Spectators will be allowed to have their mobile phones with them on the course at the Open this year

In a surprising change of policy, spectators at this year’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes will be allowed to use cell phones on the course after organisers announced they were reversing the ban they put in place 2006.

The biggest problem with mobile devices is the potential for them to ring or beep a notification while one of the golfers is playing their shot, which is what led to the R&A introducing the ban in the first place.

But, because of the growth of smart phones and the applications – especially golf apps – that go with them, they have changed their minds.

Fans will now be allowed to have their phones with them at all times on the course, although calls will only be allowed to be made from special designated areas.

"There is no denying the attachment people feel to their mobile phones both in terms of gathering information and staying in touch with family and friends," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.

"We understand this and allowing their use at the Championship will enrich the Open experience."

What isn’t surprising is that Dawson also announced that there would be a range of Open apps for fans to download and use on their mobile devices, allowing them to keep tabs on scoreboards, tee times, news and video highlights during the tournament.

And all of sudden the change in policy makes more sense.

"We understand there will be concerns over this change in policy but will be liaising with spectators at the Championship to ensure calls are not taking place near play," he said.

"Our spectators are very knowledgeable and understand golf and so we are confident they will respect the players."