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From Secrecy To Saturation: Now R&A Chief Architect Dawson Can't Stop Talking About His Work!

Martin Dempster talks to a suddenly-eager-to-gab Peter Dawson, who, because of the anchoring ban, didn't have the time to alert the world that his organization (the R&A, not to be confused with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) was inflicting their ideas on the world's most historic course.

First, there was this statement about the craftsmanship of Dawson's consulting associate architect, Martin Hawtree, which drew howls of laughter from anyone who has seen the 17th green at Birkdale.

He also insisted plenty of changes had already been made to the Old Course over the years, pointing to pictorial evidence as proof of that, and believes Martin Hawtree is the perfect man to be implementing the alterations as “one of his great strengths is making changes look as though they have always been there”.

Guess he missed the comments the last time Hawtree made a major change at a rota course. (Warning, there's also a photo of the "looks like it's always been there" work in question.)

As for not properly communicating world that he was meddling with the most influential design on the planet, Dawson almost took the high road.

“You would have to ask the Links Trust about consultation because that was their exercise,” he said. “I’m not trying to pass the buck to the Links Trust,

No, not at all!

but they handled all the local conversations that took place, we didn’t. That is the normal practice as they have the courses. If we were making alterations at Royal Troon, it would be Royal Troon that would talk to the members, not us unless we were requested to join in.

Yes, too busy making alterations at Open courses to try and mask our regulatory ineptitude to have time to share the plans with the public. Besides, the clock was ticking!

“The best time of year to do anything like this, turfing etc, is November into early December. If it hadn’t gotten started when it did we would have been waiting another year for the best season to do it in. That wasn’t something that anyone wanted.

And this is just funny:

“I would say there was quite a lot of comment about the changes from people who have not been able to take the time to study what they are.

Maybe because some just found out about them two weeks ago and there is still nothing publicly viewable showing the Photoshopped depictions of the changes unless you walk onto the Old Course to see the signs posted at tees? Just a thought!

Of course, so much of this is the fault of the world daring to care about St. Andrews. You know, the world that comes and spends money there because it's a revered place and all.

"As people have become more familiar with what the changes are, a lot of the criticism has actually turned into reasonable support. I think some of the announcement was directed at telling local people that there was going to be work on the course as opposed to some great international announcement about Old Course re-design. It was never meant to be that but, of course, in this modern era as soon as you announce something in the darkest corner of Fife it appears in Japan in a nano-second.”

Blimey 21st Century! Next think you know they'll be wanting to know why we don't have forget it.

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Reader Comments (11)

We always seem to remember the bad about Hawtree (Birkdale, Trumps etc.), but then conveniently forget the great work he did at Carnoustie which went down well at the last Open.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJock
Jock-got to agree re Birkdale 17th green-but the people I know who have been to Trump think its great.You got any different feedback?
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Peter is out of control. This is all his handiwork and he has earned this bad press fair and square. He should shut up now before he reveals what terrible ideas the Links Trust shot down.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterR&A member
Oh my, @R&A member, do tell!

Thanks for the reminder, Geoff. I'll send off another request for the master plan into the black hole.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois
I wish you would quit sitting on the fence Geoff, and tell us how you really feel about changes to TOC!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrad
@ Mark,

I keep reading about your requests for the master plan, both here and at GCA. Why is it that you feel you should get a copy of their master plan? Try calling all your favorite clubs and ask for a copy of their master plan and see how many send you something...
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
@press agent: I'm not writing to the private club that is the Royal & Ancient, I'm writing to the governing body that is the R&A. The one that organizes the Open Championship and whose power flows from the consent of the golfing governed ex USA and Mexico. The links proper are owned by the people of Fife. The course is public.

The proper analogy then might be something along the lines of asking the USGA for their Bethpage Black plans. Hmm, I may indeed be barking up the wrong tree although Mr Dawson has referenced his role in hiring Mr Hawtree -- and who's paying for the changes? Is this coming from the accounts of the Links Trust or from the R&A's fund?

What a tangled web. Until it clears up, then, the R&A seems as good a place as any to ask.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bourgeois
Reading Westwood's comments in the Birkdale article reminded me of the time in '99 when asked what he thought of the upcoming Open at TOC and he responded that he could think of 100 better courses to host an Fife. Not defending Hawtree's TOC or Birkdale work here, but I wouldn't exactly trust Westwood to provide useful criticism when talking Golf Course Architecture.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKRoper
They're making two greens more receptive and widening a bunker 20 inches.

12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
@erik barzeski: you're absolutely right. To paraphrase Shakespeare once more: it is much ado about nothing.

The focus should be on the quote of Mr. Max Behr at the opening page of this website. Bashing Mr. Dawson and Mr. Hawtree on minor changes at The Old Course is pointless. Stop waisting energy and start a battle against the true enemies: equipment and ball manufacturers, who with their commercial interests are jeopardizing the future of golf.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin
Eric, please, there's more to it than that - Geoff has detailed much bigger changes; changes which Dawson has breezily defended (at one point saying "I've never known what those bunkers were there for" - and thinking that it's a defense of his decision rather than an admission of ignorance...)

Moreover, to those who say "what's the difference? The changes are only small" there are many of us who would say that if the changes are insignificant then Why in Heaven's name must they be made? (especially since we think they are NOT insignificant)

We don't want to preserve the Old Course as a museum piece. It is a living breathing thing, alive with subtleties and lessons. Some of the greatest minds in golf have declared that the study of the Old Course is a process in which they are forever learning. Many have said that their first response was bewliderment or a sense of bathos. But it's one of those great pieces of culture where if something seems dull or pointless then WE are missing something, and when we are ready to understand, then the Old Course will be ready to explain the mystery to us. And that which seemed dead will be alive, and we will be connected a little better to the golfers who have played and studied it before us...

St Andrews belongs to the people of Fife, and beyond that is held in trust by them for golfers the world over. I have family who live there. If Fife and the R&A want the benefits of their status as the birthplace of the game then they should respect the Old Course.

Yes, it's a shame that the course is no longer as challenging as it was because of the equipment developments (and regulatory failures) that are costing the world's golfers a fortune (paying for courses to be lengthened, maintained, etc - before we get to the insidious indirect losses created when courses once magnificent and challenging are rendered outdated...).

But architectural vandalism in response to regulatory failure (or perhaps, as Geoff suggests, in an attempt to diminish the appearance of it) is throwing good money after bad, and seeking to rectify a wrong of omission (regulatory failure) with a wrong willfully and arrogantly committed.

The stupidity of the project is as incredible as the high-handedness with which it's been carried out.

Moreover, one cannot fail to suspect that Dawson wanted to "leave his mark", and that the result will testify against him, not for him. (Insert reference to Ozimandias if you wish).

Apologies for the lofty tone, but it's the Old Course, dammit!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIan

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