Changes at St. Andrews’ Old Course Spark Heated Debates

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, November 26th, 2012
Categories: Golf CoursesMiscellaneous
Old Course Changes

17th Road Hole Changes Underway – click to see more

I keep close tabs on happenings at the Home of Golf, the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.  Having gone there in 2011, I feel I have a close tie to the course and the town of St. Andrews.  I’ve got a couple of friends there, including my good friend John Boyne who is a caddie there as well as a St. Andrews tour operator with his company Caddie Golf Tours, helping folks just like me arrange their dream golf trip of a lifetime.

John has provided HOG readers with fantastic photographs of the Old Course, now undergoing some changes this winter as part of  “improving” the course in preparation for the 2015 (British) Open Championship.  I’ve quoted the news release text from the Open Championship website below.  Click read more link below to see it.

In a nutshell, the plan is to “enhance the challenge for elite players without unduly affecting club and visiting golfers while remaining true to the special character of the Old Course.”  Changes are detailed below, with the most debate regarding the 11th hole, where the green is to be altered to add a new pin position.

What’s your take?

As would be expected, there’s a large debate between those who think the course is sacred ground and should not be changed, and those who think that it is fine for the course to change over time to accommodate changes in technology.  That argument is one which has been going around for a long time now, still with no resolution.  They’re not going to “roll the ball back.”

I’d like to hear your opinions on this.  There’s a fairly heated discussion going on over on Geoff Shackelford’s blog.  I have a few questions to start it up:

Is tweaking the Old Course “repainting the Mona Lisa” as some have said?

Can we really expect golfers and golf manufacturers to buy into rolling back equipment, thus “saving” classic courses?

Do courses really need to make these tweaks to challenge pros who play there four days a year or in the case of the Old Course every five years?

The vibe I gathered when in St. Andrews is that the locals don’t like it when low scores are dropped on the Old.  Is the R&A Championship committee doing this to keep the Old Course respectable and prevent it from giving up low scores, 59’s or even 58’s?  If so, why care if the best in the world shoot super low scores?  Why does the course have to be changed because of that? In talks on Twitter with Robert Thompson, I liked his quote, “Or we can just stop worrying about some guy shooting 60. Why the need to protect par at the expense of courses?”

And perhaps the best question to ask is, “what would Old Tom Morris do?”

Works announced on Old Course ahead of 2015 Open

23 November 2012 15:51 GMT

Renowned golf course architect Martin Hawtree was commissioned by St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the Old Course and the other six courses at the Home of Golf, and The R&A Championship Committee, which organises golf’s oldest major championship, to assess potential changes which would enhance the challenge for elite players without unduly affecting club and visiting golfers while remaining true to the special character of the Old Course.A number of improvements are being planned to the Old Course to help maintain its challenge for the world’s top golfers ahead of the return of The Open Championship to St Andrews in 2015.

Martin Hawtree’s recommendations have now been agreed by the St Andrews Links Trustees and Links Management Committee and The R&A Championship Committee.

The work is planned to take place in two phases over this winter and next. The first phase involves work on the 2nd, 7th, 11th and 17th holes. The second phase will take place in winter 2013/14 with work on the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th and 15th holes.

The work will widen the Road Bunker on the 17th hole by half a metre at the right hand side and recontour a small portion of the front of the green to enable it to gather more approach shots landing in that area.

A new bunker will be created on the right of the 3rd fairway and another on the left of the 9th fairway 20 yards short of the green. Bunkers will be repositioned closer to the right edge of the 2nd green and the right of the 4th green. A portion of the back left of the 11th green will be lowered to create more hole location options.

Euan Loudon, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said, “The Old Course is renowned as one of the great Open venues and its continued prominence on the Open roster is crucially important to the economy and reputation of St Andrews. The Old Course has evolved over time and the Links Trust is delighted to be working with the Championship Committee in order to maintain the challenge of the course for elite tournament players and the thousands of golfers who play here each year.”

Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have considered the challenge presented to the world’s top golfers by each of The Open Championship venues and carried out a programme of improvements over the last ten years. While some holes have been lengthened on the Old Course in recent years it has otherwise remained largely unaltered. 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. The proposals from Martin Hawtree should place more of a premium on accuracy and ball control while retaining the spirit and character of the Old Course.”

4 responses to “Changes at St. Andrews’ Old Course Spark Heated Debates”

  1. Legalbgl says:

    IMHO, given the fact that technology has changed the game, and that the players themselves are physically better than ever, the course needs to change for those players. However, careful consideration should be (and I am sure it is) taken to maintain the character and feel of the course. Courses that don’t change will fall out of favor and will be jokes. Oosthuizen is a good player, but -16? Come on, that is really low for an Open. And it seems that St. Andrews puts up the lower scores than the other Open sites. It should be respectfully adjusted.

  2. Legalbgl says:

    Also, note, Bobby Jones in the British Amature scored a Double Eagle 2 on the 4th hole in 1930 (I believe). Then it was a par 5, now its a par 4. Change happens.

  3. Ally says:

    Tony, I put these photos up on golfclubatlas… Should have looked for your permission first… Please advise if you wish me to remove… Thanks





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