory ready to take away within 60 seconds.