With a different routing, several new tee boxes and an easterly wind forecasted for parts of the week, the challenge facing players at this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open will be in stark contrast to last year’s record-breaking event.
Barring the exception of four unchanged holes (the eighth, ninth, 17th and 18th holes) the course where Bernd Wiesberger lifted his sixth European Tour title will likely pose a very different prospect.
The greens are set to be quicker, the rough untrampled, and holes 1-7 and 10-16 of the 2019 layout have been flipped, allowing the course’s most striking holes along the Firth of Forth to be presented on the back nine.
Changes are apparent from the very first hole, featuring a new championship tee which has been constructed to add 31 yards of distance and change the angle of play, providing a much-enhanced view of the landing area.
Three other tees have been created for this year’s event. At the second, an old back tee which has been unused for several years has been re-constructed, while a previously unused championship tee has been considerably elevated at the 15th, which makes the hole 44 yards longer. The 16th, which was the easiest hole in 2019 as last year’s seventh, has been lengthened by 33 yards.
For Renaissance Club CEO Jerry Sarvadi, the resulting challenge will be a more difficult test on a course which saw tournament-record low scoring in 2019.
“The most important thing versus last year is that the added distance will make a difference, because we’re playing the full length of the golf course,” he said.
“We’ve added some length with four new tees, providing options for the officials at the Tour, who will set up the course. It means they can go back if they need to or they can go forward.
“Last year the total yardage of the tournament was under 7,000 yards, whereas this year it’s probably going to be more like 7,300 yards. So, the added distance will certainly make a difference.”
At least in part, this year’s set-up is actually closer to the original layout of the course, with the first six holes mirroring the test enjoyed by members at Renaissance Club. This year’s 10th hole even reverts back to the very original 10th, before changes to the course occurred in 2013.
The reason behind the changes were to provide a more dramatic backdrop for television, which sees the holes along the water feature on the back-nine. It results in some lengthier walks between a couple of holes, but as was shown when this exact routing was played at the Ladies Scottish Open in August, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“The main reason for the re-routing was to have the holes along the water on the backside for television. The walk from nine to ten is quite a distance, but the ladies event was spectacular and I had so many positive comments about the golf course.”
But the crucial difference, says Savardi, will be likelihood of penal rough caused by a lack of spectators, and the promise of weather conditions more closely associated with a testing links course.
“Unfortunately, from my perspective last year we had four calm days, which we’d never had in the entire time I’d been here since 2002. But two of the days of the forecast is for easterly winds and rain, so it’s definitely going to be more challenging.
“With respect to the rough, we were limited with what we could do earlier in the year, so it just grew. It’s now starting to die off a little bit, but it’s still penal and I think there’s going to be a few lost balls out here this week. The big difference is that when you look around there will be no spectators, there won’t be spectator paths or trampled down rough, so the rough is still grown up.”