R&A's Chief Says His Organization Initiated Controversial Old Course Tampering

Check out Alistair Tait's interview with R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson and consider the big picture here: one of the two governing bodies, who treasure their role in making the rules of the game to protect the sport from changing in a negative way, is playing architect to mask incredible changes that occurred under their watch.

Sadly, Dawson resorts to all-out falsehoods and gets no pushback from Tait when the R&A Chief characterizes the Old Course social media fire storm by claiming that the outraged masses suggest the course has never changed. He couldn't point to anything of the sort because it's not out there.

I also find it incredibly peculiar that he would go to Golfweek for such an exclusive instead of a UK-based publication.

Anyway, let the spinning begin…

"I know there are lots of people who think the Old Course has never been touched, should never be touched, that it’s a shrine,” Dawson said. “The history of that is simply not factual.

Actually, it's not factual to say that and if he had read any of the criticism he'd know that. 

But just to give you an explanation in case you're reading this Mr. Dawson: the opponents to changing the most treasured, iconic and important design on the planet have been quite clear about understanding its evolution. The outrage stems from watching a governing body, clearly scared of a low score calling attention to their incompetence, figuring out ways to massage a few more pars and bogies out of the field when the Open returns in 2015 and chipping away at ground features that were thought to be untouchable by every generation. Except this one.

Anyway, here's the unfortunate inconsistency:

Dawson said the changes came about after the R&A’s championship committee suggested alterations in advance of the 2015 Open Championship. “The Championship Committee of the R&A went to the Links Trust with some suggestions. The Links Trust and the Links Management Committee agreed to some of them and not others. We agreed on the appointment of an architect (Martin Hawtree) to look at the suggestions in more detail.”

So the R&A Championship Committee came up with the design ideas, some of which were rejected, and Hawtree was there to rubber stamp them as he has been at other Open rota courses. 

Unfortunately the original press release gave a different sequence of events:

Renowned golf course architect Martin Hawtree was commissioned by St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the Old Course and the other six courses at the Home of Golf, and The R&A Championship Committee, which organises golf’s oldest major championship, to assess potential changes which would enhance the challenge for elite players without unduly affecting club and visiting golfers while remaining true to the special character of the Old Course.

Martin Hawtree’s recommendations have now been agreed by the St Andrews Links Trustees and Links Management Committee and The R&A Championship Committee.

The R&A Championship Committee agreed to the recommendations...they themselves initially made!

Dawson goes on to talk about the "information exercise" with the local clubs, which sounded just as meaningless as that euphemism sounds. After that, Dawson elaborates on about all of the changes, though cleverly leaves out any discussion of things like the fourth hole work that involves shaving down undulations that have been around since the days when the land was covered by the sea.

Even more tragically, at a time the USGA is beginning to lay the ground work for reducing the footprint of courses, to find ways to make the game more fun and faster and less maintenance, the R&A is busy doing the opposite and using the world's most iconic design as a plaything for amateur architects. Hopefully they at least pick up the bill for the work and Hawtree's, uh, consultation.

Meanwhile, Dave Woodford has posted some of his photos taken Sunday of the work in progress.

The Old Course petition continues to add names.

And nice to see the SI/golf.com Confidential participants join the outcry.