Editor's diary: On Tom Doak's Woodhall Spa restorationJanuary 18, 2017 The Scoop
Looking back on an eye-opening visit to Woodhall Spa and wondering what Tiger could realistically achieve this season
Tom Doak and the Woodhall Spa restoration
Considering that he is yet to oversee any work on a single tee or green, it is remarkable to see the visual impact of the changes that Tom Doak is making to the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa.
The famed American architect has broken ground on a three-year restoration project that promises to lift the Hotchkin, already one of the very best inland courses in Britain, to new heights.
Yet he does not intend to build any new holes or even to change the nature of the existing ones.
Doak has a rare ability to get inside the mind of Golden Age architects, even when, as in this case, it is the work of a man we know relatively little about.
When I was at Woodhall before Christmas to talk to him about the project, the course was a hive of activity. Trees were being felled before my eyes, bunkers were being re-shaped, vistas were being restored and there was a general sense of the course being reawakened from a long slumber.
Golf courses are living, breathing things and over time they change. In the case of greens adjacent to bunkers, the earth literally moves, as the sand gradually accumulates on top of the face.
Then you have the encroachment of trees, year by year, and shrinking greens. That’s without mentioning any deliberate attempts to improve the design – successful or otherwise.
Even in this day and age, Doak likes to work by eye, and that is perhaps what gives his designs and restorations that extra attention to detail.
It will be over two years before his work on the Hotchkin is complete but for those who appreciate the subtleties of golf course architecture it promises to make a visit to this special corner of Lincolnshire even more of a treat than it already was.
What to expect from Tiger?
Over the coming weeks and months we are going to find out whether Tiger Woods can still be a factor in the Majors. He is exempt for each of the Masters, US Open, Open and PGA both this year and next so he still has every chance to prove his detractors wrong.
It would set things up perfectly if he could show some form over the early season in time for the build-up to Augusta.
Starting at Torrey Pines, he is playing four events in the space of five weeks. Is a win too much to ask?