John Huggan defends Royal St. George's but shares this peculiar theory of R&A Executive Secretary Peter Dawson, talking about the many harsh bounces found at Sandwich in 2003 and how the R&A has widened out the course since then to address player complaints.
"We were aware that a very low percentage of the field were able to hit those three fairways eight years ago," continues Dawson. "That was because of the severe contours on all three. And, I also think, because players tend to hit the ball so much higher these days. It's coming down more steeply, so it is more likely to go sideways on landing.
Having a hard time with that one. I'm sure some of the engineers out there can help me understand Dawson's theory. Maybe I'm just biased thinking the hotter the ball is hitting the ground the more it bounces, no matter the trajectory.
"Anyway, we have widened the first fairway on the left. And we have reshaped the 18th to make it more likely to accept a drive. We moved it to the right, which has the effect of 'softening' the slope. And it is probably slightly wider. We have not changed the 17th fairway because we do think that is playable. I just think you need to know how to play that hole. It's a great hole.
He is right that the players have to adapt. And with almost no rough, many of these points may be moot. Except with Donald Steel, the real consulting architect who told Lorne Rubenstein he's not a fan of the widening.
He wrote the following in an e-mail this week:“I advised the club once that, ‘You take Royal St George’s for what it is or not at all.’ Unless there is wind, I fear they will kill it. When I was there at the end of May, there was virtually no rough, and there hasn’t been much rain since. Fairways and greens were in good condition. The first (where Tiger lost his ball with his opening tee shot in 2003), 17th and 18th fairways have been widened and are undoubtedly easier. Anyway, it will be interesting – always is.”