Anyone who watched the BBC’s Sunday coverage of the BMW PGA Championship would have been treated to an uncomfortable interview between Ernie Els and the commentary team about the controversial and unpopular course changes the South African has been heavily involved in implementing over the last couple of years.
As the camera went about its business supplying shots of the final group negotiating the re-contoured twelfth, Peter Alliss and Ken Brown went about damning the layout with faint praise and back-handed compliments. Els had completely changed the character of the course; it was a much sterner test of golf; and (my favourite) if you arrived at Wentworth completely unfamiliar with the course’s history and character, you’d be thrilled with the layout you were presented with. Els, for his part, grumbled something about drainage issues and fairness, then left commentary booth.
As distasteful as most of its elements are, the gruesome centrepiece of the ‘new’ course is the eighteenth. The green has been raised and juxtaposed with an incongruous artificial water hazard. Not only that, but the bank separating the green from the pond has been shaved, leaving a safe landing area less than five yards deep. So penal is the new green that Thomas Levet was forced pitch from one greenside bunker to another on Sunday afternoon as a means of leaving himself with a realistic opportunity of avoiding the water.
Paul Casey seemed to capture the mood perfectly:
“I used to really enjoy playing this golf course, but now it’s a grind.”
Has there been a more offensive re-design of a classic venue?