The R&A's Changes To St. Andrews That Were Not Approved

Reader Steve Scott says the St. Andrews Links Trust actually rejected several Old Course modifications proposed by architects Martin Hawtree and Peter Dawson before approving plans to renovate the planet's most revered golf course.

Thanks to well-placed sources combing the trash cans of St. Andrews, I was able to piece together a copy of the rejected changes after they had been destroyed. The Links Trust does not do its document shredding by machine but instead turn the papers over to a retired club secretary who enjoys sharpening his poultry shears on the town's most important documents.

So I've transcribed the shredded pieces that were overnighted to me and posted the Art Department's acquisition of two architectural renderings that were rejected. Enjoy!

Proposed Changes To The Old Course For Future Consideration

- Eliminate 17th fairway. The efforts to narrow this hole in recent years have failed to lift the scoring average to hoped-for heights. Therefore, your Old Course consulting architects recommend complete elimination of the short grass fairway cut until the putting surface. The architect sees a fine marketing angle in this change as well: an homage to the late Seve Ballesteros, who often advocated eliminating fairways altogether and who celebrated his finest moment at the Road hole. Check. Mate.

Architect rendering of the Road hole work appears, well, complicated and confusing. (Click to enlarge)- Raise the Road hole stone wall six inches.
Though this is a major and costly undertaking to physically lift a wall that has stood for centuries, the architects feel strongly that too many poorly hit shots end up near its base, creating regrettably memorable situations like the one Tom Watson faced in 1984 or the heroic recovery of Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2010 which gave the unfortunate impression that elite players have skill. By raising the wall a mere six inches, this will allow balls overshooting the 17th green to roll out of bounds, causing more two-stroke penalties whilst restoring a necessary premium on accuracy current lacking due to the original wall structure that once saved Mary Queen of Scots from a disastrous quintuple bogey.

- Renovate all bunker floors. While this is part of the ongoing sod wall rebuilding that adds such a clean, refined and utterly EA Sports-worthy look to the Old Course, the architect recommends that all bunker floors be rebuilt and pitched toward the faces of the sand. This will ensure more balls end up unplayable, thus stiffening the hazard defenses while restoring a premium on accuracy lost since players are not hitting the ball any longer than they did ten years ago.

- Convert the Eden into a Redan. The par-3 11th green has become too difficult and unwieldy as modern green speeds restrict the R&A to only a small area for Open Championship hole locations. While some would suggest a slower green speed could resolve the matter, good sense tells us that it would be far more difficult, expensive and risky to completely renovate the green complex while paying long overdue homage to North Berwick’s Redan. Therefore, we see the only course of action as complete renovation. Though some will protest that this much-copied hole has been the site of so many important moments in golf history, who is to say that a sporty reverse-Redan would not bring as much joy to the next four centuries of golfers as the current Eden has over the previous 400 years? (Assuming, of course, that the green doesn’t wash away due to rising sea levels, in which case your architects believe Redan is more easily suited to conversion to an island green one-shotter.)

Proposed rendering of the Eden's conversion to a Redan that was rejected (Click image to enlarge) - Shift the Principal’s Nose.  This acute spur formation of three bunkers amidst the 16th fairways blocks Old Course Hotel views for the Ian Woosnam demographic. The nose currently sports two “nostril” bunkers in such a way that they are blind to the player in the fairway playing to the green. The architect feels this kind of deception has passed the game by and could be offensive to St. Andrews guests from around the world. In place of the Principal’s Nose, we would shave and re-shape this acute formation into something more closely resembling Kate Middleton's nose.

- Rocca-proof the Valley of Sin, 18th hole. As with the pesky swale we plan to fill-in on the 7th fairway, this acute dip formation would drain better with a catch basin and sump. We would also recommend converting this problematic formation into fescue rough similar to the wonderful rough cultivated on the 17th hole. Such a change to four inch grass would prevent players from putting balls onto the green when in this location, as Constantino Rocca did in such regrettable fashion back when players hit the ball the same distance they do today. The Links Trust might also consider planting a couple of extra spindly gorse bushes in the base of the Sin to hide the catch basin. This would also provide a long term solution to the non-problem of players not hitting the ball any longer than they did ten years ago, just as the R&A’s research does not confirm.