Old Course embarks on historic redesign28th November, 2012 by Emma Williams
The Old Course at St Andrews, considered by many to be the ‘home of golf’, is to embark on a major and controversial redesign.
Nine of the course’s 18 holes will be altered this winter and next, with work including new bunkers, repositioning of some existing bunkers and removal of others, and remodelling of greens.
The 11th hole, one of the most iconic par threes in the world, is set to have the back left of its green softened so that pins can be placed there during Open Championships, as its current gradient is deemed to be too high by The R&A.
It is believed that this will be the biggest change to the course in over 100 years.
The work will be completed in time for the venue to host the 2015 Open Championship, and a spokesman said: “The improvements will help maintain the Old Course’s challenge for the world’s top golfers ahead of the return of the Open.”
However, Ian Poulter has expressed his disapproval with the planned changes while some industry professionals have criticised how easy it is to make amendments to the course.
World number 15 golfer, Poulter, said: “Let’s play the 11th just for fun please. Dont mess it up.
“If they make changes to the Old Course, St Andrews they are insane. The course is great. Just leave the winning score up to mother nature.
“Let’s draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa. I’m sure everyone would like that. Same as messing with a great course. They totally screwed up the 17th hole last time. I had to play down the second hole because it was blowing 30 into; not how it was designed. They might as well move the 11th green into RAF Leuchars air base, that’s basically what they did with the tee box at 17 last time.”
Tom Doak, principal of Renaissance Golf Design, is reported by Golf Course Architecture magazine to have said: “I have felt for many years that the Old Course was sacred ground to golf architects, as it was to Old Tom Morris, CB Macdonald, Harry Colt and Alister MacKenzie before us.
“It has been untouched architecturally since 1920, and I believe that it should remain so. I don’t believe it should be impossible to change the Old Course, or any other historic course. But I think it should be a lot harder than it currently is, where only the management of the club and any consulting architect they hire have to agree. I think the default position should be that such an international treasure should be guarded, and that there should be a high burden of proof that changes need to be made, before they can be made.”
Not all course designers completely agree. Architect Scott Macpherson also told Golf Course Architecture: “I’m pretty relaxed about some of the changes to the golf course, but I’m more worried about changing green contours.”
Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, added: “We have considered the challenge presented to the world’s top golfers by each of the Open Championship venues and carried out a programme of improvements over the last ten years. While some holes have been lengthened on the Old Course in recent years it has otherwise remained largely unaltered.
“The championship committee felt there was an opportunity to stiffen its defences in some places to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the professionals. The proposals should place more of a premium on accuracy and ball control while retaining the spirit and character of the Old Course.”