The Home of Golf, but for how long?

Since 1552, St. Andrews Old Course has been revered across the world as the home of Golf. Since that time, the course has changed remarkably little, but in the next two years the Old Course may have a new look and, unsurprisingly, not everyone is best pleased.

Ian Poulter (below) labelled the proposed changes to holes 2,3,4,6,7,8,11 and 15 as well as the deepening of the famous Road Hole bunker as “insane”, arguing “the course is great, just leave the winning score up to mother nature.”

The Englishman continued his Twitter-tirade stating; “I know, let’s draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa. I’m sure everyone would like that. Same as messing with a great course. St Andrews.”

 

Ian-Poulter-dress-code

 

European tour player Robert Karlsson agreed “Don’t touch sacred ground, so many other old classic courses has (sic) already been ruined! Not this one too!!!!!” he tweeted.

Tiger Woods, who holds the scoring record at St Andrews criticised the decision to make the Road Hole bunker deeper and bigger. “I think 17 is hard enough as it is,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t think we need to make that bunker any deeper or bigger.”

Other golfers, Paul Azinger and Steve Elling also voiced their disapproval of the changes, which are scheduled to be in place by the time the Open returns to St. Andrews in 2015.

 

Chief Executive of the R&A Peter Dawson, claimed the players reactions were “knee jerk” and “hysterical”.

Yet there is some irony, as Paul Azinger noted, that while the R&A has moved to ban belly putters from 2016, they have allowed equipment manufacturers to develop balls and drivers which have given the players the length from the tee than renders courses like the Old Course somewhat dated.

Indeed, the criticism of a “knee jerk” reaction from players could equally be applied to the R&A, who seem to have made their decision on the back of George Coetzee and Victor Dubuisson shooting 62’s in the recent Dunhill Links Championship. In 2010, Rory McIlroy (below) carded a 63, the lowest round in any major event in history.

 

World number one golfer Rory-McIlroy

 

“They were obviously fearing a 59” claimed Scottish Tour pro Stephen Gallacher.

Yet is the course that easy?

Certainly for the top players in perfect conditions, there is the chance to go very low. Soft ground, wide expansive fairways and short holes are a positive combination for most top golfers.

Yet, the fact of the matter is that on any given week, St Andrews can bare its teeth like no other course, chiefly due to the whims of its North Sea climate.

Two days after shooting a 63, Rory McIlroy was humbled at the same course shooting an 80 when the wind picked up and the rain fell.  The average score at the 2010 Open was 73 and the average score on the par four 17, which the committee want to make even more difficult, was 4.6.

 

Surely, the combination of these factors is the mark of a truly great course? One where a golfer can play brilliantly and be fulsomely rewarded yet which offers such a change in conditions that even the very best can be brought to their knees if they do not perform?

The R&A obviously disagree. They have issued architect Martin Hawtree with the brief to redesign nine of the holes on the course. It is the most radical overhaul of the Old Course in 70 years.

 

For a history of the course – watch this fabulous STV video below:

 

 

It is an unenviable task; designing a course to fit the criteria of the R&A as well as maintaining the original character and integrity of the course, yet still offering a challenge to the world’s top players.

Yet you can’t help feeling that something is being lost. That somehow the Old Course, for all is imperfections, is still perfect as it is.

 

After all, if the North Sea winds pick up in 2015, and the winds once again blow, who wants to watch an Open Champion battle round a once-great course with a winning score of 5-over-par?

With the ever-changing weather, the ability to grow or cut back the rough, the changes of pin position as well as a few other tricks the R&A can use, it is perfectly feasible for the Old Course to be in as easy, or as difficult, a condition as they would like for 2015.

 

 

All attempts to dissuade the R&A from making the changes seem futile:

“The championship committee felt there was an opportunity to stiffen its defences in some places to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the professionals,” explained Peter Dawson.

“The proposals should place more of a premium on accuracy and ball control while retaining the spirit and character of the old course.”

While I have no doubts that the first part of that statement will prove true, I, like plenty of top professionals, fear that the second part of that statement may well prove to be false.

 

And if that is the case, then can we really claim St Andrews to be the Home of Golf any longer?

Changing the Old Course in this way is like straightening the leaning Tower of Pisa, yes you may correct an “imperfection” but it is the ‘imperfection” that makes both so appealing.

 

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Comments

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Troy Vayanos January 12, 2013

I agree with the touring professionals Tommy.

Why change the characteristics of a great course. Let the elements of the weather decide on the winning scores. Good conditions produce 10 under and bad conditions will produce 5 over.

I can’t see anything wrong with that.

1

Tommy Priest January 13, 2013

Thank you for your comment. We agree.

2

Golf Program January 21, 2013

I have nothing else to add to this topic other the need to further understand it. Two things I like about the post, one it is straight forward and two it does not attempt to promote anyone’s position particularly. Great job Tommy.

3

Tommy Priest February 2, 2013

Thank you for your kind words. We try to maintain an objective opinion – not always easy on some subjects!

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