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Ogilvy On R&A Motives For Changing Old Course: Embarrassing, Disgusting, Sneaky

Thanks to Darius Oliver for alerting us to Paul Prendergast's lengthy interview with Geoff Ogilvy touching on a number of hot button issues but I couldn't help but focus on his remarks about the R&A's changes to the Old Course at St. Andrews.

He joins fellow Aussie Peter Thomson in denouncing not only the idea of changing the course to produce higher scores, but also the secretive and deceptive process by which the changes were conceived and executed.

It’s disappointing in that the whole point of it is to make us shoot a slightly higher score every five years [at The Open], and it’s embarrassing – disgusting – that they’re doing it for that reason. I mean .. it’s hard to have the words to describe the arrogance of doing something like that, it’s incredible.


The reason the sport is what it is, is because of St Andrews. It didn’t evolve to the point where it’s at because of people doing what they’re doing right now. It evolved, it didn’t get designed. It came because of nature, all the balls finishing in one place so there were lots of divots and that spot became a bunker. It’s the first place that anyone should ever study when they think about golf course architecture.

This was nice too...there goes Geoff's Royal and Ancient Golf Club membership chances. Join the women of the world.

I think the thing that really affected most people that got emotional about it was the way they went about it. Making a sneaky little announcement the same weekend everyone was talking about the long putter ban. The bulldozers were out the next day. Surely the Old Course deserves a round table of the smartest people in golf with the best intentions and to discuss it for two years before you do anything?

And this is such a key point about the 11th green, and speaks to the absurdity of trying to force uniform green speeds on a course, especially the Old.

They've done plenty of bunker work for maintenance reasons over time but changing contours that have evolved and adding to the 11th green to provide extra pin placements are pretty fundamental changes ...

It’s been fine for 400 years, in the form it’s in it’s been fine for a hundred years. It’s fine!

I mean, if they get crazy wind and you can’t put a pin up the back left on 11 then, oh well. Or, you just have that green running two feet slower than the others. We're the best golfers in the world, surely we can work out that the green is slower. We’re not that precious.

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Reader Comments (18)

Still don't understand this discussion. The Old Course is very special and should be treated with a lot of respect. But is not the Mona Lisa or any other piece of art. It is there for daily use, like a house. A house can be a precious monument, but as long as people use it for daily life, it will be adapted now and then to standards of modern living. The same is true for a golf course. If you use it for daily play and for international tournaments and if you attack it with modern equipment (ridiculous drivers, balls that fly long and straight without effort and stupid long putters), the logical thing is to keep up with these modern standards. If you think the old course is a sacred place that should remain untouched, play it like an Amish, with hickory shafts and gutta percha balls.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMartin
Am I the only one (aside from the R&A and Links Trust!) who thinks creating a pin position on the left side is a good idea? I'm sick of seeing it tucked in behind the righthand bunker. If the prevailing wind blows well, let me put it this way ... the Links Trust may have to move the toilet block from behind the 9th green to the 11th tee!
"We’re not that precious."

Hmmm quotes from some players wouldn't suggest that. Anyway Geoff should maybe focus on making a cut.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUnderTheChin
Does Ogilvy still have that hideous mustache? What a tool.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
Four or five years ago, whenever the British Open was at Carnoustie, Bob Harig and I got off the redeye in Scotland and went straight to St. Andrews for round. We chopped it around, had a blast, and as we were playing the course, who comes ambling by on the outward nine but Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy.

They were playing the course just because it's St. Andrews and they don't often have the chance.

Tells you all you need to know abut the sanctity of the place. If memory serves, we saw Furyk out there that same day, too. With Fluff Cowan, who was using a pull cart to haul around Jim's big Srixon tour bag. Pretty funny.

Anyway, you get the gist. These guys play golf every day. But they play St. Andrews every chance they get, anyway.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Elling
Change is inevitable and, as you can see from this link, TOC is well acquainted with it ...
"sanctity"? Nonsense. The Old Course has undergone many changes in its life ...
Scott Mcpherson's book indicates that the back, left portion of the 11th green was never used for all 8 rounds of the 2000 and 2005 Opens and that the Traditional pin position in 1937 was just over the Strath bunker, as were 6 of the possible 8 pin positions in the aforementioned Opens; the other two were at the back of the green and in line with the Strath. As noted in this article slowing the green speed on this hole may have allowed the left side to be used. For those of us that play modest public courses we probably deal with a variety of green speeds during our rounds without diminishing our enjoyment of the game.

I am not so certain that modern changes should always be accepted as being best when traditional ways have a much longer history of providing conditions that attract golfers. But, this ship sailed long ago when the equipment changes accelerated virtually unimpeded to a point where a blind monkey can hit a good shot on a consistent basis.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Blake Moran
@ joe: instead of posts like this maybe you should concentrate on video games - or whatever it is you 7th grade boys do...
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTed Ray's Pipe
@Joe: Classy, considering Ogilvy grew it to raise money for charity.

@Martin, It's silly to make changes at any course for the .1% of golfers who hit the ball "too far" who play there once every 5 years. And if it's so logical, why did the R&A have to do under the radar?
02.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterbsoudi
Could Ogilvy be in line to be the next Pope? Sainthood is surely not out of the question!
02.19.2013 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
Hey c'mon. They added more seats to Fenway Park, and lights to Wrigley Field.
Those two places are at least as iconic as St. Andrew's.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSolderjockey
Gee, I wonder why tour pros would be hesitant about answering questions openly and honestly?
02.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
<<Could Ogilvy be in line to be the next Pope? Sainthood is surely not out of the question! >>

Only if permanently hindering one's golf career for the sake of a surfboard qualifies as Holy Sacrifice...
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
Ogilvy for President. Of the USGA, R & A, PGA Tour, Golf Channel, and all networks broadcasting golf.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Speaking truth to power.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
How can I get a message thanking Ogilvy for speaking up on this one?

You would all be amazed at the names who said they couldn’t comment because their managers had reminded them that their sponsorship deals contained non controversy clauses.
02.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBelowPar
"Four or five years ago, whenever the British Open was at Carnoustie" Steve Elling

Really Steve, surely you should know better.

*wanders off mumbling about foreigners
02.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlly

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