The R&A leaves no stone unturned in its quest to set a stern test every July. Tour driving distances have increased by 10% since 1994, so extra yardage was one factor in the Ailsa upgrade. “We always ask if it’s good for each hole rather than just to get overall yardage up,” Ebert explains. “On holes like the 3rd, extra length has helped preserve the character – it keeps shots played into that green to a respectable length.”
But the greater desire is to “put more question-marks in players’ minds on the tee” as Ebert puts it. New bunkers play a major role, not necessarily to take the driver out of the game, but rather to ensure players can’t just reach for it without thinking. But where do you position them? “Our philosophy is that bunkers should be set for still or downwind conditions,” Ebert says. “Into the wind the hole’s going to be tough enough anyway.”
It’s also vital that when The Open leaves town, the course remains playable. If the march of progress means tinkering with the classics is now unavoidable, that’s no excuse for cavalier abandon. “It’s a great responsibility,” Ebert concedes. “But if the great architects were still around, we like to think they’d be making similar decisions.”
“Messing about with Turnberry was quite nerve-wracking,” Ebert admits. “When we started digging for the new crater on 16, some people thought we’d lost our minds!” They hadn’t.
More Open news: Saltman brothers earn Open Championship places at Turnberry
Equipment review: Scotty Cameron Studio Select Kombi putter review
Amateur news: St Josephs and Castle Court win at The Shire
Competitions: Some great new prizes to be won