Man On The (St. Andrews) Street: It Had To Be Done!

Alan Bastable talks to the man on the street in St. Andrews (by phone) and two themes emerge:

(A) few people knew changes to the most revered public course on the planet were about to be made and...

(B) too many people of St. Andrews live in a bubble free of actual information or apparent awareness of what they have.

First, the lack of transparency issue, talking to local golf shop manager Andrew Donaldson:

"A lot of people like me didn't really hear about it until the last minute," he said. "You see, the golf courses here are all public, so they're owned by the public, basically. They're counsel courses, so there should be a public consultation before anything major happens — that's how most people would feel. And there really hasn't been. It seems they just bypassed the public, who have the right to walk on the course, whether they play golf or not."

An innkeeper in town who has been playing the Old Course for 30 years, but who asked to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting his friends and associates, corroborated Donaldson's account. "There was no public consultation at all," he said. "They just did it. But that's life and you get on with it." (Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, told the BBC this week that the alterations were, in fact, roundly embraced by the townspeople.)

By the way, the R&A still has not released the Photoshopped images that were put out on the Old Course grounds showing the proposed changes.

This next part is where you start to worry about what the townspeople genuinely understand the sacred ground they've inherited.

Same anonymous shopkeeper:

"If you want to talk about tradition, there was not one single piece of gorse on the Old Course going back 30 years, yet there's gorse there now," he said. "And now they're complaining about the gorse going away."

Anyone see complaints about gorse going away? Actually most of those upset about the changes would hail that move! But it'll never happen for the same reason we are in the mess we're in: some people don't like low scores and will go to amazing lengths to prevent them.

And there was this from Emily Griffiths, captain of the ladies golf team at the University of St. Andrews:

"Typically the R&A are criticized for being stuck in their ways," says Griffiths, who is also president of the St. Andrews Athletic Union, "and now they're doing something which is moving with the times and they're getting complaints the other way."

Uh, that's because (A) the only people who see the times as having passed the Old Course are those charged with protecting the game and (B) not to be repetitive, but no one was crying out for this upgrade. No one! Nada! Zilch! Which brings us to Niall Scott, a St. Andrews University employee:

"A lot of the golfing press was full of articles about the fact that the Old Lady had become too easy," Scott said. "They were honestly asking the question, Was it appropriate to play the Open at the Old Course anymore? The Links Trust, I think, responded very thoughtfully to that."

If anyone has a link to the golfing press calling the Old Course outdated and inappropriate for The Open, I'd love to read the stories!