Doughtie Sr. on Golf (October 2013)

It surely didn't escape anyone's notice,that even at the end of September, St Andrews,Carnoustie and Kingsbarns can enjoy wonderful Autumn weather with calm,dry and sunny conditions,contrary to popular belief ,for competitors, in the recent Dunhill Cup.
 
Created by God and designed by ancient golfers(except Kingsbarns which,in it's present form opened for play in 2000,although golf has been played on this site since 1793)these courses were a bit shorter than today .But, over 100 years ago, golfers hit hand-sewn leather balls ,stuffed with goose feathers,with clubs of forged iron,with no grooves which had hickory-wooden shafts.This form of enjoyment was played over these rough and ready courses.
 
The golfers of that era hit their brassies( 2 wood) and mashies(5 iron)  and niblicks(7/8 iron)to unprepared greens over unmanicured fairways and tried to avoid the various hazards especially the cavernous, unraked bunkers.They also had to (and still do in some remote courses in Scotland)avoid the grazing sheep ,which acted as grass-cutters.
 
Surprisingly, scores of around 72 were being recorded.The course record on the Old Course is no lower than 62 today.However it looked like that record and many more would be broken as some of the games big names made easy work of the first 3 rounds of The Dunhill.On perfect conditions and calm weather,unusual for 3 consecutive days in that part of the world, the highlight was an outstanding round by Peter Uihlein on Kingsbarns,which he  completed with a birdie on his 18th for a 60,just missing the eagle putt for a record 59,which has never been achieved on the European Tour.
 
Most days a stiff breeze offers additional challenges to players,but this years Dunhill participants got the calmest of weather although a "wee breeze"developed on Sunday for the final round on the Old Lady,providing her with a little more defense against the modern player and his expensive arsenal of highly technical weapons....all with the assistance of a yardage book and full-time caddy.
 
Todays tour players  attack the courses with a plethora of high-quality equipment, produced with a cocktail of rare-metals more suited to computer and aeroplane technology.They then proceed to hit a specially constructed ball of a particular  compression ,which has been moulded to their own specifications ,over vast distances, taking most of the old hazards and bunkers out of play.
 
Modern courses are better able to present a sterner challenge,while the older links courses can only lengthen some of their holes due to restricted space.The Road Hole,17th at St Andrews has been extended about 40 yards by placing the Championship tee -box on the practice ground......and they are still able to launch their tee shots "miles over the sheds and hotel"leaving a "simple shot to the green".
 
For 50 weeks of the year,golfers like us trudge these fairways and have to deal with the problems of hidden bunkers etc as we find them,without that architects need to be called in to tinker with the layout.I am not alone in having concerns that new bunkers would be introduced to worry the top players.Could this lead to a lake,with a fountain in front of the 18th green,replacing the Valley of Sin or a massive bunker in front of the Swilken burn, at the 1st..???????
 
The R and A and USGA normally set up their Championships on tougher courses by narrowing the fairways and allowing the rough  to grow to "jungle conditions".They also place the pins in nasty spots(this was not the case during the first 3 days at the Dunhill,due to the presence of amateurs in the Pro-Am format)Scores at these events normally reflect the difficulty of the course.The older,traditional locations used for The Open are not so suitable to be set-up differently and in calm conditions the tournament can become a pitch-and-putt contest.
 
The scores at this year's Dunhill where David Howell(-23) beat Peter Uihlein in a play-off were some of the lowest ever on the European Tour,including Carnoustie which is notorious for high scores.In fact 142 of the 168 players in the event,equalled or bettered par,with 50 at -10 or lower.The cut was at -8 and was achieved by 68 competitors(although the cut was after 3 rounds and not 2 as is normally the case.The previous record low cut was -6 at Canarias Open in 2003)......Even some of the celebrities in the Pro-Am were able to score low.
 
If we want to see the Worlds top, challenged more ,to match their skills against the courses that we play,albeit from back-tees,then perhaps the ruling bodies should consider standard equipment for the Tour Players.Clubs and balls, of a standard type,could be introduced to reduce the distance the ball travels,so that some of the old hazards and bunkers could again come into play.Or does the paying-public prefer a feast of eagle putts,birdies and monstrous drives.It offers an interesting debate topic on your next visit to the 19th hole.......
 
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