A LEADING golf course architect is to petition the R&A in protest over proposed changes to the Old Course at St Andrews ahead of the 2015 Open Championship.
American Tom Doak, who said he was “horrified” to hear about the work planned for the historic venue over the next two winters, has written to four golf course and greenkeeping bodies around the world asking for them to support his bid to overturn the changes.
He described the Old Course as “an international treasure that should be guarded” and is disappointed that the R&A, having already played its part in stretching the course as much as possible in terms of adding new tees, has now turned its attention to bunkering and contours.
“I was horrified to read of the changes proposed to the Old Course at St Andrews,” said Doak in a letter he has sent to the presidents of the Australian, American and European societies of golf course architects as well as the Scottish regional administrator of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
“No longer content just to add back tees for championship play, the club (R&A) and its consulting architect, Martin Hawtree, have planned to move bunkers, add contouring around the greens, and soften slopes in other places prior to the next Open Championship. I have felt for many years that the Old Course was sacred ground to golf architects, as it was to Old Tom Morris and C. B. Macdonald and Harry Colt and Alister MacKenzie before us.
“It has been untouched architecturally since 1920, and I believe that it should remain so. I understood this to be the feeling of many other architects who attended the World Forum on Golf Architecture in St Andrews, three years ago. 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 that 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.”
Doak, who designed the course at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian as well as several other courses around the world, added: “I propose to make a petition to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club expressing that, as a golf course architect, I feel that the Old Course is sacred ground and that architectural changes should not be made to it unless necessary for the maintenance and health of the course.”