Following backlash for covering over golf’s most historic storefront in the name of selling Open merchandise, the R&A and St. Andrews Links Trust have quietly squelched ambitious gift shop expansion plans.
Sources close to R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers and Links Trust CEO Euon Loudon say the leaders were caught off guard by outrage surrounding their decision to smother the historic Tom Morris storefront signage with The Open’s logo. The same storefront that Bobby Jones sought refuge in after winning The Open, and where golf architects like C.B. Macdonald, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross were inspired.
"We're just trying to grow the game and slow down the damn ball!" Slumbers could be heard yelling to Loudon as they bemoaned golf tourists during a meeting at a St. Andrews coffee shop. Out of their get together came a top secret agreement to put Open merchandise satellite shops on hold, including Slumbers' ambitious plans to erect one on the 18th fairway.
"Slumbers took inspiration from Peter Dawson and thought they could slow down drives on 18 by making it blind, ala the Road hole," said an R&A staffer. "Then he figured, 'while we're at it, why not sell some nice Open chotskies too.'"
Images obtained for the planned Swilken Bridge satellite shop suggest the additional retail location would have been hawking Open-branded trinkets, caps and other gear as golfers cross the centuries-old landmark while blocking clubhouse views.
Multiple sources confirmed other planned locations for conversion into Open merchandise shops included the lighthouse at Turnberry, a turf island on Muirfield’s 18th greenside bunker and the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The R&A refused comment on those plans but did issue a statement denying rumors of a merchandise shop floating through Carnoustie's Barry Burn during this year's Open.