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Changing St. Andrews: "Like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa"

st andrews old course modifications

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#1 zakkozuchowski

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 01:13 PM


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Changing St. Andrews: "Like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa"


By Ben Alberstadt


GolfWRX Staff Writer


It’s a common occurrence: a golf course is cosmetically and strategically altered in preparation for a major championship.


The problem?


The course in question is The Old Course at St. Andrews, and the modifications—ahead of the 2015 Open Championship—will be the first changes to the "home of golf" in more than 70 years.


Further, the R&A’s simultaneous approval of architect Martin Hawtree’s proposed changes to the course and opposition to putter anchoring is strange, to say the least.


Matt Ginella from Golf Digest and Geoff Shackelford had an interesting back-and-forth on Twitter last week about the proposed modifications to the Old Course.

Ginella, the Senior Travel Editor at Golf Digest, took a “wait-and-see” attitude towards the changes. Additionally, he felt that both the “dramatic resistance” to the course alterations and the advent of the #savetheoldcourse hashtag on Twitter were unwarranted and overly-dramatic.


In the other corner: golf writer Geoff Shackelford, a hardline opponent of changes to the course.


Shackelford called Ginella out, assuming that any changes to the Old Course would be tantamount to butchery. He said the proposed changes are a “travesty” and likened the construction zone to a “crime scene,” on his website.


Shackelford may be acting primarily out of some theoretical opposition to any change to St. Andrews, but his nuanced breakdown of and objection to the changes is spot on. Additionally, Ginella is wrong to suggest that we ought to withhold judgment until the completion of the project because the public details of the specific changes Hawtree seeks to implement prove them to be overwhelmingly unnecessary.


As Golfweek’s Bradley Klein wrote, “I don’t know if these changes are all needed. What I do know is the reasons given for making them are unconvincing and not enough basis for tinkering with sacred ground.”


In judging Hawtree's master plan for the Fife, Scotland treasure, it’s appropriate to look at what’s being proposed.


From Doug Ferguson’s AP piece:


Three bunkers will be moved closer to the putting surface - two on the second hole, one on the fourth hole. Two bunkers well to the right of the second hole - close to the third tee - will be removed. On the third hole, one fairway bunker will be removed, and one will be added about 275 yards off the tee. Another bunker will be added on the short par-4 ninth hole, about 25 yards short and to the left of the green.

The corners of six greens will be recontoured, which includes lowering the back of the green on the par-3 11th hole. A large depression in the landing area of the seventh fairway will be filled and a slight mound created.


As a variety of people indicate, the most egregious alterations to St. Andrews are those at the exceptional 11th hole and the Road Hole—St. Andrew’s iconic 17th.

The 17th green in front of the Road Bunker will be reshaped, and the bunker itself will be fiddled with. This act alone is comparable to a novice, with chisel in hand, attempting to alter the musculature of Michelangelo’s David.


The 11th green will be reshaped to accommodate a hole location on the left portion of the green. The left side of the green is, apparently, presently too quick in championship play to have such a hole location, according to Dawson. Of course, as a few people have suggested in the Twittersphere, the R&A could set an example and slow the greens down in line with the way they have rolled for the majority of the Old Course’s existence...or even the green speeds of the 1980s.

Of course, all of this was put into motion well before the R&A and USGA’s joint announcement of Rule 14-1b earlier this week.


Regardless, altering the most historic golf course in the world for flimsy reasons while complaining that a minority approach to putting is altering the game and offering little empirical data to support the conclusion seems like attacking tradition and then turning around and using it as a shield.


With the vagaries of Scottish weather in mind, the winning scores of the Open Championships contested at St. Andrew’s since 1984 have been 12-under, 18-under, 6-under, 19-under, 14-under and 16-under. True, recent winners are scoring better than the gents who were swinging persimmons, but there has not been a dramatic change in the past 30 years. Additionally, the R&A does not share the USGA’s belief in the sanctity of par and the scores are not alarming by tour standards.


Even if changes in golf club and ball technology enabled pros to routinely shoot 59s on the Old Course, alterations would have to be considered very, very carefully. As this is not the case (the 2010 Open winner, Louis Oosthuizen shot 65, 67, 69, 71) there is absolutely no need for any changes to the course based on how the pros have played it. Further, the assertion that the game’s best players have been manhandling the masterpiece in recent years is absurd.

As it is, there is no need to change the Old Course in order to make it competitive. With this in mind, I’m reminded of what someone once said regarding cosmetic changes to St. Andrew’s: “It's a bit like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” said...Peter Dawson, the current head of the R&A in a 2002 Golf World interview.

Apparently, some ten years later, Dawson is ready to draw the mustache.


image c/o livingasalinksgolfer.blogspot.co.uk


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#2 Vindog

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 04:27 PM

There is an implication here that these changes and the proposed 14-1b are connected, if not related.  Is there something about anchoring and green speed that I am not aware of?  Or something between anchoring and Martin Hawtree which makes the "simultaneous approval. . . strange"?  Honest question.  Living the States I may not know all the nuances of the Old Course or the R&A, and this has peaked my interest.


Or is it just that both decisions are equally looked down upon by the author...

Edited by Vindog, 03 December 2012 - 06:54 PM.

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a couple of outdated hybrids
shovel-ier shovels
wedges from same shovel company
some putter with a dead insert and
a hideous grip

#3 spitfisher

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 06:11 PM

Maybe St Andrews should have been the inaugural major for the " standard" golf ball to be played. There is a possibility of " detuning" the golf ball for tournament play at sometime in the future as well as using a standardized ball for the Olympics? Why detuning? well as it stands right now golf courses need to 7300-7600 yards and who's to say 10 years from now 7800 yards long for tournament play may be used, that's a lot of fairway to be kept green.

I haven't really read to much about the changes for St Andrews, my assumption is modern day equipment may embarrass  the course, hence the changes planned to make it tougher and longer.

#4 smackygolf

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:55 AM

The changes on 17 are absolutely necessary.

#5 BAlberstadt

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 02:05 PM

View PostVindog, on 03 December 2012 - 04:27 PM, said:

There is an implication here that these changes and the proposed 14-1b are connected, if not related.  Is there something about anchoring and green speed that I am not aware of?  Or something between anchoring and Martin Hawtree which makes the "simultaneous approval. . . strange"?  Honest question.  Living the States I may not know all the nuances of the Old Course or the R&A, and this has peaked my interest.


Or is it just that both decisions are equally looked down upon by the author...
  

"Regardless, altering the most historic golf course in the world for flimsy reasons while complaining that a minority approach to putting is altering the game and offering little empirical data to support the conclusion seems like attacking tradition and then turning around and using it as a shield."

Main point was about timing...that it's weird to see the two things side by side/ in the same week.

Thanks for the read/ comment.


#6 goplutus

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 02:25 PM

View Postsmackygolf, on 04 December 2012 - 11:55 AM, said:

The changes on 17 are absolutely necessary.

how? it's one of the harder holes, the small bunker creates odd stances, and the sloping creates a valid risk / reward for most all golfers. making the bunker larger will help the pro's and the more sever sloping will harm amateurs

#7 Vindog

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 03:30 PM

View PostBAlberstadt, on 04 December 2012 - 02:05 PM, said:

View PostVindog, on 03 December 2012 - 04:27 PM, said:

There is an implication here that these changes and the proposed 14-1b are connected, if not related.  Is there something about anchoring and green speed that I am not aware of?  Or something between anchoring and Martin Hawtree which makes the "simultaneous approval. . . strange"?  Honest question.  Living the States I may not know all the nuances of the Old Course or the R&A, and this has peaked my interest.


Or is it just that both decisions are equally looked down upon by the author...
  

"Regardless, altering the most historic golf course in the world for flimsy reasons while complaining that a minority approach to putting is altering the game and offering little empirical data to support the conclusion seems like attacking tradition and then turning around and using it as a shield."

Main point was about timing...that it's weird to see the two things side by side/ in the same week.

Thanks for the read/ comment.

Ahh.  missed that.  Thanks for the response!


Edit:  And the write-up!!

Edited by Vindog, 04 December 2012 - 03:43 PM.

run of the mill driver with stock shaft
a couple of outdated hybrids
shovel-ier shovels
wedges from same shovel company
some putter with a dead insert and
a hideous grip

#8 Rustynuts

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 04:12 AM

According to the Old Course website 45,000 rounds are played there annually, I'd hazard a guess 44,000 of those are played by amatuers. Much like the belly putter debacle it seems to be the tail wagging the dog. All these changes (The Old Course) and rule changes are all for the benefit of such a small minority who play golf for a living. Surely whats best for the game is to do whats best for us, the amatuer player who plays for the love of the game? How many golfers walk off The Old Course saying it was too easy? None I'd say.

#9 Dead Solid Perfect

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 09:32 PM

I can't believe that this is being done, but with the inability to speed the greens up because the wind conditions they may have been left no choice.  The other thing is St. Andrews has been changed in the past, it's just been awhile.  I'm willing to bet by the time all is said and done the changes will look like they where always there.  My concern in the changes have to do with the 17th. Why mess with the bunker in front of the green?  Add a bunker to the fairway whatever but don't mess with something so devilishly perfect.  The pressure in my head over this change is enough to make my want to lay down.  

To Rustynuts point about wanting to change course because of pros.  Courses are designed for better players abilities in mind otherwise there would be no hazards, IMHOP.  Course defense and belly putters isn't really comparing apples to apples.  I guess in the end it's change and 20 years from now I doubt anyone will think twice about the changes made this year to the grand old track.

#10 bobfoster

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 10:21 PM

Wee bit of a Tempest in a Teapot IMO. They are altering a couple of holes because it is the 21st century, and not the 19th.


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#11 HackerVance

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:01 PM

Let's add some trees, ponds, waterfalls, and luxury boxes.  And while they're at it, level some of those pesky hills.

#12 spooky

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 07:19 PM

View PostHackerVance, on 07 December 2012 - 01:01 PM, said:

Let's add some trees, ponds, waterfalls, and luxury boxes.  And while they're at it, level some of those pesky hills.
Don't forget a fountain - it's got to have a fountain.

#13 Vindog

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 09:38 AM

It needs a windmill and/or a lighthouse,  definitely
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a couple of outdated hybrids
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wedges from same shovel company
some putter with a dead insert and
a hideous grip

#14 BAlberstadt

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:26 AM

I think you gentlemen are on to something...Send your suggestions to Mr. Hawtree! http://www.hawtree.c...ht_Contact.aspx

#15 mark m

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:35 AM

Hawtree is the hired help and not the decider.

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#16 imakaveli

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:59 PM

St. Andrews: golf's toughest test. Now with a waterfall!

#17 BAlberstadt

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 08:03 PM

View Postmark m, on 08 December 2012 - 10:35 AM, said:

Hawtree is the hired help and not the decider.
Right. Dawson, theoretically, is the decider...but Hawtree & Co. would need to draw up the Road Hole Waterfall first, was my point.

#18 bscinstnct

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:05 PM

Whatever.

They change golf courses

And then

They can change them back overnight.

Making an analogy to a Michelangelo's David is *indulgent and innacurate* the sort of drama Id expect from a houswife crying about he favorite soap opera star being killed off

They can bring back the former set up to this golf course just as easily as I can make choo choo tracks in my mashed potatoes.





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