Golf fans and business leaders in the north were jubilant last night following the announcement that the Scottish Open will return to Castle Stuart in 2016.
The tournament, which finished at Royal Aberdeen yesterday, is heading north again after a two-year break.
It follows a hugely successful run at the Highland resort from 2011-13, which boosted the north economy by about £4million a year and introduced the region to a massive worldwide television audience.
Experts said they were looking forward to the area reaping the benefits again when the Scottish Open returns to Castle Stuart after the 2015 contest at Gullane in East Lothian.
Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol said the decision was “a ringing endorsement” of the venue and the wider area.
Highland Council leader Councillor Drew Hendry said: “The impact on the economy locally and on tourism cannot be overstated.”
The move was confirmed by the European Tour’s chief executive George O’Grady during the final day of play at Royal Aberdeen.
He said he was confident Castle Stuart could provide the testing preparation the players want the week before the Open championship.
Stuart McColm, general manager at Castle Stuart, said he was thrilled his club would be hosting the event again.
“We’re absolutely delighted and look forward to attracting the best golfers in the world back to the links of Castle Stuart,” he said.
“It’s great news for us but also for the Highland community and I am sure we will look forward to enjoying great support again at one of the European Tour’s flagship events to make it a successful week.”
A study commissioned by Highland and Island Enterprise after the first Scottish Open at Castle Stuart suggested the event was worth £3.7million to the Inverness and Nairn areas alone.
The economic impact assessment suggested a further £370,000 was spent elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands during the 2011 event – the majority on overnight accommodation, food and drink.
More than 51,000 spectators attended the event – 37% of them from the Inverness and Nairn area with a further 37% from elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands.
A further 21% were from elsewhere in Scotland, with the remainder from other countries.
Mr Nicol said there was all to play for when the tournament returns in 2016.
“This is extremely welcome news and is a ringing endorsement of both golf at Castle Stuart and in a wider sense what the area has to offer,” he said.
“I think the fact that it has been away and is coming back to soon speaks volumes for Castle Stuart.
“In previous years we have seen a huge boost to the economy in the local area off the back of the tournament.
“It brings in so many people, the golfers and their families, as well as the spectators so it’s extremely welcome news all round.”
Mr Hendry said: “It has been a fabulous success at Castle Stuart in the past and I’m sure it will be again in 2016.
“The impact on the economy locally and on tourism cannot be overstated.
“Another thing that gets overlooked is that people watching on television get to see very positive images of the Highlands – the landscape and hopefully the weather – and that paints the region in a very positive light.
“We know from previous events that places like Aviemore, Loch Ness and Nairn have all noticed a big boost.
“The shows a great deal of confidence in the course and the area to deliver a good event once again and I’m sure that we will deliver.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said he was confident the visits to Gullane and Castle Stuart would continue to raise the profile of Scottish golf’s flagship tournament.
He said: “After the PGA championship and the Irish Open this is the best supported tournament on the European Tour in terms of numbers and we are determined to build those numbers.”
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, said: “Rotating this great tournament around Scotland is of key importance and we look forward to the next two years and beyond.”