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Coronavirus Kent: The Open is cancelled but Rochester & Cobham Golf Club are confident of remaining qualifying venue in 2021

Rochester & Cobham Golf Club are confident that they will remain a qualifying venue for The Open when it returns next year.

This year’s Open, the 149th, was due to be held at Royal St George’s in Sandwich during July, but was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Rochester & Cobham Golf Club's Jack Colegate in Open qualifying last year
Rochester & Cobham Golf Club's Jack Colegate in Open qualifying last year

Organisers, the R&A, are bringing the event back to Kent next year instead and Rochester & Cobham are likely to be one of just 13 courses used for regional qualifying.

They were due to be staging the qualifiers in June this year - for the first time in over a decade - and had ensured their course was up to a high standard for such an event.

Club manager John Aughterlony said: “As far as we are concerned everything will be the same, we will still as a club be marshalling at Sandwich and holding regional qualifying in 2021. We have no reason to believe that it is going to change at all.

“It is very disappointing for everyone that so many sports events have been cancelled, but they tried to re-plan it and it just wasn’t possible.

“We are just very lucky to have been one of the clubs chosen.”

Qualifying venues are on a five-year cycle and Rochester & Cobham have taken expert advice to improve their course ahead of this summer, with the help of leading golf architects.

Money has been invested, with several holes extended and a new 600sqm grass practice area built at the back end of their range, a requirement for all tournament venues.

Mr Aughterlony said: “The investment wasn’t just specifically for regional qualifying, it was to continually improve our course for the benefit of our members.

“It is all built, all ready, it would have been ready for June but we are closed down now and we have minimum ground staff working.”

With the course shut, the club, like others, now have the financial challenge of riding through the current lockdown, with their only income coming from subscription fees.

Office staff have been furloughed to help save money but they are unable to claim rate relief as the club’s value is above the government threshold.

“It is going to be very tough for a lot of golf clubs,” the manager added.

Earlier this week several MPs backed a move to have golf courses opened up for the general public to use as an exercise venue.

Sittingbourne & Milton Regis Golf Club were one of those to argue against it.

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