Confirmation this week that LIV Golf will hold events at Mayakoba’s El Camaleon, the iconic Valderrama in Spain and Sentosa in Singapore came as no surprise, but the reality will be a bitter pill to swallow for the golf establishment and the poaching (and signing) of well-regarded and recognised venues will likely give a significant boost to LIV’s popularity.
Valderrama is one of the most famous golf courses in Europe. Host to the 1997 Ryder Cup, it was long-time stage for the old European Tour season ender – The Volvo Masters. The course has, since that event was first held at the legendary Andalusian layout in 1988, been a defining feature-venue on the European Tour.
Losing it from the circuit will be a blow to the DP World Tour but it’s highly understandable why it’s happened. Valderrama wants to be seen as a world-leading, tournament course. The recent instalments of the Andalusia Masters have not delivered fields that would satisfy that objective. LIV Golf will produce a field of star players, whether their popularity and World Ranking has waned or not. Basically, it’s a setback for the DP World Tour and a boost for LIV.
Likewise, the loss of El Camaleon for the PGA Tour. It has been a popular stop, used 16 times over the years and host to the World Wide Technology Championship up until this November. Not only does El Camaleon’s deal with LIV mean the PGA Tour loses a great course on the circuit (one designed by Greg Norman by the way,) but it also means World Wide Technology needs either a new venue for their PGA Tour deal (set to run until 2027,) or they will have to be accommodated as title sponsor in another PGA Tour event… Either way, it will be an irritation for the PGA Tour and a body blow landed by LIV in the ongoing spar with the American pro circuit.
Sentosa Golf Club is one of Asia’s finest. They have strong links with The R&A and other of golf’s governing bodies, having championed sustainability and played host to the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship. (It's also worth noting that El Camaleon hosted a Latin America Amateur Championship.) Sentosa has welcomed the Singapore Open on the DP World Tour and this year’s HSBC Women’s World Championship. The club is another star of top-level world golf and, although it wasn’t hosting a current PGA Tour or DP World Tour event, taking that possibility off the table by siding with LIV will not sit easily with those opposed to the future success of the new LIV Golf League.
By securing the use of these venues, LIV is further legitimising and solidifying its position. They have been able (no doubt via some rather lucrative deals) to persuade golf facilities that have previously been loyal to the big men’s tours and the governing bodies, venues that have been part of “the establishment,” to join a breakaway circuit that is seemingly gathering ever more momentum. It’s a shrewd move by Greg Norman and his Saudi backers.
In addition, the capturing of famous courses for LIV Golf League events can only serve to bolster spectator support for the circuit. Golf fans want to see top players at the top venues. In F1, fans want to see racing at Silverstone or in Monaco. In skiing, they want to see the best battling it out at Kitzbuhel or Wengen. In golf, the venue for the contest is just as, perhaps even more, important than any sport. Featuring great courses will generate interest in the events held there.
Then there’s player interest too. The top golfers enjoy playing on the top tracks. If LIV Golf can offer prospective signees the chance to play for big money at the likes of Valderrama and Sentosa, they may just be swayed to sign on the dotted line.
As a blow to the establishment, a boost for spectators and as a potential carrot for new signings, poaching venues really is a coup for LIV Golf.
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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