Great care will be taken with the speed of Royal Troon’s greens ahead of the opening rounds of the AIG Women’s Open, with strong winds expected to blow in across Thursday and Friday.
In a message to players on Monday evening, The R&A revealed it would be targeting speeds of nine and a half feet on the stimpmeter for the next few days.
This is due to the anticipated weather conditions, with particularly severe gusts in excess of 40mph forecast for Friday.
“Obviously those speeds, nine and a half, would be slightly slower than the players would be used to, but it’s easy for us to speed the greens up if we want to," explained Grant Moir, Director – Rules at The R&A. "Once the greens are quick, it’s harder to slow them down so that’s why we have to be very careful at this point.
“It’s easy to lower cut heights, it’s easy to double cut, there are things that you can do that would get green speeds up quite quickly, but once you’ve got speeds, then to slow them down you’re relying on them growing. And sometimes if you get dry conditions and winds, they simply don’t slow down.
“The main thing is not to let them get away from you, as then you’re struggling to cope with the winds if and when they come.”
When it comes to setting up the course, Moir and his colleagues can call upon years of experience at both the AIG Women’s Open and The Open Championship.
“Weather is always the most significant factor in set up, whether that’s green speeds, hole positions, or it may be that we have to do some tee movements if we have strong winds into (the faces of the players),” Moir added. “Some of the holes may play too long from the full yardage.
“You do rely on previous experiences. Royal Troon is a place that we’re very familiar with as well. We’ve had high winds here before; we had a situation at The Open in 2016 on the Saturday morning where we chose not to cut the greens because the forecast we got that morning was unexpected in terms of the wind that came into the equation. So we have these in the memory bank and hopefully we can use those to help us come to the best decisions. But sometimes winds can be so strong that no matter what efforts you make with set up, the course is simply unplayable.
“We never have a (target) score in mind. We obviously try to present a challenge to the players, but, on the other hand, sometimes if the weather is benign then we accept that these links courses can be at the mercy of these great players, and if they score well, then terrific.
“The other thing is, if you’ve got a day that is flat calm, and you’ve got the best women players in the world playing, then you’re going to be looking to provide a challenge with hole positions and toughening those up, but if you’ve got significant winds then just getting the ball on the greens is a challenge, so we would probably ease up the hole positions.
“If it’s windy we’re looking for flat spots on the greens to minimise the possibility of balls moving. So it’s those kind of adjustments that we’ll be making.
“What you often find with links is that it is simply the weather that will dictate whether the scoring is high or low. There are adjustments that we will make to take account of the weather, but when it’s windy and raining sideways and the scoring’s high, you could leave the course exactly the same and the next day, with calm and sunny weather, the scoring average could be five, six, seven shots easier. That’s the beauty of it, you seldom get two days the same.”