1. The New Ninth – by CHARLES AMBROSE
Tom Simpson has been busy at Woking again.
On cannot help wondering what the late John Low, looking silently down from the heights of Olympus, must think of it all. Woking was called “the St. Andrews of the South.” It had a charm and subtlety all its own, and if the course did fall short of the huge distances required to stretch and test the modern Cottons and Colossi, yet it took “the de’il of a lot of playing.” Not a hazard on it was a yard out of place, and the player had to drive straight and sure, rather than far, if he hoped to return a card at all for the medal.
The stage was set to reward direction and skill, rather than beef and brute force.
Of course, nobody is more fully alive to all this than Mr. Simpson ; nor is anybody better qualified to improve upon old Woking–if improvement was possible. But was it?
On the improver’s side it may be urged that the old 9th and 10th were both of the same sort–both drives and iron shots. In changing the 9th down to a long one-shotter, and the 10th up to a full two-shotter (for the ordinary player, anyhow) he certainly introduces variety. Moreover, the approaches to both holes were quite blind ; players had to turn back again, off the 8th green, to reach the 9th tee, and the tee shot, then, was semi-blind across the quarry.
All these are technical defects, and Mr. Simpson has corrected them ; and now for a short description of the old 9th as it was, and as it now is :–
As already mentioned, the golfer leaving the 8th green had to retrace his steps to a teeing ground which gave him a semi-blind drive across an old quarry ; and if he hit this tee-shot properly, he was left with an iron shot of sorts to a green in a hollow, completely concealed by a ridge.
Now, to cure all this blindness, Mr Simpson has carried the 9th teeing ground forward to a position in front of the 8th green, and has fashioned a new green out of the face of that obstructing ridge, some 200 yards away. The official distance from back-tee to pin (when the hole is cut where the caddie is shown in the sketch) is given as 230 yards.
As for the new green, it is a typical example of Mr. Simpson’s work. In design it is a “double-decker,” and the dotted line showing the run of the putt serves to indicate the steepness of the slope between the upper and lower decks.
Obviously, the big player who essays to lay his tee shot dead at the holeside will have to take fearful risks, whereas the average golfer will be content with finding the lower level in comparative safety, and then he must trust his putting to get his 3.
Altogether, it is difficult to find any fault with the new hole. It is excellent, both in conception and execution ; as so many of Mr. Simpson’s creations are ; and if it lacks the uniqueness which distinguished the old 9th–well, what of that?
“The old order changeth, giving place to new.” Progress will not be arrested. He who sits on the safety valve will surely go up in the air sooner or later, and the longer he sits, the higher he will go in the end.
So no doubt Woking have been wise in their generation. Anyway, the deed is done, and next week we will consider a much more alarming affair : the startling alterations to the 10th hole.
In conclusion, I would ask Mr. Simpson kindly to excuse any inaccuracy in the accompanying illustration. It is not easy to do full justice to a masterpiece in a rough sketch.