2015 Open Championship

Added on August 24th, 2015 by
Posted in General, Greenkeeping, The ball, TV Coverage

FineGolf’s 2015 Open Championship Anecdotes

 

 

What went wrong with the Open Championship at St Andrews and what are the answers?

Apart from those of us able to attend the clashing Test Match at Lord’s on the Sunday who could then watch the TV coverage of part of the final round on the Monday, it was obviously to nobody’s benefit for play to be suspended because of 40mph winds on the Saturday.

The other courses in the area were open and being played. As Lee Westwood was quoted “I wouldn’t say this is a particular strong wind for a links course”.

It is clear from the scores at the Open Championship that the Old Course needs a wind for its defence against the best players when hitting a modern ball.

the open championship,

An interesting scoreboard

On the Saturday The R&A wanted play to commence so why did they give in? Mr Koepka’s two partners were both able to putt out on the 11th but he refused. It might be worth remembering that Frank Pennink at the top of his golfing abilities, lost four penalty strokes after grounding his club and the ball moving at Royal St George’s in the 1938 Open Championship. Those in charge did not allow him to refuse. If he had thought about it, he would have been escorted to the exit!

Dustin Johnston’s ball was seen being blown off the green. What was not mentioned was that he used a wedge from some yards out, the wind knocked down his lofted chip and left it perched on a ridge. If he had played a bump and run with say an 8-iron (a shot that is outside the vocabulary of the vast number of pros who play on soft target courses for most of their lives and consequently encourage most inland golfers to follow their suit) his ball would have mounted the crest under the wind and travelled down into the gully near the pin without the wind disturbing it. His lack of experience of playing ‘Running-Golf’ was his problem, not the strong wind making it “impossible”. Nevertheless the TV repeatedly showed this clip with Stein running to mark his ball. This was seemingly to emphasise the impossibility of playing in a wind of decent strength that requires creative and imaginative low-hit shots rather than the predictable, mechanistic high ones designed for ‘Target-Golf’ circumstances.

seascale golf club,One of the most enjoyable games I have ever had was a two-ball foursomes across the Seascale links on the same day that the Dunhill links championship was called off, on Oct 3rd 2009 when the wind was gusting to 60mph. These James Braid green complexes were designed with protection from the Cumbrian wind in mind and Ron Brown had been overseeding with fescues for twenty years, so Seascale’s true running greens were cut at no less that 5mm and remained playable so long as we were very careful. The creativity required in our shot making to cope with and use the wind was imaginative and fun!

This raises two questions:

1)     Should the pampered pros who do not know how to play in the wind be allowed to dictate when the game is deemed playable?

2)     Were the old course greens set-up too fast?

The St Andrews Old course greens, which endure a high yearly traffic, are a mixture of weed and fine grasses.

The weed grasses need to be shaved low (ideally around 2mm – though, this of course stresses the grass and requires inputs of fertiliser, pesticides and water to recover the grass and defend against encouraged disease) to give a smooth and fashionably fast enough roll but when mown at 5mm become unreliable and slow for what are reasonably flat greens.

Fine grasses are best cut around 5mm and will give the smoothest and truest roll and when dry can become speedy.

Fine Grasses cut at 5mm will hold the ball better from moving in the wind if the pins are placed in protected areas of the green while balls on weed grasses, if shaved at 2mm, will be moved more easily by the wind.

It is reported the Old course greens were single-cut at 4mm each morning and ran at ten foot, three inches.

askernish golf club, old tom morris,

Askernish 16th green -Old Tom’s pulpit.

As a comparison when talking about height of cut, let me mention that I have recently this August played sixty-three holes around Askernish in the Outer Hebrides, where the predominantly fine grassed greens, with many humps and undulations, are routinely cut at 6mm in the summer. This gives what most would consider a slow putt that nevertheless runs smoothly and truly and still requires clever analysis of the line of roll. There is only one greenkeeper (!) here although he has assistance from good equipment sponsored by Jacobsen/Ransomes and he normally can only mow the greens three times a week. As a consequence, there can be some variability on the odd day how the ball rolls but nevertheless Askernish is well able to provide a useful, if extreme, example of how

1) a greenkeeping budget can be kept small and

2) play can continue in strong winds,

if the correct traditional greenkeeping policies are pursued.

I was so impressed by the amazing green complexes and fairway routing, if not perhaps by the severity of the rough, that I was pleased to present to the greenkeeper, Allan Macdonald a FineGolf certificate of a five star ‘Joy-to-be-alive’ rating.

So, returning to the original questions, the suggested answers are:

1)     Increase the amount of fescue/browntop bent fine grasses across the course and cut the greens higher, for a slower, smoother, true roll.

2)     Rein in the power of the ball.

It also poses this question: is the fashion for ultra fast greens emphasising the wrong method of measurement? Should the stimp-meter be banned and the GreensTester introduced to give a trueness or reliability measurement rather than speed?

One further question that The Open Championship raised was should this finest of running golf courses allow a player to bail out onto another fairway? This option was exaggerated by many playing from the new back 17th tee directly left, out to the second fairway? I have the feeling that the greatest golf course designers of the Golden Era would not be happy.

Reader Comments

There are currently no comments.