Can The Old Course Stand The Test Of Time?

In this article, Neil Tappin asks can the Old Course stand the test of time?

can the Old Course stand the test of time?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 150th Open Championship will go down as a classic. A leaderboard ebbing and flowing with the world’s best names and a firm fast course balancing the requirement for skill and luck in equal measure. To think that 149 years after St Andrews hosted its first Open, the Old Lady is still putting the world’s best through their paces. 

And yet, with the winning score at -20 (the tied lowest ever in Major history), questions will be asked about the severity of the test. In benign final round conditions there were four drive-able par 4s and two reachable par 5s. Even average-length players were able to capitalise on these opportunities and as such, only four of the top 21 failed to break 70 on Sunday (McIlroy, Hovland, Scott and Kim). Cameron Smith played the final 9-holes in just 30 shots.

Of course, there’s some important context here. St Andrews was unusually brown this year, baked by the summer sun it played as firm and fast as many of us have ever seen. What’s more, the wind we all hope for at the Open, never really showed up. Even with the pins tucked away, these factors, which are out of anyone’s control, combined to take the edge off the Old Course. 

The first question to answer is, does it matter? There’s no doubt that with all the leading protagonists making birdies, it added to the excitement. What’s more, watching these players drive par 4s that most of us mere mortals would get nowhere near, is hugely impressive. Had it been 10-shots harder, would it have been a better spectacle? Maybe, maybe not. 

And yet, once the dust settles on the 150th Open Championship, those at the helm will be left to ponder how the Home Of Golf stood up to the class of 2022. In particular, did it require the usual blend of artistry, power, technique, strategy and mental strength required to win the biggest tournament in the game? The answer to this isn’t straight forward. 

With so many penal bunkers to navigate and bone hard conditions that gave those traps a magnetic quality, there was danger on every hole. What’s more, the perched pin placements required a deft touch to get the ball close. There’s no doubt Cameron Smith was a worthy winner and the strength of the leaderboard was a testament to the quality of the layout.

And yet, those with a critical eye will point to the high number of driver-wedge holes and ask whether this year’s Open required every player to hit every club in the bag. Quite simply, did the players show us the full extent of their skills?

These are the questions those within the R&A will need to consider. As golf moves on from here and players become even more highly tuned, what can we expect from the next St Andrews Open and the one after that? Ensuring the oldest of golf courses retains its relevance is something the R&A has had a masterful touch for over the years. Without altering what makes it unique, they have preserved the challenge, updating it quietly to reflect how the game at the highest level has moved on. Change, as they say, is inevitable but perhaps that’s what’s needed for things to stay the same.

Neil Tappin
Neil Tappin

In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."

Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSi2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X