I Was Wrong About One Old Course Change...

In Adam Lawrence's tour with R&A Chief Executive Architect Peter Dawson, there was commentary about the addition of greenside bunkers to the second hole. I have felt this was the most egregious defacing of the Old Course because taking a nice spot to play safe threatened to tamper with one of the game's most amazing green complexes.

Lawrence writes:

We began our tour on the second hole, where two pot bunkers have been added at the front right of the green, and two old bunkers, dating from between 1905-1932, and positioned around thirty yards from the green, have been filled in, and the area behind the new bunkers, to the right of the green, has been gently contoured to make recovery shots from that side a little more difficult. “Those areas were completely flat, and we're certain they had been levelled at some point in the past, perhaps for the construction of a tee. The same is true on some of the other holes where we plan to add contour by the side of the greens,” said Dawson.

I felt the addition of these bunkers was merely a ploy to hide a hole location during the Open to induce more pars and bogies. Lawrence explains:

When the pin is placed on the right side of the green – which it has not been in previous Opens, though it is a common position for daily play – the best line of approach will be from the centre left of the fairway, near to Cheape's bunker, he believes. The remarkable set of contours in front of the green mean that a player who drives up the right could still bank his approach off the slopes and into the pin, but the shot will be extremely difficult. Even from the preferred angle, the opening is narrow.

He's right. If you look at the middle photo posted on Golf Digest's Tumblr account (above) and taken by Matthew Harris, you'll see that the bunkers do not eat into the green complex in a way that will bother the modern professional as I'd feared. Furthermore, we know today's players would rather play a pro-am round lefthanded than hit a run-up shot. And since they all hit lofted shots with great precision, even under firm conditions a normal shot will likely leave them a 25-footer coming back to the hole.

However, these new greenside bunkers added by Dawson and longtime associate Martin Hawtree will almost definitely make the hole harder for everyday green-fee paying golfers. The bunkers will reduce the number of opportunities to avoid the huge leftside contours by playing a safe second shot, therefore adding much needed length to the round and even some unexpected misery that previous generations had not had the privilege of experiencing. 

Maybe when all of flying sand from bunker shots builds up after years of hackers flailing away, the hoped-for effect of a tough tournament hole location will be achieved for those precious four days every five years. More important, this change will help add to the struggles of the people who play the course on a daily basis and just maybe--fingers crossed--ensure rounds are even slower.

So I apologize for getting this one wrong!

Here's a view from the grandstand behind the green during 2010 Open practice rounds showing how badly this green needed to be protected from the onslaught of lazy second shots by everyday hackers:

There have been a couple of good threads about the second hole on Golf Club Atlas, here and this one here started by Bob Crosby about the difficulty of this hole in past Opens.