Monday, 27 December 2010

#9 Old Tom Morris

Best Course: Royal County Down

Other notable work: Muirfield, Lahinch, Royal Dornock, Prestwick (12), Carnoustie, Crail, St. Andrew’s (New), Cruden Bay

Notable Renovations: Machrahanish, Nairn, St. Andrew’s

Overview: The earliest architects laid out their courses right out in the middle of the field and often in a single day. They had no mapping or aerial photos to go by, the simply walked and looked for natural green sites. They plotted back and forth between the green sites until they had a rudimentary routing. They then provided some site direction to how to claim the course from the terrain. They had no ability to alter the natural terrain, so they concentrated on the best green sites and found the best holes that the land would yield. They were very much at the mercy of the men who followed and brought there courses to fruition.

Royal Dornock's 14th

Since there were few architects, they often were brought back to make modifications to improve holes and benefited on the ability to slowly evolve the course. They began to widen fairways, build new greens, add new bunkers and even add new tee areas in order to accommodate the increase in play and the improvement in the abilities of players. They started to add features to the courses that influenced the way holes were played which offered inspiration to the future architects.

Old Tom Morris had apprenticed under Allan Robertson at St. Andrew’s until a disagreement about the gutty caused a rift and Morris left for Prestwick to become head green keeper and head professional. He eventually returned to St. Andrews when Robertson retired to fulfill the same duties until his retirement in 1904. During this time he won the British Open four times, was an architect, and developed both courses through his extensive applications of topdressing sand that vastly improved the putting surfaces.

Praise for the work: The routing he did at Muirfield changed golf course design. It did not go out and back but instead returned to the clubhouse after each nine. The front nine turns clockwise and the back nine runs counter clockwise. As the holes turn the wind is encountered on each side on each nine with no more than three holes in a row are in the same direction. Royal County Down features a similar routing.

The routing for Muirflied

There is no getting around the quality of many of his green sites. He certainly had an eye for the most natural locations, particularly nestled between dunes. He also saw the advantage of plateaus and created some wonderful elevated green sites that were on the tops of dunes rather than in between. He produced most of the great early layouts and was certainly studied by many of the best architects yet to come.

Criticisms: For all the great ones, there are also some courses that were incredibly bad. The original layout at Royal North Devon had an excessive amount of holes that crossed over each other. There are so many blind shots at certain course that you are left to question his routing skills.

The major question comes from what can really be credited to Old Tom Morris. Most of the great courses that he is given credit for have undergone extensive renovations before becoming the inspiration they are today.

Great Quotes:For true success, it matters what our goals are. And it matters how we go about attaining them. The means are as important as the ends. How we get there is as important as where we go.”

The 3rd at Royal County Down

Favourite Course: Royal County DownThe front nine is my favourite in all of golf. Many point out the number of blind shots, yet each one does not feel blind to me, and when you get over the dune the natural hole that lies out before you is worth the blind tee shot. Every hole ends in another intriguing and interesting green site well worthy of the adventure in trying to get there. Every tee shot is different and each green site presents its own unique challenge of how to best find the green surface. There are more options at County Down than you may first think and often the ideal shot is not the most obvious. After each hole you immediately say I wonder if that would be a better way to play the hole – and isn’t that after all the mark of a great course. And on top of all that Royal County Down is the most beautiful place I have ever played golf.

What I take from him: The selection of natural green sites is the foundation for a great routing.

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