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Architecture Critics Weigh In On Old Course Travesty And It's Not Pretty

#savetheoldcourse kicks into high gear with opinion pieces by two men whose views I respect most when it comes to golf architecture and in particular, appreciating the nuances of design. Bradley Klein and Darius Oliver have chimed in on the tampering and let's just say they won't be on architect Martin Hawtree's Christmas card list this year.

The legendary Eden green complex, under attack (click to enlarge)Klein, for, says the secretive and deceptive process feels "rotten":

So instead, Hawtree has been commissioned to reduce the slope of that section of green. That’s not a complicated project. But it is an arrogant approach to design, and one that deserves far more public consideration and debate.

Instead, the R&A Championship Committee, working quietly with the Links Trust, has announced its intent to do surgery. This is no way to run a golf course, and certainly no way to preserve the “trust” inherent in a custodial relationship. The town effectively has ceded control of a treasured asset to a private group running its own golf championship.

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.'s Darius Oliver, having seen Hawtree's unsympathetic work at several classic courses around the globe and his flattening of contours at Trump International, is even more blunt about architect Hawtree's legacy.

It’s holes and individual features are admired by golfers and course designers everywhere and its imperfect perfection remains a benchmark that others only dream of approaching.

Like they can on any golf course in the world, anybody - repeat anybody - could make St Andrews a harder and more difficult test for elite golfers. Making holes tougher takes no great design or architectural skill at all. The Old Course at St Andrews should be above structural interference of any nature, as it most profoundly embodies the spirit of our game and the emphasis proper golf has on fun and sport and enjoyment over difficulty and the protection of an artificial pretext like par.

The ambition of every golf course architect should not be to interfere with the Old Course, but to instead help make our game more fun and interesting, in essence to build holes more like those at St Andrews. For Hawtree to accept this brief, let alone believe he can improve upon these golf holes, smacks of arrogance and a complete disregard for the history of our game. Perhaps his apparent disinterest in actually playing the game of golf has something to do with his attitude toward our most sacred shrine.

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Reader Comments (18)

I can here the printing press churning out brochures for Trump International:

Trump International: Designed by the architect who designed The Old Course at St. Andrews
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
What's this about Darius Oliver calling Trump International "mega difficult"?

He needs to drink the Kool-aid and recognize that it is the mega best golf course in the world.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentersgolfer
Is Peter Dawson trying to Oosthuizen-proof the Old Course?
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob
I have heard that Hawtree does not play golf.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGary
That would be correct. He does not play golf.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Strangelove

That can't be true...please say its not true. Hawtree doesn't even play golf? Oh my.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChip Gaskins
As things go in most fields, extraordinary claims or actions require extraordinary evidence or justification.

Messing around with the Old Course is definitely an extraordinary action that requires extraordinary justification.

Which has not been forthcoming. This will not end well.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Not to defend Hawtree here, but ... wasn't Tillie another designer that NEVER played the game?
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPHK
It looks like I'd be off on Tillie...
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPHK
I hope there is an accurate topographical survey of the existing land before the work starts so the course can revert to the original when the game is bifurcated.
Dr Mackenzie wasn't much of a golfer......
11.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Complete disgrace. I am unaware of any other works of art that are intentionally defiled like this. I suspect that we would not cut the Mona Lisa in half to get it through the door.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRose
Chico, Alister MacKenzie was shooting sub-80 scores in his 60s. He was better than most believe.
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
for a non-golfing golf course architect to be messing around with the home of golf is just insane...who's in charge here? some arrogant bastard?
11.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentergreg c
Since we are criticizing golf course architects, I have my doubts that any very good player- scratch or better can design a course for 18 handicap women or even 12 handicap older men, who don't hit it so far but can get up and down and have to.
'In the 70s at 60' is how MacKenzie described it. He was an admitted hack/dub...but he loved golfing. He finally improved in his 60s, with guidance from ernst jones and robert tyre jones, jr, hence his phrase.

Classic Mackenzie anecdote: contemporary sports scribe greets Mackenzie as 'old two shotter'. Mackenzie asks why he is referred to as such. Scribe says, 'don't you remember we were playing Alwoodley [early MacKenzie course in northern england] with Max Behr [mackenzie's American contemporary]. We were playing the 4th, you were telling him this was the best two shotter you knew. We were halfway through the hole, and you shouted across the fairway to Max in the rough on the other side 'how many are you?'. 'six' he replied. 'how many are you?'. To which you replied, 'seven'

MacKenzie was hired as a consultant to TOC in 1924. He recommended making no changes, instead he spent a year studying and mapping the course, and produced a plan of the existing features, which I imagine looked pretty much like it did up until a couple of days ago. So many of the changes are to undulations adjacent to greens. Are they worried about the pros holing out for 2 & 3?. Oh well, nothing that can't be fixed by an active marine/fluvial/aeolian geomorphic system. Maybe the river Eden will cut into its bank and advance eastward, taking out the 11th green, the Hell bunker, then the strath and shell bunkers.

Pretty generous that they even bothered with a press release before they desecrated te earth. Generally, plans are made avail well ahead of any modifications. He must be so proud of the work that he didn't want anyone to know about it?

Is Hawtree R&A's version of Rees Jones? Sweeney Todd, the barber of fleet street?
11.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterUbb
All I'm saying is that you don't have to be a great golfer to be a great designer-thats all!
11.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Well said Mr.Oliver.
I too believe that a code of conduct or common respect should bind all in the GA profession that a place like St.Andrews should remain in it's untouched form for all time.
What is going there atm is deflating to say the least. We need to look into adding whatever untouched classics remain to a World Heritage status. And it should have been done first and foremost to this old girl.
Mad as a cut snake.
11.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward

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