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New for old: Former champ Lawrie gives nod of approval to Old Course changes

Dave BowersBy Dave Bowers,

Traditionalists won't like it, but changes are to be made at the Old Course, St. Andrews, for the 2005 Open.

Seven new tees -at the second, fourth, ninth, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes -are designed to bring a number of traditional hazards back into play.

And the design changes met with the approval of former Open champion Paul Lawrie.

"To be honest, on a nice day at St. Andrews not many of the bunkers are really in play any more. But I feel it will take very little extra yardage to get them back in again and the R&A is going about (it) the right way.

"It would be wrong to add 400 or 500 yards and change the character of the course, but that's not what this is all about. Perhaps the only hole at the Old Course which will never need changing is the 17th."

Fancy the ultimate luxury?

The development of Peter De Savary's Devon estate (boveycastle.com) is nearing completion with the castle estate now set to open to guests as 'England's ultimate luxury destination' in early spring 2004.

De Savary's sale of the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in Scotland was made earlier this year for a reported £30.5m. His new Devon development -Bovey Castle -is situated within the 368 - square - mile Dartmoor National Park.

Overlooking the River Bovey, the estate has 11 miles of salmon and trout fishing alongside an historic championship golf course, which is seeing £12m - worth of restoration under the direction of golf course and landscape architects Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie.

Five alive

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has introduced five international qualifying competitions for next year's Open Championship at Royal Troon.

The new competitions will take place in South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Britain and America.

The idea behind the scheme is to make it more convenient and less expensive for players from overseas to qualify.

Irish Open at Louth for the first time

County Louth GC, Baltray, one of Ireland's great links courses, will host the Nissan Irish Open for the first time in 2004.

The tournament - the second year of Nissan's sponsorship - will once again take place the week after the Open Championship from July 22 - 25.

Heart ripped out

British golf is in shock after the loss - making Scottish National Golf Centre in Drumoig, The Scottish National Golf Centre at Drumoig, closed in November after just under four years of operation during which it incurred losses of around £1m.

Hopes remain that a buyer will be found for what was once regarded as 'the home and heart of Scottish golf', but, in the meantime, 11 of 13 staff have been made redundant and the operation is being retained on a care and maintenance basis only.

The centre cost £4.5m to build, the money raised mostly by mandatory contributions from almost 200,000 golfers affiliated through their clubs to the Scottish Golf Union.

It has been generally recognised that the state - of - the - art facility rated the best of its kind in Europe, was built in the wrong place, a rural location between Dundee and St. Andrews.

As a result, it attracted insufficient customers. Blair Nimmo, a spokesman for KPMG Corporate Recovery in Scotland, said: "Unfortunately, at this time of year, trading is such that we have had to close the centre as it continues to incur significant losses.

"Despite the present situation, we are still hopeful of achieving a sale that will allow the centre to reopen."

Trio of aces scored in one day

Three players shot holes - in - one on the same day, at the same hole, during a tournament at the Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club, England.

Not surprisingly, the feat is thought to be a record.

A family affair

Christy O'Connor Senior and Junior are literally breaking new ground together.

One of the game's most famous family double - acts has teamed up for the first time to design a golf course, pooling their vast experience for a new €8m layout for Concra Wood Golf & Country Club on the shores of Lough Muckno in Castleblayney, Ireland.

"What we have in mind is something very, very special," says Junior of the new 7,400 - yard layout, which will have eight holes running along by the lake.

Concra Wood Golf & Country Club PLC is an offshoot of Castleblayney Golf Club, which has a nine - hole course in one corner of Lord Blaney's former estate.

The 230 acres for the new course were purchased last December and a licence has now been granted to begin clearing the hilly site, which is bordered on three sides by water. The project should be complete inside two years.

Major club tournament ends at St. Andrews Bay

The largest club pairs golf tournament in the world saw an incredibly tight finish after a 36 - hole grand final at St. Andrews Bay.

With just four Stableford points separating six men's pairs and the mixed pairs result settled on a count back it was a nail - biting wait for those in contention in the International Pairs.

Tens of thousands of golfers have competed in the International Pairs during 2003 and hundreds travelled to Scotland for the finals.

Over seven courses they competed for the right to head for the two - day grand final at St Andrews Bay.

Darren Bradford and Mark Phillips from Kent, England, lifted the coveted men's trophy with a better ball score over two days of 85 points.

Tom Fazio redesigns historic course

Historic Waterville GC is currently undergoing an extensive programme of upgrading and modernisation to enhance its reputation as one of the finest links in the world.

The course is owned by a consortium of Irish Americans who have employed the services of renowned American architect Tom Fazio.

Few, if any, holes will be left untouched by the time the work is finished around April or May of next year. Many of the greens will remain the same but the sixth, seventh and 18th are new.

The sixth has been reduced to a par three and the seventh is a new dogleg par four, all to make way for a new state - of - the - art practice facility.

Waterville was, of course, a favourite spot for the late Payne Stewart. He was posthumously elected honorary captain of the club in 2000, the same year he was to defend his US Open title at Pebble Beach.

Faldo under fire from environmentalists

Nick Faldo has come under fire from nature lovers after he bought an island off the coast of Ireland.

The former top - ranked player in the world plans to turn Bartragh Island into what he claims could be the 'most unique' golf links course in the world.

But his purchase has outraged environmentalists.

Local heritage officer Ian Lumley said: 'It is one of the few really ecological areas of the country. There is very little evidence of human life there and it is one of the few areas that the birds and wildlife have to themselves.

"It is a shame that such a pristine area will be used when the area is already amply supplied with golf courses."

Bartragh Island consists of 360 acres of duneland nestling in Killala Bay.

It is bordered by the salmon - filled River Moy on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

It was described by Faldo as the 'most magical and extraordinary property' he had seen.

He said: "The golf links I envisage would be essentially hand - crafted, a return to how courses were created long ago.

"It is an incredible site and it would not be a case of building a course, so much as discovering it."

Office development adjacent to Loch Ness

Planning to expand with a UK office? Plans have been unveiled in Inverness, Scotland, for a new £10m golf - themed business park beside the first fairway of Loch Ness golf course.

Fairways Business Park, the brainchild of course owner Mike MacKenzie, will create 5,000 square metres of business space in six office pavilions to be named after a famous Scottish golfer.

Lyle loses card

Former Masters champion Sandy Lyle finally lost his European Tour card when sickness forced him to walk out on the Madrid Open.

The Scot, who had held his card for 25 years, was unlikely to be keeping it anyway because he needed a top - nine finish and a poor start had put that pretty much beyond him.

However, flu - like symptoms saw him give up on the fourth hole of his second round.

Lyle will now have to look for invitations from sponsors next season.

Villagers happy to pay

September saw the opening of the first ever pay - and - play golf course at the Scottish village of Fyvie, near Turriff.

A stream of golfers played through until dusk eager to try out the new nine - hole course with stunning panoramic views.

Sponsor slammed by workers

The World's second - largest bank, HSBC, has been slated for spending £2.5m on the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth while axing 4,000 jobs.

The bank provoked anger by announcing plans to ditch British workers in favour of cheaper labour in India, Malaysia and China.

In the first year of a 10 - year deal for the event, HSBC has put up £2.3m in prizes, with £400,000 for the runner - up.

It also laid on lavish hospitality - around £300 per head - for up to 5,000 people, including company directors, VIPs and wealthy customers.

And it paid for a tented village to be built with eight pavilions - each costing £7,176.

Dave lives on the south coast of England with partner Jackie and their three children. Originally a football writer in his homeland, he even rose to the giddy heights of public relations manager for an English professional Premiership side. But he'd been bitten by the golf bug and returned to his roots in journalism as executive editor for Golf Management Europe magazine and as a sports sub-editor/golf writer on one of the country's largest regional daily papers. Like all of us, he plays golf whenever he can - which isn't as often as he would like - and has even performed stand-up comedy in a top comedy club.

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