Friday, November 23, 2012

St Andrews Old Course to see changes?!

A round last week on the St Andrews Old Course marked my 95th round on the ancient links. Over the last two and a half years, I have come to love the course. It has given me an appreciation for golfing history, links golf, and golf course design. 
The R&A has announced that the Old Course will be receiving a makeover before the 2015 Open Championship. Martin Hawtree has designed the changes, which will take place over the next two winters.
The work will take place in two phases. The first phase involves work on the 2nd, 7th, 11th and 17th holes. The second phase will deal with the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th and 15th holes. A list of the changes to the course has been published. It includes adding bunkers to landing areas, enlarging bunkers, and increasing undulations, in addition to adding yardage in areas. None of the changes look particularly inspiring... 
I will be very interested in seeing what the changes will include. The Old course is timeless. It is deviously simple, yet endlessly complicated. Depending on the wind, it can play as nearly 10 different golf courses.

The R&A have undoubtedly decided to change the course to keep up with new technology and modern changes to the game. After all, the Old Course has had a considerably lower scoring average than other Open rota courses in the last 30 years... This idea goes back to a previous blog post, "Where does it end?" The course has been lengthened in the past, but angles were never changed. Where can they squeeze in extra yards? 
It took great number of rounds to see the hidden beauty the Old Course has to offer. It is incredibly natural in an un-reproducible way. Areas of the course make no sense... 12 massive double greens? The routing nightmare of “the loop” with holes 7 and 11 playing across one another? A modern course would never get away with it, which is one reason the Old Course is so unique.  
The changes, as mentioned before, do not look inspiring. That being said, Martin Hawtree has proven his design and course updating skills at many incredible courses. Additionally, the changes have been approved by the St Andrews Links Trustees, Links Management Committee, and The R&A Championship Committee. Due to this, we can all rest slightly easier knowing that no damage or negative changes will happen to the classic course, but one still has to wonder what they will do? What is left to be done to the most famous course in the World, the "Home of Golf?" 

I will post pictures of the changes as they happen this winter. 

Here is a link to the official R&A announcement:

UPDATE: Here are some photos taken of the work projects as of this morning (November 28, 2012) (Apologies for the iPhone mid-round quality)

Area right of the 2nd green to be re-shaped and bunkers moved
Large depression in 7th fairway flattened and filled
Back left area on 11 green flattened for more pin position options
11th green
This is the only change I saw out there that has worried me. Shifting bunkers and re-contouring areas is nothing new, but re-shaping the 11th green seems extreme.
Road hole bunker rebuilt, and surrounding area re-countoured
Road hole bunker

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Taylormade Ghost Manta Putter / SAM Fitting System Review

This club review was written by my good friend Andrew Rehfeld, who has a frightening amount of knowledge about golf equipment. This post is just as much about the SAM putting lab and custom fitting process as it is about Taylormade putters. Thank you to Andrew and everyone who reads to blog! - Graylyn           

 If there is any club in my bag that is constantly changing, it is my putter. I have gone through at least two-dozen putters in the last eight years. With the most recent purchase, I was ready to hand over as much money as necessary to gain more confidence.
            Last summer I had an entire bag fitting done by The Club Fix in Irvine, California. The whole process was very expensive. The company charges for the fitting itself, charge extra for the custom building, and all this on top of the price of the clubs.
            When it came to fitting and buying a new putter, I had to come to terms with spending a large sum on a single club. The list price for the Taylormade Manta is $199. The build put the price at $299 with an additional $100 for fitting and tax. Over $400 for a Taylormade putter! Anyway, I went into the shop last week with a completely clear mind and zero preconceptions as to what I was looking for. Admittedly, a Taylormade putter, especially a belly putter, was the last thing on my mind. The fitting system they use is called the SAM putting lab. Basically, it involves lasers and computer analysis that digitally read and map the putting stroke. The process automatically selects the putter type and specs that work best with your stroke and build.
            I used my own putter on the initial evaluation and made three out of seven putts from about ten feet. My fitter recommended the belly putter and adjusted the one in the shop to 41.5". I then made all seven putts in a row and the rest is history. I had not even become adjusted to using this putter, but I did not need to: it was fitted to my natural stroke. I highly recommend spending the fortune it costs to finally get it done right.
            Upon receiving the putter, I was surprised by how high quality the construction seemed. I have had a few Taylormade putters in the past and they all looked cheap and the paint flaked off easily, etc. Though not quite the craftsmanship of a Scotty Cameron, this putter looks great. My putter was set up at 41.5" with 7* of loft and a lie angle of 73*; this is obviously something you could not get off of the shelf. The SAM lab laser measures the loft and then dials in the swingweight according to the new length.
             I have never been a huge fan of soft inserts, but the soft insert on this putter feels great. Instead of the cheap rubber feel you will get from average priced putters, the Manta feels incredibly solid and responsive. The Manta is also very easy to align. The two lines on the top help you point the putter directly on line with ease. I am not sure that the white finish is anything more than a gimmick, but I do think it looks pretty cool. Overall, the Manta is surprisingly well crafted.
            Despite my satisfaction with the belly style, I would not recommend it to anyone. I would recommend getting a proper fitting from someone who uses the SAM putt lab and getting the putter that works best for your stroke. Do not waste your time getting fit at a big box store from someone that received a little bit of training and is a 20 handicap. The Club Fix is another level of fitting, and I would recommend something similar. Do not be afraid of what is put in your hands, and if you end up with one the SAM putt lab custom fit putters, you know that you are receiving something built custom for your specific stroke.