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.