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Man On The (St. Andrews) Street: It Had To Be Done!

Alan Bastable talks to the man on the street in St. Andrews (by phone) and two themes emerge:

(A) few people knew changes to the most revered public course on the planet were about to be made and...

(B) too many people of St. Andrews live in a bubble free of actual information or apparent awareness of what they have.

First, the lack of transparency issue, talking to local golf shop manager Andrew Donaldson:

"A lot of people like me didn't really hear about it until the last minute," he said. "You see, the golf courses here are all public, so they're owned by the public, basically. They're counsel courses, so there should be a public consultation before anything major happens — that's how most people would feel. And there really hasn't been. It seems they just bypassed the public, who have the right to walk on the course, whether they play golf or not."

An innkeeper in town who has been playing the Old Course for 30 years, but who asked to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting his friends and associates, corroborated Donaldson's account. "There was no public consultation at all," he said. "They just did it. But that's life and you get on with it." (Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, told the BBC this week that the alterations were, in fact, roundly embraced by the townspeople.)

By the way, the R&A still has not released the Photoshopped images that were put out on the Old Course grounds showing the proposed changes.

This next part is where you start to worry about what the townspeople genuinely understand the sacred ground they've inherited.

Same anonymous shopkeeper:

"If you want to talk about tradition, there was not one single piece of gorse on the Old Course going back 30 years, yet there's gorse there now," he said. "And now they're complaining about the gorse going away."

Anyone see complaints about gorse going away? Actually most of those upset about the changes would hail that move! But it'll never happen for the same reason we are in the mess we're in: some people don't like low scores and will go to amazing lengths to prevent them.

And there was this from Emily Griffiths, captain of the ladies golf team at the University of St. Andrews:

"Typically the R&A are criticized for being stuck in their ways," says Griffiths, who is also president of the St. Andrews Athletic Union, "and now they're doing something which is moving with the times and they're getting complaints the other way."

Uh, that's because (A) the only people who see the times as having passed the Old Course are those charged with protecting the game and (B) not to be repetitive, but no one was crying out for this upgrade. No one! Nada! Zilch! Which brings us to Niall Scott, a St. Andrews University employee:

"A lot of the golfing press was full of articles about the fact that the Old Lady had become too easy," Scott said. "They were honestly asking the question, Was it appropriate to play the Open at the Old Course anymore? The Links Trust, I think, responded very thoughtfully to that."

If anyone has a link to the golfing press calling the Old Course outdated and inappropriate for The Open, I'd love to read the stories!

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Reader Comments (12)

"A lot of the golfing press was full of articles about the fact that the Old Lady had become too easy," Scott said. "They were honestly asking the question, Was it appropriate to play the Open at the Old Course anymore? The Links Trust, I think, responded very thoughtfully to that."

When did Judy Miller, late of the Paper of Record, start writing about golf?
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Hate the changes, but if they took out gorse all over I could tolerate them a little more.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOB
... said Emily from the Surrey stockbroker belt.
Geoff, no shot against the use of "The O.C." for the Old Course? I shuddered when I read that
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
Despite the scepticism, I'm sure these changes will be done well. For sure, there's plenty wrong with the R & A, but I think it's inconceivable that they'll mess up the Old Course. Yes it's sacred turf e.t.c. but that doesn't mean it should just become an historical relic.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
Hmm.. so the people of St. Andrews ( it is their course after all!) largely support the changes. How inconvenient!
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStord
Referring to any golf course as sacred ground is hyperbole.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeve
Wonder how many of the locals were fully aware of the work when it was a surprise to some members of the R&A!

Nothing against the locals here, just my experience and communication with 2 members of the R&A.

Seems like a lot of spin from where I'm sitting. Not too much different than Dawson's "knee jerk" comment, the degree of dictatorial governance should not be lost on anyone. What's next, vinyl siding on the R&A clubhouse!
I'm sorry, but I've seen what they've done to the 17th fairway. Their vision for golf is a deeply cynical one. The courses are to be used to counter the regulation they've sought fit not to legislate out of fear.

Also, look at these photos of the second hole. There is nothing strategic, sympathetic or subtle about that addition. It is purely designed to provide a hole location that produces more pars and bogies.
12.6.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Thanks for posting your photos Geoff. I couldn't see the 17th fairway in those so couldn't comment. I'm all for removing gorse, as they've done at the 7th. The 11th green has always been a tough one for pin positions, especially when the wind's whipping across the estuary, so can only imagine that's part of the motivation there. I think we need to be careful judging work in progess though.
Unlike yourself Geoff I'm not in St. Andrews, therefore I appreciate you're in a better position to judge what's happening.
My point is a broader one that courses, even the Old Course, should not be deemed untouchable and become historic relics.

I also think it's unfair to claim, presumably of the R & A, "their vision for golf is a deeply cynical one". There are a lot of very good people in the R & A who care deeply about the game and of whom such remarks are certainly not true.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop

Inigo Montoya:...that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
@flying divot monster: you make a great if somewhat unintentional point. It is harder for the R&A to repaint a single window pane in a different colour on their clubhouse than it is for the R&A / Links Trust to put in a lake on 17, build an island green, and convert it to a par 3.

Your point regarding secrecy applies here, too: the window pane would require a public process involving consultation with Historic Scotland. The lake? We could show up on Monday and discover a big borrow pit had been dug.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois

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