New money talks at Royal and Ancient trasdition

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The Independent Online
The hospitality industry has made its first inroad into the last bastion of classless democracy at the home of golf, St Andrews. The Keith Prowse organisation has paid pounds 5m for 800 starting times for the Old Course, the venue for next week's Open Championships.

The tee times for the next 10 years have been purchased from the Links Trust, which runs the public courses, and amount to roughly 7 per cent of the Old's starting times. A hotel porter at the Scores Hotel adjacent to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club told the Independent in disbelief: "They would never sell off such a thing. It's part of our history."

In his new book, Golf at St Andrews, published before the deal, Keith Mackie writes: "There is only one way to get a game on the Old Course and that is to book in advance. There is also the chance of getting on the Old through the daily ballot. Golfers who have travelled thousands of miles can be seen scanning these lists [the ballot winners] as if their lives depended on the outcome."

Peter Mason of the Links Trust said the deal only "tidied up" the advance bookings already taken. "The ballot, about 50 per cent of the Old Course's starting times, will remain unaffected. Neither will times reserved for local players."