Martin Dempster: Sacrilege to do nips and tucks on Old Course

The Old Course at St Andrews
The Old Course at St Andrews
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THEY may have kicked up a storm by building a new tee at the Road Hole but, three years on from that announcement, it is going to prove mild in comparison to what’s brewing over what the R&A and Links Trust are planning to do now on the Old Course at St Andrews.

Over the next two winters, work is planned on nine holes in what is reckoned to be the first genuine man-made changes to the historic layout. The last recorded alteration of a bunker location on the Old Course dates back to 1949.

In the eyes of many, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson and Euan Loudon, his counterpart on the St Andrews Links Trust, are trying to play the roles of golfing gods by “conspiring to tinker with” the sport’s “most sacred grounds”.

They have caused an outcry in some quarters by daring to tamper with turf that holds a special place in the hearts of golfing enthusiasts the world over.

In my humble opinion, the Old Course is the one place that should be left untouched by any golf course architect’s knife.

It is unique and, despite many attempts, can never be replicated anywhere in the world. It is quite possibly the worst spectating course on the planet, yet the R&A and Links Trust are powerless to do anything about that.

So what gives them the right now to make the decision to do nip and tucks here, there and everywhere around the course?

If it is because they are scared that a 59 is in the offing in the not-too-distant future, that is a mistake. Yes, there are occasions when the modern-day players can make the Old Course look ridiculously easy, but that is the same for every course, surely.

It can still show its teeth, though, and the likes of Old Tom Morris will be turning in his grave once the diggers move in to start the planned changes.