The R&A insists player safety is its "absolute priority" amid reports that strict coronavirus protocols could lead to withdrawals from the Open Championship.

Players and their management teams were informed of the regulations earlier this week and told up to four people could stay in private rental accommodation, but only if they were part of the players' own support group.

Pete Cowen, who coaches Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson, told The Telegraph: "I was due to stay with a few of the caddies in a huge RV [motorhome] just by the practice range.

"It wasn't cheap, but it seemed the wisest option in the current climate. But we've just found out that we are not allowed to stay together because it breaks government protocols.

"There are going to be 32,000 fans allowed in every day and they're saying we can't stay in anything other than the dedicated hotels - most of which are already sold out - because we'd be mixing with the public."

Up to 32,000 fans a day will be allowed to attend the 149th Open at Royal St George's from 15-18 July, even though the Government delayed the easing of all remaining Covid-19 measures until 19 July.

The Open has been included in the Government's 'Events Research Programme', which will enable a number of events to take place with higher capacities than present guidance permits.

In a statement, the R&A said: "Our absolute priority is maintaining the safety of the players, fans and all involved in The Open and we are doing as much as we can to minimise the risks.

"We fully recognise the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and that case numbers are rising in many parts of the country.

"The UK has strict contact tracing legislation in place and we are creating a minimised risk environment to protect players, caddies, officials and staff. It is extremely important that we all follow the protocols.

"The players and their management teams have been very accommodating and appreciate the challenges that the pandemic is creating for all of us."