If it aint broke...
News of proposed changes to the Old Course at St. Andrews has many in the golf establishment up in arms
Published on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 12:23PM EST
Late Friday afternoon, this item crossed the news wires from the good folks at the Open Championship.
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. Renowned golf course architect Martin Hawtree was commissioned by St Andrews Links Trust ...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.
You can read about the exact changes here but essentially nine holes are getting a makeover ahead of the next Open Championship cycle and the bunkering will be changed for the first time since 1949. The fact that the news was buried on a Friday afternoon, on the U.S. Thanksgiving long weekend to boot, did not stop the backlash. Some have likened the changes to “scribbling a moustache on the Mona Lisa” while Martin Dempster at the Scotsman.com says the moves are being made in order to protect the Old Course from “becoming the scene of a first 59 in one of golf’s majors”.
“Playing in this year’s Dunhill Links event, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and South African George Coetzee joined a handful of players to score a 62, 10-under-par there. World No 1 Rory McIlroy is among the group who have signed for a 63 on it, his effort in the opening round of the 2010 Open having equalled the lowest-ever round in a major.
“I take it they don’t want a 59 shot on it,” Stephen Gallacher told The Scotsman when told about the changes”
Noted Canadian golf course architect Ian Andrew penned this letter to the American Society of Golf Course Architects over the weekend, in which he calls some of the proposed changes to the Old Course “a travesty”
While I may not personally like what some architects choose to do with historical courses, I had never seen a proposal so egregious that I thought we as an organization needed to take a stand. Until now. The latest proposal for renovations to the Old Course in my opinion crosses that line. While I’d prefer they let well alone, it is not the entire proposal that compels me to write this letter. It is the desire to alter the contours of the land. Any change to the undulations or green contours shows a complete disregard for St. Andrew’s hallowed ground.
Another noted golf architech, Tom Doak, has also taken a public stand against the proposed changes, posting this comment in the Golf Club Atlas Forum:
I have written a note to Dr. Hawtree, and now I will write to the presidents of the various architects' societies around the world, asking them to take a stand on this matter. ...If they don't want to take a stand on this as a group, then I will start the petition myself, and ask every golf architect in the world to take a stand, one way or the other. It is up to the professionals in the field to stand for something. If the contours of The Old Course can be changed on the advice of just one architect who thinks he knows better, then there is nothing sacred in golf architecture, and all our work is consigned to be destroyed by future generations that think they know better (or are pressured to agree).
Doak had already gotten responses from Bob Cupp, the President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and Graham Papworth, the President of the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects, who both said they were firmly behind his stance.
SHOW ME THE MONEY: Miguel Angel Jimenez has hit out at the Spanish Golf Federation for failing to provide any backing in his attempt to keep the Andalucia Open on the European Tour schedule.
Jimenez has been the Andalucia Open’s tournament promoter since 2007 but the event is not on the schedule for 2013.
“I haven’t had any help at all from the federation,” said Jimenez. “I ask [Spanish federation chief Gonzaga Escauriaza] every year for help and he always says he can’t. The Spanish federation don’t try at all to help with my tournament.”
Two years ago, Spain hosted seven tournaments and was considered the jewel in the European Tour crown. However, the economic crisis in the Iberian nation has had a profound effect on top-level golf with sponsors disappearing and prize funds being withdrawn.
The Andalucia Open, Mallorca Open, Castello Masters in Valencia, Madrid Masters and Andalucia Masters have all fallen by the wayside while the World Match Play will shift to Bulgaria next year - leaving the Spanish Open to fly the flag on its own in April.
But Jimenez says that’s not the European Tour’s fault, who are only following the money when it comes to growing sponsorship and tournament purses.
“We have problems in European golf at the moment, there are less tournaments held on the continent every year, not just in Spain,” he said.
“Every community wants to improve itself and it is sad when you start cutting and rationalising money. When you start to cut investments people suffer.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s golf or something else, when you are in the mood to cut money from things you are cutting jobs and everything,” added Jimenez.
“We are going through a bad recession in Spain but the less you invest the more recession you will have - simple. You need to spend money.”
"Justin had that incredible back nine, shot 62, and I knew midway through the back nine I needed to do something special." - Rory McIlroy, who carded five straight birdies over his final five holes to capture the European Tour's season ending championship
Files from Reuters were used in this report