Anger over changes to the Old Course at St.Andrews

Modern golf forces changes to be made to the Old Course at St.Andrews

St.Andrews Old Course new bunkers
Reconstruction has commenced at the Road Hole 17th at the Old Course, St.Andrews. Image courtesy of Hooked on Golf Blog

In a sign of the times, the R&A have decided it’s time to make a few more changes to the Old Course at St.Andrews.

Several years ago, the R&A flirted with controversy when they made changes to the 17th tee, pushing it back over the road. To golf traditionalists (and let’s face it, we’re all traditionalists when it comes to St.Andrews) it was sacrilege. Akin to putting in an elevator at the Colosseum or making part of Mt.Panorama an off-road track.

It seems the R&A are happy to flirt with controversy once more, announcing a raft of changes to be made to golf’s most sacred ground.

Using modern technology and modern golf balls, beefed up professional golfers are now beginning to shoot similar scores at St.Andrews to what we’ve been doing on the games console for many years. It appears that the R&A aren’t too happy with the idea, and want to perish the thought of anyone ever shooting a 59 on 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.

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.

Hooked on Golf Blog has taken a few recent pictures of the Old Course and it seems some of the work has already begun.

As Geoff Shackleford pointed out some of these greens haven’t been touched since 1959. Other parts of the course haven’t been touched for centuries, which is exactly the reason it should be preserved rather than some R&A official making their transient mark on the course before they pass on.

It’s left many of us horrified, including Gary Player and Barnbougle Dunes designer Tom Doak who has written a letter to other golf architects and has called for a petition to ensure changes to the Old Course aren’t as simple as the committee making a rash decision.

“I don’t believe it should be IMPOSSIBLE to change The Old Course, or any other historic course.  But I think it should be a lot harder than it currently is…”

Of course, we all know the real issue here. Golf clubs and the golf ball.

The golf ball is going too far and rendering the Old Course (and many others) redundant. But I don’t think changing them is the way to go. I’d personally find it fascinating if for example, the R&A decided that all golfers competing in the 2015 Open Championship used the same golf ball.

It’s probably too much to ask that the R&A would do something quite so obtuse. I mean, they still don’t allow women into the organisation.

The Open Championship will be back at the Old Course will in 2015 and it looks like it’ll be a different golf course any others played there before.

Check out Geoff Shackleford’s report for the full details of the defacement modifications.

6 thoughts on “Anger over changes to the Old Course at St.Andrews

  • November 27, 2012 at 02:11

    The evolution of balls, clubs and golfers themselves is inexorably enabling longer hitting. This makes many features / challenges of shorter courses irrelevant. Only 3 solutions:

    1. Change the clubs (very difficult; see F1 rules re engines & bodywork)
    2. Change the ball (as was done with the javelin once guys started throwing it 100m)
    3. Change the courses (expensive; sometimes impossible.

    So, change the ball is the only practical answer. Or a 59 will soon come @ St Andrews, then a 56, then all the par 4’s will be driveable, etc!

  • November 27, 2012 at 11:53

    Change, as they always say, is inevitable so even golf’s most sacred course is bound to face it. So one day we’ll be left only with memories of what the course looked like once.

  • November 27, 2012 at 19:30

    Yeah I agree with the last 3 comments.

    Technology is what’s causing all these adjustments to golf courses. Balls and clubs just keep getting better and golf courses can’t keep up.

    St Andrews is just doing what necessary to stay ahead of technology.

  • November 27, 2012 at 22:46

    I’m in agreeance with everyone else. The Old Course should be preserved. I don’t care if there are birdies made every where. The lure of the course is playing it the way it was hundreds of years ago. Leave it be!


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