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« "It now opens the door for restoration plans to move forward in earnest, including the restoration of Mackenzie features on the course" | Main | Former USGA Tech Director: Anchoring Ban May Create More Problems Than It Solves »

R&A Chief Architect Dawson: Anchoring Ban Distracted Us From Announcing Most Extensive Old Course Changes In A Century

Adam Lawrence previews a more extensive story he has coming in Golf Architecture following a tour of the controversial renovations with R&A architect Peter Dawson. Apparently, Martin Hawtree is using this time to renovate the Old be somewhere else. His hands-on attention to detail is quite impressive is it not?

Anyway, seat belts on. It's cringeworthy time...

But, though he acknowledges the communication of the works could have been handled better – “We were perhaps a little distracted by the announcement of the ban on anchoring”

Whoa, whoa, whoa...this renovation was in the works for seven months! It involves the most historic course on the planet and the R&A Chief was distracted by the anchoring ban?

On a serious note, if you are too distracted to publicly share the master plan, the Photoshopped images simulating the proposed changes and from sharing a basic notice to the golfers in town of planned changes as you did in 2009 with the Jubilee Course, are you maybe a little too distracted to be implementing architectural changes to the oldest and most cherished venue in the world of sport?

Anyway, before I interrupted...

Dawson is firm in his belief that the works will improve the course, both for day to day play and in championship mode, and that, far from being untouched for hundreds of years, the course has repeatedly been changed, though he agrees that the current works are the biggest in a century.

A century! Well at least he knows his place in history.

Again, the biggest changes in a hundred years earned a Friday news dump press release followed by work on a Monday morning.

And, although he is happy to confirm that the impetus from the works came from the R&A's Championship Committee, he is at pains to explain that toughening the course for the professionals is not the sole goal of the works. Of the filling up of the hollow in the middle of the seventh fairway, he said: “That is something the Links Trust has been keen to do for many years. It collected so many balls, and was thus so full of divots that it had to be roped off and played as ground under repair for a large part of the year, which was a bit of an embarrassment.”

Now, in the old days, so the legend goes, when divots or rabbits burrowed, they often evolved into bunkers? Robert Hunter wrote lovingly about this in The Links (note to Peter and Martin: it's a book on golf architecture, you might enjoy it.)

So wouldn't a more historically accurate change have been to put a bunker in this 7th fairway hollow? Just saying...

Dawson talks at length--because Hawtree was apparently busy with a more pressing project--about the second hole changes, but that'll have to be in a separate post. (I know you can't wait.)

This is just mind-boggling:

On the fourth hole, the low dune formation that creates the left edge of the fairway in the drive zone is planned to be reduced next winter. “Personally I am not sure about that change, and I'm glad it isn't in the first phase, so we have more chance to think about it,” said Dawson.

The architect doesn't even like his own changes.

“The impetus has come from the greenkeepers – it was covered in rough during the 2005 Open, and the result was that almost nobody tried to hit their drive up the right. To create more width, we shaved the bank down in 2010, but it is very steep, and the greens staff have difficulty mowing it at that height.”

I'm just going to ignore the depressing notion that the greenkeepers are making suggestions related to strategy, and try to figure out which mound, excuse me, "acute spur formation," is under attack here. Dawson seems to first be talking about the large leftside grassy mound (pictured below), but how its height would discourage someone from driving down the gorse-lined right side is beyond me. I'm going with the gorse being the problem in that case.

Your honor, I submit to you a photo from 2010:

4th hole center fairway view (click to enlarge)Then he's talking about the bump short of the green, which I take to be the acute spur formation that the maintenance crew can't mow. Your honor, I submit...

Pretty amazing after 400 years, and "before mowers were properly invented," that this bump was able to be cut. Maybe those modern mowers aren't that proper after all?

I thought this was a stretch regarding the 11th green:

“That pin is only used in winter at the moment,” said Dawson. “It's not just a question of being unusable at Open speeds – it can't be used even when the greens are at normal summer pace. The green would have to be slowed to six or seven on the Stimpmeter to make that pin usable.”

So the greens slow down four to five feet on the Stimpmeter during winter?

And it seems they are accentuating a feature on the Road hole, because that 4.6 scoring average last time wasn't enough.

Lawrence writes:

The widening to the right is frankly relatively uncontroversial – it will now gather shots from slightly further out. To my eye more surprising is the addition of a slight gathering contour on the left side of the bunker, presumably to make the shot to the back left of the green – a route popularised in the 1990s by Nick Faldo – more challenging. This looks fine from the fairway, but from the eighteenth tee, a slight mound can be seen, which appears a little out of place.

Eh no one will notice. It's just the Road hole!

Meanwhile, Graylyn Loomis posted some high quality images of the work in progress.

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Reader Comments (31)

Hawtree absent. Dawson back-pedalling. Eden and Road changes. The whole thing is very sad.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
Aren't greens slower in America during winter? Lucky you, then.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
The cover-up isn't as bad as the crime, but it's juvenile.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Four to five feet on the Stimp? Maybe if the course doesn't mow their greens for four months and there is lots of growth.
12.7.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
This is the first I can recall Dawson saying these changes are the most significant in a century.

If, as he has told us many times, he is an expert on the history and architecture of The Old Course, then clearly he understood the magnitude of the changes. If he understood the magnitude of the changes, he knew they would cause an uproar.

If he knew they would cause an uproar, he had two options: allow the Links Trust to use a process similar to that used for the Jubilee in 2009 or carry them out with the greatest-possible secrecy and speed. Present them as a fait accompli before the opposition could organize and in the bargain give the public no hope they could do anything about it.

As Geoff notes, still there has been no release of the master plan -- note: I wrote the R&A asking for a copy, no response -- no press releases on either the R&A's or Links Trust's websites. He hasn't been "distracted" in the least by the anchoring announcement: that's been a part of his Old Course communications plan all along. It's not a bug, it's a feature.

The alternative scenario is he had no idea before breaking ground that the changes were the biggest in a century.

I am unsure which scenario is more depressing.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois
Mr. Petey-boy Hoodwink must be learning his double speak from Commish Tell it Like It Is By Saying Nothing in 500 Words or More.

Doesn't make any sense that there aren't enough pinnable locations on Eden green. Can't we hold shots on the green better now than we ever could before (balls, equipment)? Is the green really that much faster (in the last 5-10 years) than it ever has been? Don't tell me that the rabbits never mowed the Eden green to 10-11 on the stimp in the past 400 years. I agree with GEOff...mitigate with agricultural management (keep that green a little slower).

I thought they wanted to stiffen the test. Pin the Eden on the back left and let these guys miss the green all week long. Of course, they use the same pin locations same as they alway do every 5 years, so what's the difference? The only difference is that someone's ego has become too big. Here's a new mantra for him: FOR THE GREATER GOOD. Somebody tell him to dump his current irrational mantra.
The spur formation on the left of 4 is not the one in the photograph you are showing. It's the mounding before the fairway doubles up.
The new 11th green brings hill bunker back into play and allows a fantastic back left pin position. The hole would be unplayable if a back pin was put there before the change.

Road holes new shape looks great, it's been getting changed for years. It's not making the hole any tougher, most people would rather play out the new shallower bunker than try and hit a pitch shot off bare lie on hard ground that is probably going to end up in the bunker anyway.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarc
Mark -

The changes aren't just depressing. They are disturbing,

The criterion for changing TOC is not that the course manager can think of "improvements". Virtually anyone can do that.

Given TOC's unique historical status, the criterion is whether the changes were 'needed'. I hear nothing to suggest that Dawson's changes are needed. Which means TOC's historic status should have precluded the current changes. BTW, that's basically how it worked for the last century at St Andrews.

Otherwise, TOC will remain subjct to the next good idea of the Peter Dawson's of this world. Terrifying.

12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterotey
This crusade is somewhat tiresome. You see evil in everything they say. You can say this is just a blog, but II think you need to get some distance and objectivity, maybe the benefit of an editor, because it is not creating good journalism.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeve

We are board of this, if you feel this strong about the whole situation you should fly to scotland and tie yourself to the acute spur formation in protest? Perhaps Tom Doak would join you. Am sure Hawtree would happily abort plans if that were to happen.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiger
So you're telling me that the golf course architect that doesn't play golf is now absent from the renovations while they are going on? Great...because we all know how well those cad drawings turn out in the dirt...sounds like they hired the right guy to me!
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commentergreg c
Sir Dawson seems like he almost talks down to the golfer, like we are not that smart, he is, and just leave it be-he knows what he's doing. There is a similar figure here running a big Tour that also has this attitude.....Scary.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
I am "board" of morons like you.

It's A blog, by Geoff. Entry to read: free. Option to not read: also free. Free all the way around!
12.7.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
I'm completely confused by the statements attributed to Dawson on No. 4. He's talking about a mound with rough on it, one they can't mow and with strategic elements I can't picture. Has been been misquoted?
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOB
I'm not "BOARD" of it either.

The only things changed around the green on the Road Hole is the bunker itself. The entire left front section leading into the green and the bunker has ever been touched, This was the same according to the topos I have as well as many significant historical photos.

The thing about the work that disturbs me, beyond the way it was handled sneakingly and without accountability, is that it all plays to make the course more difficult--PENAL. Let's just view the course in the last 200 years that the Eden has been in play--probably the most celebrated, enjoyed and challenging one-shot holes ever. So much that its been copied but never closely duplicated in terms of challenge. To say that the green was unpinnable is not only aggravating. Thus smoothing out one of the most interesting "defensive" contours the game has ever known, there is a reason why the hole is unpinnable, not just because of the demand of accuracy, but also reclaiming green area lost. Its happened at courses like Winged Foot and the work was not only horrible, it has since been re-worked again--all because the lack of stripping back turf and reclaiming those areas with green sod.

I dont' consider myself an authority on the Old Course, I consider myself a student, just like Bobby Jones, Alister MacKenzie, Macdonald, Max Behr and others considered themselves students. They knew they had to leave their egos at the door when it came to the evolution and gift of Golf. Instead, we now have authorities who know more then anyone, and will go to any length to prove it.

BTW, I would take that tour with Dawson, but only so I could spend the entire time telling him how wrong he was and showing him in the ground; as well as the history beyond the cronyism.

12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTommy Naccarato
I like that Dawson calls in a "pin". Doesn't he know it is a flag stick or a hole. There are no pins an a golf course.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Speaking fo Central/South Texas ( an area about the size of France) the bermuda (of whick several varieties are used, with the better small bladed grass being the fastest....ALL of it is EXTREMELY fast if the course just mows it to clean it up once it goes is as good as bent....HOWEVER most tracks overseed with winter rye, and it can get VERY slow if it is not really mown well, and it gets slower as the day's sun kicks the growth in.....

And I to am BORED with trolls who don't get it, much less know how to spell it.

Keep up the great job, Geoff. You are appreciated, as is your opinion, and your passion.

Hey, Tommy. Happy/Merry!
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Just proves again that it's almost always better to say nothing. Whoever you are.
Or perhaps he might have said to stir the pot "Wait till the improvements are finished then congratulate us."
Sorry Mark-pin is a very acceptable term over here.
Premature posting finger there!
I've talked about pin positions often!
Interestingly the furore seems to be a lot less over here.
Had lunch with 2 St.Andrews Club members yesterday who were quite relaxed about the changes and didn't know anyone who was seriously anti them.Surprising really.
Apparently the changes are almost completed which makes me wonder if they are as significant as I'd first thought.Will have to see for myself.
That's an unworthy, haughty implication aimed at the green keepers at St. Andrew's, Geoff, some of them are expert, well-traveled and highly studious golfers. The reaction of Shack, Doak & Co is miles over the top and I hope they will be forced to eat some humble pie in due course when it is seen that the world at TOC hasn't ended.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
We call them pins over here Mark and always have done. The term flagstick was adopted by americans ... probably because it helped to give them a false sense of belief that they invented the game!

If the Old Lady is going to retain The Open then she needs to let her hem down a little more at the 11th to facilitate another PIN position. In any event, I'm bored with always seeing it stuck behind Strath bunker. I also think it will lend itself to being quite a challenging (and exciting) shot (to watch).

I think what you need to realize is that Geoff, etc wants it to end up as if nothing were done.


Darn, you sure wasted tacky on a non issue. :)
12.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
I'm in Tommy's corner on this one. There's an ever shrinking number of treasures in this day and age that we are willing to accept for what they are. The 11th happens to be one of them. People will go to great lengths to explain them away or justify action for change in the name of progress, rather than appreciate how unique they are. In this case I don't see it as progress. Of the five times I've been blessed to experience Eden, in different conditions, the thought never entered my mind that it needed anything other than the stroke required. As for the statement that Hill bunker should be more in play, I suspect Gene Sarazen would have respectfully disagreed. Right after he took 3 in it to card a 6 and lose the championship by one stroke.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
@Geoff and digsouth: I live at roughly the same latitude as S:t Andrews (a little further south), and yes, green speeds on a snow-free winter is at least four to five feet slower during winter. You can't mow the grass, and the ground is also wetter. I doubt the green speeds exeed 6 feet on the stimpmeter during winter anywhere this far north. On non-frozen ground, that is!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
And another thing ... as I understand, Hawtree doesn't play golf ... now.

@ digsouth ... 'tweren't me wot started it! Just for the record though, I absolutely hate the term flagstick.
You know, I just realized that these changes are so minor, they are not really changes at all. Took just a couple days to do and no plans were necessary anyway. You ask about playing the course in front of you...not necessary, just change the features (instead of how you play the hole).

Play he ball as it lies...well in my new 'modernization' effort, we just 'modify' our lie. Why let , especially at the original links courses. Why let nature get in the way of a good lie (all lies should be perfect). That's why there is no need to 'modify' ones lie on a beautifully crafted parkland course, where one million cubic yards of earth are moved just to be placed in the perfect spots (just the way nature intended).
Hawkeye. In a non snow winter,, here in the northern states, the greens will speed up, as winter progresses, and more and more players trample on the green. Especially around the hole. Never are conditions wetter, without snow. (unless irrigated, which is rare)
Hole locations don't change unless your super is wise enough to cut a few cups per green before everything freezes.

I'm currently putting on well sanded greens that must be gauged individually for speed. The worst case must be 2 - 3 on the stimp, and will illicit the greatest of feats if holed. Uproarious sounds of great fun, howl through the air, on any attempt which even comes close to the hole.

Who says faster is always better? Furthering that mindset is what has got us to this dire situation on the eden, in the first place. Hasn't it?.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Clayman
Under the table, smoke and mirrors, behind the curtain, in a dark alley, this new era of stewardship at the R&A, USGA is at the tipping point of OBNOXIOUS. These organizations have lost the scruples to govern the golf ball (and a few other things, spring like effect) to ensure the integrity of the sport. Before the solid core urethane balls, in the days of three piece wound balls there was a GOVERNOR in the ball, it was then known as over compression witch one could witness a diminishing return concerning distance as clubhead speed was increased above the USGA's "OADS" (overall distance standard) a speed limit if you will, a governor as to the distance a ball could travel based on compression.

With the advent of the Pro V-1, and similar constructed balls there is NO GOVERNOR built into the ball as was witnessed in the balls proceeding the Pro V-1 era. With the old balls, Titleist Tour 100, Titleist Professional, as clubhead speed increased above 109MPH a loss of distance per every 1 MPH of clubhead speed increases, there was a diminishing measurement seen in distance. Contrary to the era of golf balls before the Pro V-1, this new era of balls has just the opposite effect relating to distance as each 1 MPH of clubhead speed is added above 109 MPH. Why?, some may ask are you using 109 MPH, because that is the USGA's testing protocol with regards to their Overall Distance Standard, and the clubhead speed they were using as the "Published their JOINT STATEMENT OF PRINCIPALS". What can be witnessed with the new era of Pro V-1's for each 1 MPH of clubhead speed above 109 MPH isn't a diminishing return on CO-EFFIENCE, it is in FACT, as witnessed in the distance testing, an EXPONENTIAL "increase in distance" as greater and greater clubhead speed is increased above 109 MPH.

In order to bring the sport back to relevance a diminishing return on distance needs to be seen at 109 MPH. Putting a rule in place regarding a governor on ball speed seen at 109 MPH would have ZERO effect on the amateur golfers, why, 99% of amateurs can not achieve 109 MPH clubhead speed. Thus having a rule in place concerning the CO- EFFIENCE of a balls compression would not effect the amateur golfer at all. It would however curb the 360 yard drives on the pro circuits back to around 300 yard drives.

Curbing golfers who make up 1% of the golfing public by putting a governor on a ball that only they have the clubhead speed to compress makes one hell of a lot more sense than F#€¥ing around with course remodeling's of Augusta National, and for God sakes, St. Andrews.

It must be said again. The stewardship at the R&A, USGA is completely obnoxious, and totally abrasive when put in the proper context of the very RULES they are trusted to uphold with regard to the integrity of the sport. How on earth can the sport have integrity with these current bastards running amok? If it walks like a duck, smells like a duck, *&^%@ like a duck, you can't call it a swan. R&A, USGA, F-U2!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRocket Ballz

We call greens that slow ''black and white greens'', or we are 'black and white putting'',- because that was the way the old B&W TV golf shows looked--the ball racing to the hole- and then just stopping! a solid 3 stimped!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
@Adam: OK, that might explain why Geoff thought it was funny to hear that green speeds in northern Europe go down during winter. Wet wet wet indeed.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye

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