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Saturday
Dec082012

I Was Wrong About One Old Course Change...

In Adam Lawrence's tour with R&A Chief Executive Architect Peter Dawson, there was commentary about the addition of greenside bunkers to the second hole. I have felt this was the most egregious defacing of the Old Course because taking a nice spot to play safe threatened to tamper with one of the game's most amazing green complexes.

Lawrence writes:

We began our tour on the second hole, where two pot bunkers have been added at the front right of the green, and two old bunkers, dating from between 1905-1932, and positioned around thirty yards from the green, have been filled in, and the area behind the new bunkers, to the right of the green, has been gently contoured to make recovery shots from that side a little more difficult. “Those areas were completely flat, and we're certain they had been levelled at some point in the past, perhaps for the construction of a tee. The same is true on some of the other holes where we plan to add contour by the side of the greens,” said Dawson.

I felt the addition of these bunkers was merely a ploy to hide a hole location during the Open to induce more pars and bogies. Lawrence explains:

When the pin is placed on the right side of the green – which it has not been in previous Opens, though it is a common position for daily play – the best line of approach will be from the centre left of the fairway, near to Cheape's bunker, he believes. The remarkable set of contours in front of the green mean that a player who drives up the right could still bank his approach off the slopes and into the pin, but the shot will be extremely difficult. Even from the preferred angle, the opening is narrow.

He's right. If you look at the middle photo posted on Golf Digest's Tumblr account (above) and taken by Matthew Harris, you'll see that the bunkers do not eat into the green complex in a way that will bother the modern professional as I'd feared. Furthermore, we know today's players would rather play a pro-am round lefthanded than hit a run-up shot. And since they all hit lofted shots with great precision, even under firm conditions a normal shot will likely leave them a 25-footer coming back to the hole.

However, these new greenside bunkers added by Dawson and longtime associate Martin Hawtree will almost definitely make the hole harder for everyday green-fee paying golfers. The bunkers will reduce the number of opportunities to avoid the huge leftside contours by playing a safe second shot, therefore adding much needed length to the round and even some unexpected misery that previous generations had not had the privilege of experiencing. 

Maybe when all of flying sand from bunker shots builds up after years of hackers flailing away, the hoped-for effect of a tough tournament hole location will be achieved for those precious four days every five years. More important, this change will help add to the struggles of the people who play the course on a daily basis and just maybe--fingers crossed--ensure rounds are even slower.

So I apologize for getting this one wrong!

Here's a view from the grandstand behind the green during 2010 Open practice rounds showing how badly this green needed to be protected from the onslaught of lazy second shots by everyday hackers:


There have been a couple of good threads about the second hole on Golf Club Atlas, here and this one here started by Bob Crosby about the difficulty of this hole in past Opens.

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Reader Comments (14)

thats a start now apologize to charlie!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbeljans brigade
Tip Anderson in 2000: 'The pin is always up top during a championship. The lower greens are called winter greens. They're mostly used in winter, and for nontournament play. It's an easier hole from the lower part of the green.'

The pin has always gone up top for tournaments, at least in the post-WWII era. It went up top before the days of metal woods and Pro V1s. The 'boring' quality of the lower part of the 2nd is not new. There's nothing about the relative ease of this section that wasn't also true 30, 40, 50 years ago.

The hole was not a pushover in the 2010 Open. The last four winners of the Open at St Andrews have birdied the hole...zero times.

No, this hole is about Daw-tree imposing definition, a specific line of play, on a course special for its lack of definition. He is making the hole more deterministic, and in doing so is removing complexity.

He is 'Americanising' the course.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois
The Very Soul of Golf Shrieks. Simply deplorable.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTommy Naccarato
I feel very sorry for Mr. Dawson. The way he has gone about this is going to follow him for the rest of his life.To change something so sacred is serious business and deserves the consideration of others.He tried to pull an end around and he 's going to get his asss kicked. Keep it up Geoff!...Give me some of that old time religion!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSo
As any female golfer knows, golf courses are never designed to take their clubbing into consideration. I still don't understand exactly what's happening at the 4th but I really hate those bunkers at the second.

One of the reasons I prefer links courses is because of the bump 'n run nature of them. They pretty much give everyone an equal chance to make the best of their game. Putting in bunkers at the second hole will now require an arial shot and will pretty much destroy my enjoyment of playing that hole.

As has already been stated, the pin position at The Open is normally up the left side and I beg to differ that approaching the lefthand pin positions from off the righhand side of the green is as straightforward as Dawson claims it to be.

Very sad.
C@C. I once asked an architect and player of great note where he placed the Ladies tees and why.
His answer "who cares?". By the way, he was someone who has been quoted as a voice of authority on this seemingly never ending saga.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
Piqued my curiosity re the identity of yon architect metro but to be honest, I think you'll find this attitude is likely to apply to pretty much all of them. I mean, have you ever heard of an architect refer to how a course is likely to play out for women? Indeed, such chauvinism is one of the reasons why I loathe Nicklaus designed courses.

Speaking of whom, I read an article many years ago where he was quoted as saying that, on learning the London Golf Club was to be used for a women's pro event, he was so horrified he duly declared he didn't build this course for women!
An Austin golfer, who has *some* courses with his name on them was reworking one of his designs west of downtown, and a friend of mine was the eco-engineer: the player, a HOFer, made several unsolicited comments about ladies tees, and at one point stated that women shouldn't even be allowed to play. Not very cool to me, a proud father of 3 lovely daughters, and I LIKE playing with women (!)

The ''designer'' was not BC, BTW.

Sad that some people are stuck in the dark ages.

C&C_ I hope the new workings at TOC will provide you with unexpected GOOD rolls!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Home from a night at St Andrews and a walk on the course to see what is going on.I have to say that I love the place to bits and just looking down over the Road Hole having breakfast absolutely made the heart beat faster.Not sure Mrs Chico understood!!
I'm not going to go on about whether the changes are good or bad really-there's been enough about that already.I'll download some of my pictures also hopefully-but I am better with a putter than a computer(I have the yips!)-so fingers crossed!
17th hole-98% completed.The bunker and area to the front right of it look sympathetically done and should play well.The area to the left of the bunker is much more heavily contoured-more so than I thought when I saw the area mid-construction.The 'bale-out' shot to the left will be much more risky in future.
2nd hole-ready for turfing.The bunkers are as Geoff describes but there will be a tricky front rt tournament pin.I don't think the ground route to the green will be impossible-but certainly quite a bit trickier.The contouring past the bunkers is quite gentle and might make an up and down a bit harder-but not all that much!
4th hole-nothing to see yet.
7th fairway-completed.Had to look hard to see what had been done here!I think the gentle contouring blends in well and should do what they say ie spread ball across the fairway a bit.Better than I expected.
11th green.80% complete To me the change to this green looked massive.Rather than just 1 pin on the left(the stated aim?) there now looks to be loads of left and back pins on what is a reasonably flat piece of green.Changes the character of the hole significantly.
Having said I wouldn't comment its hard not to! 17 and 7 are ok to me.Not sure about 2-but can see the logic.Absolutely appalled at the 11th!
Its a different debate as to whether any of this should have been done-local support seems fairly strong.Hopefull I can back this up soon with some pictures.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
chico,
Thanks again for the report. Was your sense on the Road that the area left was made more difficult to essentially end the strategy of missing the green left near 18 tee? That seems to be the reaction of some and if so, I guess I'll need to dig my Bobby Jones writings out. My memory stinks, but I seem to remember he or Keeler wrote at length about this strategic option and a certain famous player (Joyce Wethered) using it in a brilliant way.

Very sad to hear about 11. The pictures I've seen to look extreme but the slope was such that a huge amount of dirt would have to come off to make it work at the speeds the R&A wants for the Open. What's so sad in this is it was a very simple fix to give the Eden a different hole location: play it to the 7th green area one day and play 7 to 11. No criss-crossing and a different look.

How do you think 2 will play for everyday golfers? Same, harder, much harder?
12.9.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
I was fortunate to play in the '95 Open at St. Andrews. Played 11 (yes 11) practice rounds, plus the 4 tournament rounds.
I couldn't wait to play the course each day.
Even then, the efforts the R&A went to to "protect" the course were a bit silly to me.
Interestingly, I tell the story a lot about #2 as an example.
The hole was located behind the giant ridge the last round (maybe more). I drove it as good as I could,
not particularly long, and stood in the fairway laughing. The only way (with the green speeds) to get it close to the
hole (within 20 feet) for me would have been to hit a low line drive off the scoreboard behind the green, and bounce it back towards the green.
The only REAL option was a safe shot about 30 to 40 feet right of the hole and putt over. Of course the bombers (Daly?) could get it far enough to generate some angle, but still couldn't really get to the hole either. IMy point? The R&A, in my limited experience of one Open,
set up the course in a way, that you could not use the humps hollows and rolls to hit shots. They used them as fortifications. It's how the see it.
The practice rounds were a blast with normal pins though
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Burke
Geoff-yes-missing the 17th left will be much trickier now.Good chance to be kicked into the bunker or kick left into the rough.Would need to go quite long left to be safe.Not nearly as good an option as before.Mind you I always found the short right option to be easily the better of the two.
2 will be harder for Joe public definately.Entrance into the green isn't ridiculously narrow though and a slight push will come back in from the bunker banking.
I was stunned at how flat 11 looks with the turf back down.Would be interested to hear what anyone else who has seen it thinks.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
@Pat Burke, re:

"The only way (with the green speeds) to get it close to the hole (within 20 feet) for me would have been to hit a low line drive off the scoreboard behind the green, and bounce it back towards the green."

I've got that shot. Sometimes.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois
Pat, You make a great point that I constantly harp on to anyone that wants to listen: The tournament staffs at some of these tournaments--mostly majors--can really screw up some great classic golf courses. This has been my main gripe with Davis and USGA who try way too hard to manipulate great courses that do not need to be manipulated by guys who think they know everything about tournament golf but in reality are mostly very good players that just were not quite good enough to make it playing professionally. Let the weather and mother nature dictate how the course plays.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv

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