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"Old Tom wasn’t protecting par, he was providing practical solutions to very real problems"

Another enjoyable piece by Darius Oliver after he's had a chance to digest Peter Dawson's remarks about the "hysteria" over changing the Old Course. This time addressing the difference between Dawson/Hawtree and the last Old Course tinkerer, Old Tom Morris.

Lets not forget, that the last major design changes made to The Old Course were by Old Tom Morris. At the time Old Tom was keeper of the green at St Andrews. He was the head greenkeeper, the club maker, the ball maker, caddie master and the town’s chief professional. He played with princes and paupers, and knew every blade of grass on that course better than anyone who has ever lived.

It should also be noted that golf was much simpler back then. Leading players couldn’t hit the ball 400 yards and because most played match rounds rather than stroke rounds it wouldn’t have mattered anyway if they could. Old Tom wasn’t protecting par, he was providing practical solutions to very real problems, and with the interests of all players firmly in mind.

Old Tom in the late 1800s was a genuine golfing icon, and almost unchallenged as the authority on both The Old Course and the business of course design. It’s not a reputation Martin Hawtree enjoys, for as nice a man as he is the truth remains that very little of his design work is well regarded.

He also dissects Dawson's interpretation of the second hole strategy and like me, is left confused about what the R&A Chief Executive interprets as the best way to play the hole with his new bunkers. Of course, I'm still trying to figure out Dawson's protection of the Road hole rough that stops balls from heading toward the worst angle of attack.

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Reader Comments (12)

Mr Oliver was rolling along quite well until he penned the second half of the last sentence highlighted. This is a completely unnecessary comment which does not help his argument in the least. An editor with a less jaundiced eye would well serve Mr Oliver.
12.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEl Gringo
I think you'll find there was rough left of 17 long before Peter Dawson arrived in St Andrews. How often have you actually been to St Andrews, Geoff?
12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Information
Oh Darius! I've had my disagreements with Martin Hawtree (who is a nice man) but I would never say 'very little of his design work is well regarded." That's far too harsh.
12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
I've been three times, last time was the 2010 Open.

Many elements of the course were in place prior to Mr. Dawson, that hasn't stopped him from changing them!
12.14.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Changing the Old Course just may be "the straw that broke the camel's back" as it pertains to the technological advances in golf. Golf's governing bodies have failed miserably in protecting the game or even providing reasons to the general public of why the game must be protected. Non-professional golf is in significant decline. The primary reason is that golf takes too long. It is time to significantly reduce the distance that the ball travels in order to reduce the amount of time that a round of golf takes. In addition, the farther that a ball travels, the more that can go wrong which has made the game more difficult for the average player. The game will grow significantly if an average round of golf (walking) takes no more than 3 hours. How far should a ball travel to make that possible for a round of golf? Let the engineers and governing bodies test it. No one is suggesting changing any other equipment or eliminating "progress" and returning to another era for nostalgic reasons. The game will grow and obsolete golf courses will be back in play.
12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerry C
Amazing lack of perspective on course changes from some observers.

How about sprinklers at all Open venues??

Or raking bunkers?

Darius is destined for the scrap heap

12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBryce
I find it very hard to find fault in that piece from Darius. Maybe some will find fault in comments directed at Hawteee, yet the assessment of his design portfolio is seemingly very accurate.
12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
I thought it was pretty good, too. Maybe Hawtree's work in GB&I differs from that in Oz? His Royal Melbourne work was utterly cryit doon.
12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark B
Sorry MM, the piece is nonsense. There is a significant gap between what will be the left edge of the bunkers and the ridges leading into the green. An approach from the left hand side of the fairway will be able to use them to steer a ball into the correct position.

All this crap abut technology has to stop too. Physical conditioning plays a massive role. It isn't just technology that allows stick insects like Schwartzel and Colsaerts to hit it so far.
12.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFergus
"It isn't just technology that allows stick insects like Schwartzel and Colsaerts to hit it so far. "

@Fergus: yes it does....alot. Look at the stats for the past 20 yrs. Freddie "Boom Boom" Couples was always one of the long knockers and he's 25yds longer now at 50-something than he was when he won the Masters...with a creakier back to boot. (Hint: It's not his stronger/older body)

The new tech makes it far too easy for less than talented players to hit pro quality drives. The advantage of being able to power a shot through the wind and hold the green has been diminished compared to the era when balls actually spun and sweetspots were about the size of a nickel. It has become far to easy these days to move the ball out there a long way. Sadly, this is more or less due to less than effective oversight from the folks who should have been monitoring the way the game is played.

The warning signs were out there for a long when they started using non Old Course space for Open tee boxes....yup, that would've been a good time to say NO MORE!
12.15.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
I just wish Old Tom's family would stop the ''Goo Play"" commercials- I sure hope they are getting well paid, because these commercials with the sheep, etc, are terrible.
12.15.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
And Tiger Woods is only three yards longer -what's your point? There have always been 300 yard hitters - in the past it was confined to a handful of players. Players these days are far more athletic - maybe only Snead in the past would have been able to do that single leg pistol squat all the way to the ground that Dustin Johnson was pictured doing a few months back. Now there are dozens of them. The torque these blokes create through enhanced conditioning, along with the advances in exercise science, help a great deal. It all works together - you can't hit the ball as far as they do without without being strong and flexible.

And that Couples creaky back story is hype. You can't hit a golf ball at all with a crook back.
12.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFergus

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