The R&A news release on changes to Birkdale, interrupted by my skepticism:
COURSE ALTERATIONS TO ROYAL BIRKDALE
In February 2004 The R&A announced that Royal Birkdale would host the 2008 Open Championship, the ninth time that golf’s oldest major will have graced the wonderful links at Southport.
In 1965, when Peter Thomson rounded off his collection of Open wins with a further triumph that he described as his ‘greatest win’, he added that Birkdale was "man-sized but not a monster."
Alterations are currently being put in place to maintain that description but at the same time to pose new challenges for the world’s greatest golfers.
These course alterations have been agreed between Royal Birkdale Golf Club and The R&A and have been completed with the assistance of Martin Hawtree, golf course architect, who has been involved with previous modifications at Royal Birkdale. The Hawtrees, have been involved with Royal Birkdale since the 1930’s through the original connection established with Martin’s grandfather and then father, both named Fred. The present brief was to ‘tighten up’ the course without resorting to an excessive increase in length.
This has resulted in one new green at the 17th, 20 new hazards, 16 of which are fairway bunkers and six new tees, leading to a total length of approximately 7122 yards, an increase of 154 yards.
The works are being carried out by SOL Golf Construction Ltd who are based in Ireland and will be completed well in advance of the 2008 Open Championship. Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A said: "Royal Birkdale has always been a strong Open venue and we feel that by introducing these changes, that challenge can be maintained."
But, if it was always a strong Open venue, then what chang...ah, sorry.
"We have paid particular attention to the introduction of tee shots that give players a number of strategic options and through tighter bunkering and the recontouring of green surrounds, intend to make players execute more imaginative recovery shots around the greens."Sounds like your basic desperate tricking up to impact the scoring bottom line. Adding strategy through "tightening" up (you know, the forced lay-up decision between a 4-iron and a 3-iron, that kind of strategy).
Speaking on behalf of Royal Birkdale, the Captain, John Henthorn said: "The Club is delighted and excited to be introducing these changes which will toughen up the course, providing a greater challenge not only for the world’s top players but also for our members and visitors alike."
Get a caddie, looks like we're going 16 here. Oh, and see if you can detect a trend.
The major changes are: -
Fairway - Reposition and reshape left hand fairway bunker and mound, to be more threatening from the tee.
Green - Reposition left-hand approach bunker and rework and deepen hollows surrounding the green.
Fairway - Two new fairway bunkers added on right at 300 yards. New mounding in left rough between 250 and 300 yards to better define the fairway.
Tee - New tee back right of former tee, now making the hole slightly dogleg left to right.
Fairway - Two new bunkers added on left at 315 and 330 yards.
Green - Recontouring of surrounds with introduction of ridges and hollows. New bunker constructed front right.
Green - Left-hand bunkers tightened up and right-hand bunker expanded and moved closer to green. Extensive recontouring with mounds and hollows to right of green.
Green - Bunkers tightened up and green extended behind right-hand wing bunker.
Tee - Tee lengthened by 19 yards
Fairway - Bunker added at left corner of right-hand dogleg (280 yards)
Green - Bunker added on left-hand approach to green with mounding to tie in to left-hand dune.
Fairway - Ridging formed at 260 yards behind existing bunker on right and bunker added at 265 yards on left with ridging behind. Further bunker added on right at 310 yards and existing bunker at 320 yards repositioned into new mound on right.
Green - Green extended at back.
Tee - New tee constructed back right of existing tee to give better line for tee-shot
Fairway - Fairway eased left to accentuate the left to right dogleg. Bunker repositioned (270 yards) at dogleg on right. New mounding and recontouring in right rough beyond this point.
Green - New bunker added front left of green.
Tee - Tee enlarged and levelled
Fairway - Two bunkers added on left at 225 and 235 yards. Bunker added on right at 285 yards.
Tee - New tee 24 yards back.
Fairway - Bunker added on left at 285 yards.
Green - Bunker at front left moved closer to green edge and tightened.
Fairway - Bunker added on right at 290 yards. Existing bunker on left at 325 yards, widened by three yards into fairway. Cross bunker on left at 350 yards incorporated into a larger mound.
Green - Greenside bunkers pulled closer to putting surface and swales formed in the green surrounds.
Green - Bunker added front left of green and green extended at rear. Swales recontoured
Fairway - Two new bunkers constructed on right at 300 yards. Fairway narrowed on approach to green and extensive recontouring with formation of hillocks on left, short of green.
Tee - New tee (+ 22 yards).
Fairway - Two bunkers and mounding added at 310 and 320 yards on right. Bunker on right 100 yards short of green repositioned and additional dune added to narrow the fairway.
Green - Green moved back 20 yards with present top tier becoming the bottom tier of the new green. Bunkers repositioned as appropriate.
Fairway - Bunker and mound added at 300 yards on left.
Yes, only two holes escaped change on a course that hosted the Open just seven years ago.
The work on No. 17 sounds miniature golf-esque. How do you add a dune? Oh, and the green the are re-doing on No. 17? It was a new green prior to the last Open too. Ah the tradition continues...