The R&A's Chief Architect Peter Dawson sat down with the first-ever Tom Abbott commemorative bobblehead for a rare Golf Channel foray into the dark, twisted world of golf architecture. (I'm surprised there wasn't viewer graphic teasing that they would be off this golfy stuff momentarily!)
Anyway, I know it's hard for a lot of people to put into historical context just how unprecedented all of this Old Course work is, but maybe when you can hear and actually see someone representing one of the two governing bodies openly talking about changing architecture "in light of what modern professionals can do" thanks to extreme "hitting distance and general excellence of their play."
That's immensely cynical on two levels. One, that a body who professes no concern about scoring, is in essence tricking up courses to prevent scoring. And two, that it's the same body who could have better controlled "progress" so such work--that no one was clamoring for--would not happen.
But a few things stand out in the interview, which reader Mark found on the videos page at Golf Channel.com.
The first is how easily Dawson lumps St. Andrews in with all of the other Open rota venues that he has been "upgrading" (I miss the old days when he called it "The Treatment.") He says "all of the venues have been 'done' except Troon which is now in work" while the Old Course had merely been lengthened. I find it depressing that he lumps the Old Course in with the other venues and now sees it as not immune to change, even though it was long viewed as settled law and people come from around the world to walk grounds as they were when every legend of the game had walked them.
Dawson, who says the R&A focused "on local consultation" after Abbott tees him up for a question about those nutty critics, says it's "always disappointing when clearly they haven't had time to go into the subject in any great depth."
So the world outrage is silly, because if they only had the information we have but continue to refuse to share in the form of written proposals or Photoshopped images, they'd see this is all "really quite minor" as Dawson puts it.
But as he's prone to do, he said a little too much...
"There is a certain body of opinion out there which I quite understand, which says the Old Course is the Mona Lisa, it should never be touched, but that flies in the face of history, the course has been developed several times in its past."
Actually Peter, it was YOU who said the Mona Lisa stuff back in 2002 and something you believed then, when, as you contend, driving distances were supposedly the same as they are today. But go on...
And I think, the Links Trust and to a lesser extent, the R&A, have a duty to ensure that the Old course stays true to its principles, and true to its strategic nature. And also make sure it caters to the modern golfer as well and that's what's been going on.
So there you have it, the R&A's stance is that golf courses should adjust to the modern game, not the other way around.
I wonder if the R&A would like to help chip in to the fund to help all golf courses spend to change with the times?
After the interview, Charlie Rymer does a nice job breaking down both sides of the argument. He makes a key point: "it's hard to know when to stop" when you start tinkering with courses, which is the primary concern with architect Dawson now turned loose on the Old Course.