James Crampton is England Golf’s director of championships and the man responsible for setting up Alwoodley for the European Ladies’ Amateur, that takes place from July 21 to 24. He performed the same task for 2019’s Brabazon Trophy at Alwoodley.
While James was here on a site visit in early May, we asked him to explain how he goes about his task.
What do you expect the length of the course to be and how do you arrive at this figure?
James Crampton (JC): “The initial thought process for one of our women’s championship would be somewhere between 6,000 and 6300 yards. This is of course dependent on the type of course (parkland, links etc) time of year and weather conditions. The suggested length for the championship will be on paper quite long at 6292 yards.”
Will it be something quite close to the regular yellow-tee course? Are you planning to use any white tees, perhaps as much for the different angles as additional length?
JC: “We shall be using a variety of tees although up to 10 of the tees will be yellow with the rest being a combination of Blues/Whites, Reds and Green. There are a couple of holes (3rd & 6th) where we do have the option of using different tees giving us varying angles of tee shot.”
Alwoodley has a set of sporty green tees – we wondered if any of these might come into play, perhaps to create a risk-and-reward element at some point in the tournament?
JC: “I am planning on using just one on the 4th as this is a challenging par 4 often into the prevailing wind. The 2nd is also an obvious one playing downwind.”
What are your main concerns and priorities when selecting tees?
JC: “A number of factors really. Size of tees to allow us to move the tees around enough for 2 days of practice and 4 championship days. This is particularly the case on the par 3s although in women’s championships the divot patterns and damage is often less than would be the case for the men’s championships (often hitting longer clubs than the men). Wind direction and pin locations will also be a factor. (see below).”
You know Alwoodley well, especially after 2019’s Brabazon. I wondered what, if anything, you learned about the way the course played that that week?
JC: “Not really as we also ran the English Men’s Amateur a few years prior. Obviously having data on previous pin positions, local rules used and tee locations is useful.”
We don’t know what the conditions will be like come July. How flexible are your plans in the event of, say, strong wind?
JC: “Clearly Alwoodley can be a windy venue. Contingency plans are put in place to determine where we may wish to move tees if it is exceptional windy. The proposed yardages for each hole are based on the basis that the prevailing wind (downwind on the 1st) will apply. If not, however there will be no hesitation to change the positions if required. We do have weather forecast support, which we use to determine tee positions and hole locations prior to each day’s play.”
Which holes at Alwoodley give you the most food for thought in terms of the way you set them up?
JC: “The 11th hole pin position is the main one as the green significantly limits where the hole position can be located.”
Can you explain how using certain tees would preclude you from using certain pin positions?
JC: “It’s not so much the preclusion of tees but more the length of the hole and subsequent approach shot that dictates the pin position. Depending on this will depend on how close you get to the edge of the green/bunker etc. A good example is the 4th and 9th holes. Both are likely to require lengthy approach shots due to the wind direction and so I would therefore be looking at a more central location. Being aware of the wind direction is key as front pins downwind can be particularly difficult.”
What’s the difference between setting a course up for an elite women’s event like this one and an elite men’s one like the Brabazon?
JC: “The length mainly and the fact that the men do hit it a lot further than the women. This in turn results in shorter clubs being hit into greens and the allowance for tighter pin positions.”
Can you give us a brief idea of what goes into setting pin positions, both on individual holes and as a collection of 18 on a given day?
JC: “My starting point is knowing the potential weather forecast for the week and knowing where I would like to have pin positions on each green. This is often done through the championship planning stages through the course assessment and prior knowledge of the course (if you have it). If the forecast is favourable throughout the week, then I will look at where I want the pins on the final day. From there I then work around the green. For example, if the final day position is back right then on the 3rd round I would be looking at front left, 2nd day back left and then round 1 front right. This however depends on the nature of the green contours, wind direction, approach shot length etc etc. I also try and ensure that I have a mixture of front/back and left/right pin positions and try wherever possible that pins are not located on the side from which a strong wind is blowing from. My intention with course set up is to be challenging but to also give the players of returning low scores. I see no benefit to anyone setting up the course where over par is the winning score!”
What kind of players do you think typically excel at Alwoodley?
JC: “Someone is who is good in windy ‘links-like’ conditions and good around the greens. If it does blow you are going to miss greens and the ability to get it up and down will be important.”