One of the changes is minor, widening the Road Hole bunkers at 17th by afoot and a half (50cm)... nothing new there, this hazard has been tweaked nearly every 10 years and considering that the sod wall are rebuilt once every 5 or 6 years... odds are the official shape of the bunker changes ever so slightly each time.
But the debate rages on the other things to the course: changing the severe tilt on the 11th hole (Eden); relocating bunkers at no 2, recontouring some flatter part on the 2nd green and also; adding a bunker at 9; changing the contours in front of the 17th green which are probably THE most celebrated contour in golf.
The debate is now on, should the Old Course remained untouch... Well yes and no.
To pretend that the contours, the bunkering etc is completely natural is definitely wrong... Those amazing contours are the fruit of more than 500 years of steady play and at least 150 years of maintenance. As I spent time on the course in 2006, I was thinking (along with my firend Kyle Franz) that the first time they put a mower on the Old Course must have been a hell of a fun. The sharp slope must have been scalped more than a few times to generate over the years those steep yet smooth slopes on the fairways and greens.
The great contours of the 2nd green
Old Tom Morris started to build sod walls to prevent the sand of the natural and animal erosion from blowing all over the place. So he probably shrunk some bunkers along the process.
Hey, they also switch the direction on which the hole are played... so the Old Course is an evolution. So why worry about those changes ?
Well, mainly because they are deliberate, they are led by the pretention of making the course harder for championship play. The course is fine except for once every 5 years ??? If there's no wind, the Old Course is defenseless, and that's partly true... and sadly the wind was down at the 2000 and 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews. The Old Course doesn't need any fixing.... some 7500 yards modern courses with bunkers, lakes and narrow fairways (the ugly and terrible ones I love) are demolished by todays best players.
The key issue here is that once you've opened the door, it could lead people to believe that "well intented people" could keep tweaking with the Old Course.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
All I hope for is 4 days of 25 mph wind at the next Open...