New plans for iconic St Andrews Old Course

ST ANDREWS;'SWILKEN BRIDGE, with clubhouse in background'photo; WALTER NEILSON
ST ANDREWS;'SWILKEN BRIDGE, with clubhouse in background'photo; WALTER NEILSON

THE golfing world is holding its breath following the news that St Andrews Links Trust is planning a number of changes to the famous Old Course ahead of the return of the Open Championship in 2015.

Given the stature of the St Andrews course and its worldwide reputation, there has been much debate since the changes were announced - with some golfers claiming it is too iconic to be altered radically.

However, local golf historian David Joy, who is still considering the new changes announced this week, told the Citizen that the Old Course has changed and evolved many times over the years.

He added: “Tom Morris took some real flack in his day for some of the huge changes he made, none more so that changing it from a nine hole course to 18 - there is no bigger change you can make.

“That was in response to the technology available at the time which changed how balls were made and allowed far more people to start playing the game.

“Changes have always been made to the Old Course but I wouldn’t like to say anything to these latest plans until I go round and look at what they have come up with.”

Golf course architect Martin Hawtree was commissioned by the Links Trust and The R&A Championship Committee, who were keen to maintain the challenging nature of the course for the top professionals as well as the many thousands who flock to play their each year.

The recommendations have now been agreed by the two groups and the work is scheduled to take place in two phases over the next two winters.

The most eye-catching of the changes will be to the Road Bunker which is to be widened by half a metre at the right hand side.

The first of the changes will take place this winter at the second, seventh, 11th and 17th holes.

Second phase will take place during the following winter with work carried out on the third, fourth, sixth, ninth and 15th holes.

Euan Loudon, chief executive of the Links Trust, said: “The Old Course is renowned as one of the great Open venues and its continued prominence on the roster is crucially important to the economy and reputation of St Andrews.

“The Old Course has evolved over time and the Links Trust is delighted to be working with the Championship Committee in order to maintain the challenge of the course for elite tournament players and the thousands of golfers who play here each year.”

A new bunker will be created on the right of the third fairway and another on the left of the ninth, 20 yards from the green.

Bunkers will be repositioned closer to the right edge of the second and the right of the fourth greens while a portion of the back left of the 11th green will be lowered to create more hole location options.

Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, said: “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 from Martin Hawtree should place more of a premium on accuracy and ball control while retaining the spirit and character of the Old Course.”