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« Old Course: “I take it they don’t want a 59 shot on it.” | Main | "That's Shack at his best." »

The Old Course And Its "Acute Spur Formation"

As we come to grips with the idea that men who preach the gospel that is St. Andrews are also conspiring to tinker with golf's most sacred grounds, nothing is more shocking to me than the idea that they have so many plans to change the ground.

Bunkers have come and gone and are easily filled in. And who is to say a few here or there might not have been spots where sand would have emerged in early iterations of the course when the bunkers formed by accident?  Yet in Friday's news dump press release, the Links Trust and R&A are proudly touting all of the various areas where they are going to rearrange contours. In nearly all cases, this is ground that has not been touched for centuries.

Most curious of all for me was this regarding the fourth hole:

On the 4th, the acute spur formation on the left hand side of the fairway will be reduced and the bunker on the right hand side of the green will be moved closer to its edge. The ground to the back right of the green will be re-contoured.

So is this the acute spur formation, easily the nastiest euphemism for hillock or mound ever concocted? As seen from the middle of the 4th fairway in 2010:

Or is this bump short left of the green the acute spur?

Either way, if one of these is the "formation" that Dr.'s Hawtree and Dawson will be shaving down, it begs the question: do they even get the most basic essence of Old Course golf? The strategy is so basic and yet so sound:

Drive down the right, flirt with trouble and open up a view to the green.

Bail out right from the tee and the risk averse golfer gets blocked out by the hillock...errr...acute spur formation, leaving a more difficult second shot with another acute spur formation causing problems if the hole is cut left.

I genuinely hope these are not the features they intend to tinker with. Because if so, the Old Course will be in danger of losing some of the vitality that makes it so special.

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Reader Comments (24)

Re the 4th, I'd rather they removed the bleedin' lump in front of the green particularly now they intend to move a bunker up closer to the right-hand side of it. Not sure how we 'wumin' who require a longer club are going to be able to negotiate getting and keeping a ball on this particular green but then, when did we ever matter except, of course, when it comes to paying the same green fee as the men.

Presumably, these changes have been made with The Open in mind. Perhaps it would have been simpler to have found another venue and leave history alone.
Missed TOC news dump. Lost for words so I'll borrow these: Isaiah 2:17
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
"First do no harm" - Remind me who the guardians of the game are exactly.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlue Canyon
Oh Dear...this is a bad sign.

Instead of rearranging deck chairs on the Queen Mary...they lost a perfect opportunity to work with manufacturers and ball makers to perhaps come up with a "St Andrews" would have been way cheaper/easier/funner than taking a bulldozer to what's been known as the "Eden" of modern golf. Maybe in the future the pros won't have to tee off from OFF the property during The Open and your wide 17th fairway could become a reality Geoff.

They missed out....what's the over/under on how many "re-do's" and touch-ups that will be needed after the fact?
11.24.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnycz
MacKenzie's damning of design by committee comes quickly to mind...
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
In about 10 years Ben Crenshaw will be brought in to do a 'restoration'....
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHilltop
If the "spur formation" is an obstacle, and theoretically they are trying to toughen up the course, why are they removing it ? It all seems like a waste - if there is good weather, the Old Course is going to play fairly easy for the pros, if bad weather, it will be tough. Will any of this change anything ?
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Why don't we roll back the ball and leave The Old Course alone!
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Estes

A perfect summary to a perfectly disgraceful subject.

We should be in awe of bands/producers who hear a song as we hear the final product/record, and STOP! and release it - sure it possibly could be better/different/improved- but that ''take'' the one we hear as the ''final product, *the record* - so happy, happy, happy it is what it is.

And so these golf courses go- sure, they maybe could be improved upon, but would the magic be lost, never to be able to be restored to that perfection? Why tempt fate with the sad possibility of screwing it up, to never recapture ''the way we were''.

What the heck are these fools doing? Who do they think they are? If John and Paul knew when to stop , even though they knew they could possibly improve a tune, THEY STOPPED!

St Andrews needs to be left alone. I know that from South Texas, so what they hell is wrong with these clowns? It would seem they are suffering from an acute spur formation and brain surgery might be the only solution.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
If you're reading this in 2312: Note that by 1700 UST the day this was posted comments on this post combined with comments on the introductory post exceeded comments on the "Wozilroy" post by just one. Also note that not a single post had yet pointed out the most obvious fact of all, that all the St Andrews linksland would be underwater before the 300th Open Championship was conducted in the late 22nd century.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterF. X. Flinn

Is there an app for that?

In all seriousness, thank you for injecting important information in to general conversation, a method that may finally get the masses to ''get it''

Time is short. We must change, and we must do it now.

The future of golf is a small slice of the future that our children must face, and God only knows when assholes like BP think that ''spending 32 billion dollars'' is a BFD, when spending a few million, or even having the INTELLIGENCE to pump mud instead of brine probably would have prevented this disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which, by some accounts is far from over- well, when expensive band aids are hought of as ''greening'' then the GD lawmen should be getting a rope and hanging a few CEOs and such, until these men in power understand that real people are tired of our Earth, the only place we have, being whored literally to death, and we are dying with it.

I want my kids to live, and live in joy, not fear.

It's time to incarcerate these people who are abusing the earth. They are STEALING from us all. They should be facing the death penalty, if we have to have one (I am against the death penalty) just as Els uses the long putter, though he feels it should be banned- DIE you sorry SOBs,-- you ARE KILLING US ALL.

Sorry for the rant.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth

If we conjure AMac's Spirit of St. Andrews, we read that 'if a course on real links land comes into your hands, let well enough alone and do not make any alterations except after the most careful consideration and expert advice...some clubs with which I have been associated have passed a resolution that no changes will be made to the course except on the advice of the original architect or one of equal reputation...The history of most clubs is that a green committee is appointed who makes mistakes. Just as they are beginning to learn from their mistakes, they are replaced by fresh members who make still greater ones'.

'never expend a penny on a golf course unless you are absolutely certain that the money expended is going to do good and not harm to a course'.

'if the members of the Royal and Ancient cared a damn what the critics thought, all these fascinating undulations would have been shaved down and the world would have been deprived of the only golf course on real links land that has not been defaced by the hand of man. The course is made by its undulations. Even after years of study of the course, I am always discovering fresh and better methods of playing the holes.'.

LEAVE TOC ALONE. Or, if you are gonna touch it...bring in a real butcher like Fazio with player consultant Els, so the course is so unrecognizable, it will look like Gleneagles (with no interest whatsoever), then a Fazio/Els redo, and a Fazio/Els redo of the redo within 10 years. Maybe they can replace all the greens with huge Fazio clover bunkers. (about as fine an idea as making ANY change to TOC).
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterUbb
It's not a shrine. It's a golf course that hosts professional tournaments.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
tlavin, and the original Penn Station was just a place to catch a train.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois
and Wrigley Field is just a place to play baseball
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D

Doggone, I respect your opinion, don't always agree with you, but I enjoy your comments and I find that you always have something to add to the mix.

So don't hold this against me forever, and don't feel obliged to call me a buncha names, and I should point out that if you decide to start running my posts in to the ground, citing specific words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs,, even linking up the offending post/thread/date- and yes- you could be correct in your aborting my verbage, that STILL would not make my following sentence incorrect....

~~~What the fudge does ''It's not a shrine. It's a golf course that hosts professional tournaments.'' have to do with not messing with something that doesn't need messing with. ~~~

Should this nonshrine facility of pro golf tournaments need correctional architecture, then that's one thing, but it is ok the way it is, and it would be better if they would take out that dumb tee box that is in the next village and put the GD place back the way it was.


We could have the owner of ''the finest golf course in Scotland''--Donald Trump pair up with ''the owner of the only overgrown beach with 18 greens scattered about in Wisconsin'', who now owns a multistory building by the 17-18 hole area of TOC, and YES! - they could build a WATERFALL, TRUMP STYLE-with water flowing off the Kohler building fed by -YES!- only the fines Kohler faucets flowing over the not OB road thru a ditch in front of the road hole bunker, and then along the fence, finally in front of the 18 green and over to fill up a small pond in the area formerly know as ''the valley of sin''.

Oh, the humanity!

And how professional!
11.24.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
TOC is not a shrine. It is used by golfers everyday.

Re: the 4th - ask Joyce Wethered about how to score there.

AMac wrote 'the green is guarded by a small abrupt hillock about 15 feet across. I always thought the correct way to play the tee shot was to the right. But Joyce Wethered pointed out that from this position you can only reach the centre of the green. She always plays it short of the cottage to te left and from there plays her second against the left side of the hillock and swings round very near the hole. I have never seen any one else play the hole in this way, but I am convinced Joyce Wethered gets a three more frequently than any living person.'
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterUbb
Ubb, that's amazing! Thank you for sharing that. Joyce Wethered, of course, was a thoughtful and accomplished contemporary of Marion Hollins. Those dames knew the game.
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
F.X.: Thank you. I was here Tuesday night, somewhere to the left (in more ways than one) of those in the picture:
Soon, golf will be even more of an inconsequential diversion than it is now, if we don't change our ways, if it's not too late. And what if all those scientists, starting with Svante Arrhenius in 1894, are wrong? The oil and gas will just last longer. Win, win, win...

Ubb beat me to it. I was going to just suggest Fazio so that TOC can be put out of our misery in one fell swoop. Few things make me want to cuss more than this, and I am likely to never see the place. But I'll never see the Serengeti either. More Bob Estes, btw. Where are his other peers? Playing with their rocketballzzz, I suppose.
The R&A buffers (and their USGA) counterparts have been asleep on the job; the equipment used now, in the hands of top class pros makes the Old Course and others like it obsolete (the 17th "championship" tee is effectively OB on the practice ground!). All these proposed tweaks will be about as much use as a chocolate teapot....

Never mind! Pass the port, old chap......
11.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTondy
Greens committees are the bane/bain. Borrowing from the good doctor again: The only good idea they could have (changing undulations, be it on the green or elsewhere, is generally a bad idea) is to hire a good architect. Leave it at that. Pay him some dough to think about it critically and he can give you a plan [thank you mssr. Clayton] don't go wasting good money [an order of magnitude more] grading bullshit features that you will waste more good money fixing to look like what you just destroyed.

But who generally comprises a greens committees? So...not really surprise behavior there

GShack lead with an AMac (or was it Robert Hunter) musing last week that a good architect makes the artificial [terrain] look natural. The [joker/3rd/rate architect/contractor] makes it look obviously artificial.

TOC IS the epitome of natural undulations. The greatest (and of course, lesser) have pilgrimaged there to understand the physical (and mystical?) nature of TOC. They have applied this nature to their own creations to attempt to render natural looking terrain. The Dyes used it to make sure their California designs look completely opposite from natural for some reason.. In fact, there is a Dye design within 5 miles of natural looking Rustic Canyon (and an unnatural Bob Cupp effort - again an example of someone paying Cupp to build a course in terrain terribly unsuited to golf - they weren't allowed to build McMansions like they wanted).

So, why the f would anyone change the most natural links terrain in the world?

Being that they represent the world's heritage for gawf, and If I didn't know better, I would think that 'Royal and Ancient' and 'Links Trust' both represented conservation and preservation of this heritage. (I guess they consider this to be 'restoration' wink wink).
Don't tell me they are on board with this 'grow the game' gobbledygook. Sounds like they might even be fair and balanced fellows.
John Low would be spitting fire and wielding a niblick if he wasn't rolling over

I believe the good doctor thought that Joyce Wethered had one of the greatest minds and sweetest swings in golf.
He also credited Ms. Hollins for the same as above and the vision and heart of Cypress Point and beloved Pasa. She got them financed too. She was, after all, the one who made the heroic carry to convince AMac that the 16th at Cypress Point could be a one shotter. Anyone know how many women are on the boards of the R&A and Links Trust?
11.25.2012 | Unregistered CommenterUbb
These guys are just mimicking society. Fix that, and these bozo like ideas wouldn't happen.
11.25.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaddieMaC
As others have posted, it is a shame that the governing bodies would rather degrade the greatest courses on earth instead of forcing an equipment change. These courses are not just tournament courses; TOC gets only 24 tournament rounds every fives years. Rather the greatest courses are fields of play for the body and the mind. They serve as inspiration for the future of the game. Would there be Bandon without the great links courses? I doubt it. These courses are also living, breathing forms of art. So, while change is inevitable, it should not occur a result of ignorance and cowardice.

Anyway, we had a similar problem at my home course. It has always played fast and firm. The greens have wonderful undulation and stimp out at high speeds. We didn't have room to move back the tees. New greens were out of the budget and removing the waterfalls were out of the question per the greens committee. After much deliberation we came to a solution: we sped up the blades on the windmill and made the clown's mouth smaller. Maybe Hawtree can add a windmill.
11.25.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFifth Column
That second photo wasn't there when I posted. Not a complaint ... just sayin'.

So then, it would appear it probably is the lump in front of the green. The photo doesn't do its height nearly enough justice so reducing it makes sense to me (if that's what they're doing) whilst bringing a bunker on the right, closer to the green. I don't see how any change to this could make any difference to the pros but I do think it will make it fairer for we amateurs. In any event, I also don't believe this lump is anything other than contrived so, anything which makes it blend into its surrounding area will get the thumb's up from me.

In regard to the 11th green, I think they could be right about the need for another pin position. There are very few pin placement areas that don't turn the hole into a complete farce. Whatever they do, I'm fairly confident it won't make the hole any easier!

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