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Behind the scenes at the Open

The 138th Open, Turnberry
Date: 16-19 July
Coverage: Live TV coverage on BBC Two, Online and the Red Button, live on Radio 5 Live and text commentary online on all four days

Tiger Woods gets his eye in at Turnberry
Tiger Woods enjoys the calm before the storm of the 2009 Open at Turnberry

Mark Orlovac
BBC Sport, Turnberry

Anyone who has arranged a wedding will know how difficult and fraught the whole planning process for a big occasion can be.

The venue, the guests, the food, the drink, the seating plan, the transport, the cake, the dress, the disco - it all takes a lot of hard work.

So can you imagine multiplying that to plan one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar, a tournament that attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators and has an audience of millions watching it around the world? It doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

Well, that is what the organisers of the Open have to do, every single year.

BBC Sport spoke to David Hill, director of championships for Open organisers R&A, to see what goes into preparing one of the gems of the sporting summer.

PLANNING

Turnberry was revealed as the host of this year's Open back in December 2005 but planning had started before then.

Turnberry and the R&A commissioned a study of the course in 2003 and construction work to make alterations to the layout was carried out in the winters of 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The majority of the alterations were in place for the Amateur Championship, which was held at Turnberry last summer, although the 16th was finished last October.

606: DEBATE
ace-you

The planning team began their work at the end of September with the design of the ticket brochures and spectator guides, while from October, a group of four people regularly visited the venue for meetings and to check everything is going to plan.

"One of the challenges of the job is taking the piece of ground and adapting it to our needs," says Hill.

"That's what everybody in the planning team and who works on the Open enjoys because we are not a Wimbledon or a Wembley Stadium, we are not at a fixed place, we are just a bunch of amateur travellers."

GROUNDWORK

Before any work can start at an Open venue, the infrastructure has to be in order. Work on improving the water and drainage systems as well as the phone network at Turnberry started in October and finished at the end of January.

"The infrastructure had to be upgraded noticeably since we were last here 15 years ago," says Hill.

THE COURSE

Apart from around a total of six days (captain's day, media day etc), there has been no play on the Ailsa course in the last six months as Turnberry prepared for their first Open since 1994.

"That is the first time ever for an Open championship," says Hill. "Normally it is just closed to visitors and members for about two/three weeks beforehand but Turnberry felt that as they have not had the Open for a while, they wanted to make sure the course was in great condition."

THE BUILDINGS

Since the end of May, the arduous task of assembling a tented area of around 25,000 square metres began. This includes the hospitality, catering, merchandising and media tents as well as the cinema that will be showing footage of previous Opens.

At the beginning of June, the temporary offices started arriving at the course. By championship week there are around 100 of them, housing everything from R&A staff and rules officials, to scoreboard staff and litter collectors.

Building the grandstands started at the end of April, with a total of 15,000 seats erected around the course. Next year at St Andrews, as the terrain is much flatter, that figure will reach 22,000.

PLAYERS

With 156 players (as well as their support team and families) from 27 countries taking part at the Open, the logistics of organising the game's elite stars would give the calmest person a headache.

2008 champion Padraig Harrington in action at Royal Birkdale
2008 champion Padraig Harrington is aiming for a third straight Open title

Open organisers speak to the managers of the players to discuss their accommodation plans and when they would like to tee-off on the practice days.

A fleet of 50 courtesy cars is laid on to transport the players to and from the course while the practice ground also has to be prepared.

"The player preparation starts about the beginning of May," said Hill. "Of all the four majors, the Open is the most international of all in terms of representation from different countries. They are coming in from all over the world so it does require a lot of planning."

FOOD AND DRINK

From a burger to a sandwich, to steak and five-star service, catering at the Open has to cover all tastes and budgets.

The catering company supplying the food employ 1,250 people for the event, with the first meals served on the Sunday before the Open begins.

"It's a huge task," says Hill. "Public catering is always a difficult one. At Royal Birkdale last year we had record sales of fish and chips because the weather was particularly inclement.

"We sold 36,000 portions of fish and chips over the week where as we hardly sold a sandwich at all. We have a plan for every eventuality and the moment you think you have got the right forecast in this part of the world it changes."

LOOKING AFTER THE SPECTATORS

There is a team of 800 marshals working on the course during the week, from 18 different golf clubs around the local area, with one club looking after each hole.

At any one time, there will be around 400 marshals on duty, on average about 20 marshals at each hole, directing the crowd, finding balls and keeping the spectators quiet when the players are about to play.

SECURITY

"What has changed more than anything else over the last 15 years since we were last at Turnberry is the whole question of security," says Hill.

"September 11 changed all of that. We are now much more mindful about security than we would have been in the past.

"We do not like to talk about specific numbers regarding security personnel but what we will say is that we take every reasonable precaution to ensure that we make this a safe event."

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK

As you will imagine, there is not much downtime for the team as the months of planning come to fruition.

"The team are at the course by 0530 BST and we will not leave much before 2200 BST," says Hill.

"I can only relax after the presentation is over on Sunday. You are on guard until then. After that, I just sleep for the next week!"

TAKING IT ALL DOWN

No sooner has the Open finished than the process of dismantling the village and grandstands begins. Barring weather delays, Turnberry members will be back playing the Ailsa course at 1400 BST on the Monday after the Open finishes.

And as for packing everything up, they do not waste much time. The course is completely cleared of Open equipment by the end of August.

"It's pretty quick but contractors have to take their equipment and staff to other events so they are keen to pull out as quickly as they can," says Hill.

DOING IT ALL AGAIN

The team cannot rest just yet. After the Open finishes, the team put on the Boys Championship and the Seniors Open Amateur in August. Then they can take a well-earned breather before planning begins in earnest for 2010.

"It is good to work at an event where you are dealing with people who go away happy most of the time," says Hill, who has done the job for 30 years.

"Obviously if you get wet weather that's the worst scenario from our point of view. But if we get good weather and people can watch the best players in the world out on the course and enjoy themselves on their day's holiday then that's just great."



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