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Greenkeepers at the ready as Royal Birkdale prepares to host The Open

THE fairways are divoted, the greens double cut, and the bunkers will be raked to perfection.

This week Royal Birkdale will host The Open for the 10th time, taking it to joint second in the list of most used venues on the current Open rota.

As the world’s most prestigious golf tournament arrives in Lancashire, the course will once again have been prepared by a team of highly-trained greenkeepers who are counted among the almost 6,000 members of the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association.

Chris Whittle is course manager at Royal Birkdale, and the 63-year-old is preparing the course for an Open for the final time.

He said: “I can’t deny that expectations are higher than ever. But preparations have been smooth so far, and we’re confident of presenting the course in a better condition than ever before. Let’s just hope we get the weather to allow us to show off everything Royal Birkdale has to offer.”

This will be Chris’ fifth Open, having prepared the course for the event twice before, in 1998 and 2008, and also at Muirfield in 1992. His first Open experience was as deputy course manager for the 1974 Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Supporting the home team during the Open itself will be a team of over 50 BIGGA members, drawn from clubs all over the UK and further afield, who have volunteered their time freely and will be on hand to assist with duties such as bunker raking.

Additionally, BIGGA members across the country have worked hard to prepare their courses for Regional and Final Open Qualifying competitions in the build up to this week’s main event.

“The BIGGA Volunteer Support Team is invaluable to us,” said Chris. “With their help I can be confident that everything out on the course is under control, allowing the home team to undertake all the duties that come with hosting a Major tournament.”

Each year the R&A requests the assistance of BIGGA members with hosting the championship, meaning BIGGA members have witnessed some of the greatest duels in golf first hand.

During The Open you can keep track of what’s going on out on the course by following @BIGGALtd and using the hashtag #BIGGASupportTeam.

Pictured is Royal Birkdale course manager Chris Whittle.