SEEDS of doubt are par for the course in this mind-mangling game. For us crude amateurs, for instance, that crippling, potentially calamitous indecision tends to happen on a regular basis at the top of the back swing. A par-3 opening hole, therefore, can easily whip up a jittery bout of hesitancy over club selection as opposed to the fairly decisive, straightforward approach of merrily battering away with the driver.
This will be the dilemma faced by the good ladies on the global stage when they tee-up at Kingsbarns in the RICOH Women’s British Open later this season. The delightful links will be re-routed for the major showpiece with the course starting on the par-3 second while its 18th hole will be the existing first.
“It reminds you a wee bit of Royal Lytham, as there are not many championship courses which start with a par-3 so it’ll be really interesting,” said the Kingsbarns director of golf, Alan Hogg, as he prepares to welcome the world’s best on the female front.
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As one of the great trinity of courses which stages the annual Dunhill Links Championship, Kingsbarns is well used to hosting some of the game’s big hitters but the step up to major status is a significant shift. Those involved will remain true to the Kingsbarns come all ye mantra, though.
“In all honesty we’ve never said that we’re a championship course or we’re the hardest of courses, that’s not been the Kingsbarns way,” added Hogg of a course which will play to around 6,700 yards during the Women’s Open. “From day one, it’s been about the public so we’re fortunate and privileged the tours like to come here and play professional events. But we do nothing to the course for the Dunhill. There’s no narrowing of the fairway and it will be exactly the same for the Women’s Open.”
The very nature of the links game means the strength of the defences is dictated by the strength of the wind and Kingsbarns has certainly be traumatised by the heavy artillery of those on the men’s European Tour in the Dunhill Links when conditions have been benign. In 2012, for instance, the South African, Branden Grace, thundered his way round in a 12-under 60.
“We were the first ones to be cheering them on because if you are to go low then why not have a 59?,” added Hogg. “When the women come to town, and depending on how the wind is in August, the course can be stretched and the pins positioned as tough or as straightforward as the tour feel fits.”
One of those players rolling into town will be the English youngster Charley Hull. When it comes to the technicalities of golf, Hull tends to adopt a sense of nonchalance. That aforementioned par-3 opener probably won’t even register. “I don’t really think about it too much,” she said. “I just play golf courses. I feel if I hit it straight I’ll be fine.”
Hull, 21, admits that the links game is not her ideal golf of choice but she does adopt a technique to stop her mind from wandering. “I’ve never been the biggest fan of links courses and they are so wide sometimes and I struggle to concentrate,” said Hull, whose major preference remains the California-based ANA Inspiration. “At Birkdale (in a previous Open) I imagined there were trees in the middle of the fairway and that helped me focus. I play so many courses now and you just get used to it.”
Hull, who earned a breakthrough triumph on the LPGA Tour in the US last year when she won the lucrative season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, continues to nurse a fractured bone in her wrist.
“It originally happened on the driving range in Florida when I was 15 years-old,” recalled Hull. “I felt it immediately, but I played through it. I didn’t realise it was even fractured.”
It seems there’s a lot to be said for Hull’s approach of not thinking about things too much.