Golf's biggest eyesore could be coming to arguably its most famous course.
How do you feel about safety netting lining no. 17, the "Road Hole", on the Old Course at St. Andrews?
The Herald newspaper in Scotland has reported that a temporary 14-meter long and 4.7-meter high safety net could be put up until at least November to protect customers drinking on the patio of the famed Jigger Inn. Apparently, it's not the first time the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, which owns the Jigger Inn, has tried to get netting installed to protect one of its buildings, but the first request three years ago was denied by the town planning commission.
"The development (of this net) is solely required to provide physical distancing in response to COVID-19 - i.e. the customers seated outside are being directly placed in risk of stray golf balls," Neil Gray, the founder of Gray Planning and Development Limited, which consults with the hotel on planning advice, told the newspaper.
My first reaction was "Oh the horror!" Seeing netting lining the fairways of any course, let alone one the caliber of St. Andrews, is one of my biggest pet peeves. Not only is netting ugly, it also signals that the outside world - typically a building or a house - is intruding onto the course's hallowed playing grounds. Blame the architect or developer or both for this sin.
Unfortunately, it's not just your local muni with netting anymore. Installing netting is often contentious for the course and/or the owner of the property it is meant to protect. In 2016, a judge required Quaker Ridge Golf Club, an exclusive A.W. Tillinghast course in Scarsdale, N.Y., to pay $7,300 to settle a six-year legal dispute over errant balls that a hole redesign, new trees and safety netting couldn't stop from bombarding a homeowner's backyard, according to the Journal News website, lohud.com. The private Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle, N.J., remains in a contentious lawsuit after a 65-foot-high net was erected by a homeowner in 2018 without proper permitting, according to the Asbury Park Press website, APP.com. Pasatiempo Golf Club also uses netting to protect the houses lining the narrow par-5 sixth hole near where Dr. Alister MacKenzie's former home is located.
I will admit that netting around a range is a more forgivable offense. You've got golfers of all handicappers practicing and flailing away. Some of those shots will go anywhere and often do. Unless a course has unlimited acreage, these shots are hard to contain. Many of the courses I play in California's Bay Area - TPC Harding Park, Baylands Golf Links, Santa Teresa, Pasatiempo - have netting surrounding their ranges.
I've never played the Old Course, but I hope when I do, both the netting and COVID-19 are long gone.
What course have you played where safety netting ruins the setting or the experience? Let us know in the comments below.