Hopkins On Whitten's "Astonishing Attack" On Hoylake

John Hopkins considers Ron Whitten's Golf Digest criticism of Hoylake as a modern day major venue, and offers a rebuttal from the R&A's own in-house designer, Peter Dawson.

It is safe to predict that a few eyebrows would have been raised at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on The Wirral yesterday when word reached it of an astonishing attack in the present issue of Golf Digest, the world’s biggest and best-selling golf magazine. The course that will stage the Open next month is fiercely criticised by Ron Whitten, the architecture editor of the magazine, who calls it “Royal Out of Bounds” and says it is no place for a major championship in the 21st century.

Hoylake is regarded as one of the sternest of all links, and the club has a wonderful history in golf. It slipped from the rota of Open courses after 1967 because the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, organisers of the Open, felt that there were too many problems meeting the requirements of an Open.
Some of Whitten’s displeasure is based on his belief that the course does not have a par five that cannot be reached in two with an iron and many of its par fours are not as long as they look on paper. He also does not like the rerouting of the course. It was done because the R & A wanted a more gentle start than the old 1st, which had out of bounds on both sides, and a stronger finish than the old 18th. The 17th has now become the 1st, the old 1st is the 3rd and the par-five 16th is the 18th.

“I simply don’t agree [with the criticism],” Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R & A, said. “Those who have played Hoylake have been very complimentary about it.”

The only thing astonishing about the "attack" is that Whitten didn't even focus on the most egregious change of all: Donald Steel's mangling of the old H.S. Colt designed road-perched green on the par-4 17th (No. 2 in the Open).  

It's also a bit disconcerting to read about a 7,200+ course being outdated and questioned as a venue for failing to "keep up with the times," with no mention why this happened or whether this is a reasonable occurrence. The message seems to be: modernize your design at all costs.