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#savetheoldcourse

11/27/2012

We've recently encountered golf architecture's version of Occupy Wall Street: #savetheoldcourse. In case you haven't heard, the St. Andrews Links Trust, the charitable organization that exists to manage the courses and protect the history and spirit of the Home of Golf, recently announced that it was making significant changes to the Old Course. All of this seems to be motivated by making the course better suited (tougher, sloggier, able to accept faster green speeds, etc.) for championship play in preparation for the 2015 Open Championship.

Martin Hawtree, who comes across as Smithers to R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson's Mr. Burns, has earned the Old Course commission. A press release went out just last Friday outlining all of the proposed changes, some of which have already begun. The work includes expanding the Road Hole bunker and altering the slopes leading into the green and softening the undulations on the par 3 11th, perhaps the most replicated but never duplicated one-shotters on the planet.


Changing contours that have been untouched for years (if ever) has a number of people up in arms, including many leading architects in the industry. My BFF Tom Doak wrote a letter to American Society of Golf Course Architects asking them to join him in taking a stand against these changes. You can see a copy of Doak's letter here. Here's hoping that other big names will follow suit and take a stand for something worth fighting for.

There are other grass roots efforts going as well. A change.org petition has been started, and is nearing the 200 signature mark in its first day. Twitter is ablaze with back and forth chatter both adamantly against and frustratingly flaccid on the topic. I started the #savetheoldcourse hashtag a few days ago, and it is slowly gaining steam. Feel free to join the fray.

The timing of this issue is particularly interesting given the USGA/R&A's joint conference-call to ban belly-putters tomorrow. Once again, it seems the powers that be are focusing on the wrong issue. The advancements in equipment and golf ball have rendered a lot of classic courses moot -- either they have to find room for more tee boxes or they get left behind. Why are we carving up the most historic golf course of them all in order to appease the R&A for a tournament held four days every five years? Just because Louis Oostihuizen obliterated the course (and the field) two years ago?

Certainly, the belly putter will get plenty of airtime on GolfChannel's Morning Drive this week. But isn't there a bigger issue here? Desecrating the Old Course proves that nothing is sacred any more. Where do we go from here?

[For a running gallery of construction pics, check out this golfclubatlas.com thread]

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