Old Course hole-by-hole guide
The Home of Golf
The Open was first contested on the links at St Andrews in 1873 when Tom Kidd was the winner. Since then, the championship has been decided there on 27 further occasions. Many legends of the game have lifted the Claret Jug in front of the iconic, sandstone Royal and Ancient clubhouse; they include James Braid, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.
The Old Course is unique, a product of 200 years of natural evolution and just the occasional tweak of design. With its double greens, crossovers, blind shots, firm and fast fairways and notoriously perilous bunkering, it’s an inimitable masterpiece.
It’s a track that demands a careful, strategic approach. The bunkers must be used as waypoints and avoided if at all possible, as Tiger did completely in 2000. The sprawling putting surfaces mean finding greens in regulation isn’t overly challenging, but using the slopes to get near the pins is far more so. The man named “Champion Golfer for the Year” on Sunday afternoon will have plotted a patient and accurate course around golf’s “Grand Old Lady.” Here follows a look at each of the holes he’ll have navigated.
Words: Fergus Bisset
Exclusive photography: Kevin Murray
Videos courtesy of St Andrews Links, presented by Steve North – Director of Instruction and Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach
Hole name: Burn
Length: 375 yards
Nowhere else will the professionals face such a wide target area from the 1st tee as on The Old Course at St Andrews: The fairway (shared with the 18th) is 126 yards across. But the lack of a clear shot requirement delivers an interesting psychological challenge. This combined with the fact it’s “The Home of Golf,” makes for a nerve-wracking drive, particularly in the first round. Just ask Ian Baker-Finch, who hooked out-of-bounds in 1995!
Unless the wind is firmly against, most players will select a long iron or hybrid from the tee and aim to leave about 100-130 yards in. If the pin is at the front, look for most to err long, as the Swilken Burn
lurks just short of the putting surface. The green is relatively flat, so this fairly short hole should present a good birdie opportunity.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 1
Hole Name: Dyke
Length: 452 yards
This hole is quite different from the Open tee – 50 yards longer than off the whites and requiring two solid blows. The line for the drive is just to the right of “Cheape” bunker: now a viable threat, some 300 yards out. A gentle fade of the edge of that bunker is the perfect shot. Smatterings of gorse await though if a tee shot is leaked too far to the right side.
Two bunkers have been moved closer to the right side of this green and three bunkers wait short and left for a mishit or pulled approach.
The green is heavily undulating with options for some testing pin positions. Find the wrong section
of this putting surface and a player could face a “Himalayas” style test. This is one to be navigated with precision and care but, if done so, should be reasonably straightforward.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 2
Hole Name: Cartgate (out)
Length: 398 yards
Even though it’s knocking on 400 yards, the very longest hitters could reach the putting surface here with a firm breeze at their backs. Many though will choose to play for position with their drive and leave a pitch from a distance they feel comfortable with.
A string of pot bunkers down the right side encourages the player to aim left, but another devilish little trap waits in that direction, just over 300 yards from the tee.
Crescent shaped “Cartgate” bunker protects the front left of the green and players will look to avoid it at all costs. It features a high, revetted face and, if
a ball runs right up to it, escaping forwards could be impossible. The green features a fall-away section at the back right that could provide a very testing pin position.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 3
Hole Name: Ginger Beer
Length: 480 yards
The drive on this hole requires careful thought. The actual fairway is very narrow, with bunkers and gorse threatening on the right. However, if the player can carry the ball 290 yards over a rough-covered mound, they can reach a far wider segment of fairway to the left side, shared with the 15th.
With the wind behind, most will opt for this route, but they must be mindful not to run too far and find the vast “Cottage” bunker – pitching out is the only option from there.
The approach shot must avoid a small knoll that protects the front middle of the green and testing bunkers left and right. The green slopes heavily
from back to front with run offs to the right and back. At 480 yards, players will be happy to walk away from here with a par.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 4
Hole O’Cross (out)
Hole Name: Hole O’Cross (out)
Length: 570 yards
This par 5 provides a definite birdie (or perhaps even an eagle) chance, particularly if the breeze is helping. Favouring the left side is key off the tee here, as the perilous “seven sisters” bunkers will gobble up anything veering to the right.
The players will aim towards the regular 14th tee with their drives, but they won’t want to end too far on the left side of the 5th fairway, as that could mean the second shot is hampered by the slope separating the “Elysian Fields” of the 14th fairway from the 5th.
If going for the green in two, the second must carry “The Spectacles” and find the narrow green
entrance – three bunkers wait just left and a rough-filled dell on the right. Two precise shots will set up a good chance to make up some shots.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 5
Hole Name: Heathery (out)
Length: 414 yards
The tee shot here is daunting as the players must pick a line across a gorse-covered mound and stick to it. In reality, the landing area is fairly generous, but the ominous “Coffins” lurk left and a further selection of unappealing bunkers protect the right side of the fairway. The longest hitters though, will be able to blast over the lot.
The approach will be no more than a flick for most to a deep green with a swale at its front. Getting the distance right on the approach will be important on this one, but for the top pros that shouldn’t be a problem. Heathery (out) should yield quite a number of birdies through the week if the wind assists.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 6
Additional photography: Getty Images
Hole Name: High (out)
Length: 371 yards
This shortish par-4 is another where placement from the tee is of the utmost importance. The players will be looking to find the crossover fairway shared with the par-3 11th.
To do so they must carry the ball 230 yards to clear the rumpled rough and gorse, but they must prevent their shot from rolling out beyond 300 yards into sprawling “Shell” bunker with its six-foot face. Most will use a long-iron or hybrid from the tee here.
If they find the fairway, the pitch in is a fairly straightforward one, although the green does feature some perplexing slopes and swales that
could feed the ball away from the hole if a shot lands in the wrong spot. If the hazards can be avoided, it’s another decent birdie chance.
Old Course hole-by-hole guide: hole 7
Hole Name: Short
Length: 174 yards
This is a relatively easy par 3 where a solid iron shot will generally deliver a putt for a two. The principal danger is the bunker that sits at the front of the green. It’s a deep and nasty hazard that the players will be wary of. Expect some players to take one club more here and be happy to find the putting surface beyond the pin.
"A solid iron shot will generally deliver a putt for a two"
The green's slopes are subtle rather than severe, but there will definitely be a number of three-putts on this hole, certainly when the pin is near the front. Lagging it close from 40 yards will be tough.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: Hole 8
Hole Name: End
Length: 352 yards
Depending on the conditions, this hole is likely to be driveable for a high percentage of players in the field and, as such, it’s a clear birdie chance.
But to find the green, the drive must either be threaded between the bunkers in the centre of the fairway and those hugging the left side, or carry over 300 yards.
Those two bunkers in the middle look daunting from the tee as they’re perfectly placed to catch a drive, so some may choose to lay up of “Boase’s” bunker and try to make a birdie via a pitch and a putt. This is one of only four single greens on the course and, although large, it’s relatively flat. It’s a
green where you’ll see a lot of players choosing the chip-and-run, or the long putt from just off the surface.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 9
Hole Name: Bobby Jones
Length: 386 yards
This hole has been driveable in past years but only with significant wind assistance. If there’s a chance of finding the green in one, the ideal tee shot is one that turns from right to left, coming off the visible bunker on the right side
If it’s not on, there’s little value in players trying to force the ball up close to the surface, as that brings a selection of bunkers on the right side into play. A fairway metal leaving 100 yards in will be the play for many.
The green is 58 yards long so the players will have to judge their pitch shots carefully into this green. This is an obvious birdie chance before a testing
stretch of holes and players chasing on Sunday will hope to take advantage.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 10
Hole Name: High (in)
Length: 174 yards
This is one of the great par 3s in championship golf, and one that has wrecked many scorecards over the years.
Fearsome “Strath” bunker, named after Davie Strath, (a professional from the late 19th century who had particular issue with this deep, round pot,) nudges into the front of the raised green and can be extremely testing to escape from. With new pin positions available on a flattened section to the back left of the 11th green, “Hill” bunker has also come more into play.
The players will have to fire in a precise mid-iron to this sloping green. The ball will feed back off the
front, down the right side towards the 7th pin and down a steep slope over the back. Long is not a good place to be.
Old Course hole-by-hole guide: hole 11
Hole Name: Heathery (in)
Length: 348 yards
It may be the shortest par-4 on The Open card at St Andrews, but Heathery (in) is extremely tactically testing. From the tee there are three principal options. Firstly, take on the green. It’s a long hit and a deep bunker protects the front centre of the green. Anything pulled well left or pushed well right at maximum driving distance risks finding the gorse.
Second, lay up short of the greenside bunker but beyond the fairway bunkers. This demands a shot of precise line and distance. Third, lay up between the two sets of fairway bunkers. This would leave a 100-yard pitch, but the tee shot must land and stop between 225 and 250 yards.
Adding to the difficulty is a pronounced plateau ridge across the green – very difficult to find when the pin is atop it.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 12
Hole O’Cross (in)
Hole Name: Hole O’Cross (in)
Length: 465 yards
This is one of the most demanding holes on the course, as both drive and approach require highly accurate shots.
The drive must find the chute of fairway between the “coffin” bunkers on the left and the rough on the right. But it must also stop short of the rough covered ridges bounding the right of, and then crossing over, the hole.
The second shot travels over an area of “no-man’s land” and must fly all the way to the putting surface. If the approach is played from the rough there will be little to prevent it running away over the huge double green, leaving a monstrous putt. A
second shot that is too cute could find a rough-filled depression, from where up-and-down is a tough ask.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 13
Hole Name: Long
Length: 614 yards
The home of “Hell,” this par-5 must be treated with respect. The most recent tee has been pushed back onto the Eden Course so the drive must re-enter the bounds of the course across the wall. Anything right of the dyke is out-of-bounds.
The “beardies” could catch a quick hook, but most drives will find their way onto the “Elysian Fields,” the high part of the fairway above the 5th. The second shot delivers a dilemma – to try and carry gaping “Hell” or play safe to the left of it.
The longest hitters may reach in two if the wind isn’t hurting but even if they manage it, the challenge continues. The green is like a table-top,
with run-offs short, left and long, feeding the ball away from the cup. Unlike many par-5s in professional golf, this one is no gimmie birdie.
Old Course hole-by-hole guide: hole 14
Hole Name: Cartgate (in)
This straightaway par-4 isn’t the most obviously taxing hole on the course, although it demands two straight and solid blows. The drive should carry the bunkers but the fairway is narrow with thick rough down the right and gorse to the right of that.
A good tee shot will leave a mid to short iron into a green that slopes from left to right, protected by a bunker short left and “Cartgate” long and left. If the players get a decent drive away here, they might hope to squeeze a birdie out of this one.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 15
Additional photography: Getty Images
Corner of the Dyke
Hole Name: Corner of the Dyke
A scattering of well-placed bunkers makes the tee-shot a perplexing prospect here. “The Principal’s Nose” grouping of traps is the most obvious threat, but perhaps more fiendish is the tiny “Deacon Sime” pot bunker some 20 yards beyond. Just a couple of yards wide, it’s completely hidden from the tee.
Players may choose to lay up short of the lot but that will leave a long second with out-of-bounds perilously close on the right side. One option is to play well left into the rough between the fairway and the third hole, but it’s then up to the golfing gods what sort of lie is found. The brave will blast down the right side of the fairway ignoring the white stakes.
The approach must carry all the way, as anything short will fall back off the front edge.
Old Course hole-by-hole guide: hole 16
Hole Name: Road
Length: 495 yards
One of the most famous holes in world golf, this is a formidable par 4. The drive must flirt with the edge of the hotel, ideally finding the right side of the fairway, as this provides the best angle to come into the narrow green.
Anything finding the left rough makes the approach very difficult and will probably encourage the player to aim for the front right of the putting surface.
At the green, the famous “Road” bunker captures many seemingly good shots that come up just shy, and has witnessed the end of numerous Open challenges. A ball flying too far will bound through
the green and onto, (perhaps across) the road. From anywhere through the green, par is an unlikely score. This always ranks as by far the hardest hole on the course during Open week.
Old Course hole-by-hole guide: hole 17
Hole Name: Tom Morris
Length: 356 yards
Back towards the iconic buildings of St Andrews, there’s nothing ostensibly difficult about the bunkerless closing hole. But all sorts of things can happen, and have happened, here.
It might be reachable with favourable winds and that always gives the chasing player the chance to make up two strokes with an eagle at the death.
The sensible drive is towards the clock on the Royal and Ancient clubhouse, leaving a pitch across the green. Just short of the putting surface, though the “Valley of Sin” waits to catch any shot played without complete conviction – remember Constantino Rocca in 1995?
The green slopes from right to left as you look up the hole, and two putts for victory here is never a done-deal. Ask Doug Sanders. He three-putted in 1970 and then lost a playoff to Jack Nicklaus.
Old Course hole-by-hole video guide: hole 18
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