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« "Nobody is quite sure, however, how any of the holes were really intended to be played." | Main | Thoughts On An Olympic Golf Course... »

R&A Confirms Road Hole Extension, Planning Has Been On The Table For 45 Years

For immediate release...

16 October 2009, St Andrews, Scotland: The 17th hole of the Old Course will be lengthened ahead of the 150th Anniversary of The Open Championship at St Andrews.  The ‘Road Hole’, which has remained the same length for more than 100 years, will increase in length by some 35 yards to 490 yards. A new Championship tee will be constructed on the practice range of St Andrews Links Trust.
It has long been suggested that the 17th hole would benefit from additional length to restore the original challenge of the hole. In advance of the 1964 St Andrews Open, three-time Open Champion, Henry Cotton, recommended the alteration stating: “I would make a tee just beyond the railway line on the other course [he was referring to the Eden Course which is now the practice range]. It would restore this drive to its former value.”

Good to see they act swiftly on important matters. Of course, the Road was still a par-5 when Cotton made that suggestion. So his quote is not even remotely relevant to today's discussion, but, as they say, carry on...

 An increased premium will be placed on an accurate drive of sufficient length over the sheds, encouraging players to take driver from the tee.  The fairway will be widened slightly on the left hand side to ensure that the tee shot remains fair. 

So that does mean we narrowed it, no? And why did we do that?

Crucially, the difficulty of the second shot will be re-established, making it more difficult to hold the approach on the putting surface and increasing the threat posed by both the road behind the green and the Road Bunker.

Wouldn't it have been easier to just roll back the ball? Guess this means the R&A isn't buying the USGA's backdoor ball rollback theory with next year's groove rule change?

“The 17th was played at the same yardage in 1900 as it was in 2005 and this fuelled our belief that the formidable challenge of this iconic hole should be returned for The Open Championship,” said Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A.
“Over the years, we have seen the threat from the road behind the green, and to a lesser extent the Road Bunker, diminished as players have been hitting shorter irons for their approach shots allowing them to avoid these hazards more easily. This change will ensure that the hole plays as it was originally intended.”

Originally intended? The course with no known architect, just many improvers, now had an original design vision?

So was this original intention of a par-5 never really meant to be? And when the course played the other direction before the modern version, was that not the original intent?

I know! It was God's intention to have players use a long iron?  Sheesh...anyone can get into this design business.

“We have spent some time discussing this with The R&A and I know they have carefully considered making this change for The Open Championship,” said Alan McGregor, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust. 
“The Road Hole is the most famous hole in world golf and we believe the changes will increase the challenge of the hole whilst remaining true to its spirit.”
Work on the new Championship tee will commence in the coming weeks.  The lengthening of the ‘Road Hole’ is the only significant change planned for the Old Course ahead of the 2010 Open Championship. 

Are there insignificant changes you'd like to tell us about?

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Reader Comments (25)

"Wouldn't it have been easier to just roll back the ball?"

cost of ball rollback=10s of millions in legal fees.

cost of new back tee=abt 10,000.

doing the right thing=hard, time consuming, expensive and ultimately, dare i say it-priceless.

I hope the ball gets rolled back.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commentersmails
How does it matter if the hole is (was, will be) designated a par 5 or a par 4?
What matters is how the hole plays and which kind of decision its design forces on the player.
I very much doubt that a player accounts for theoretical par while picking a strategy for a hole.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterGiovanni
What are these people stupid? How do you repaint the Mona Lisa? We need new leadership in golf. Jesus was right, the love of money is the root of all evil.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Farron
This change may actually make the drive easier. During the recent Dunhill tournament, a lot of the players were bailing left and playing the second shot from rough. With the tee further back there may be more chance of the faint hearted staying in the fairway. Unless of course narrowing the fairway is also part of the plan.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commentertitleist38
"the fairway will be widened slightly on the left to ensure the drive remains fair". Overall this is a good change, let's forget about ball roll backs - it's not going to happen, with the groove changes next year, the USGA and R&A are trying to do something about it in a different manner. I am excited about 2010 as it will let us find out who the shotmakers are and who have been using smoke and mirrors for the last few years.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commentertitleist38
Astute comments, Geoff, Until/unless the powers'that'be do something about the ball, these discussions about design will be exercises in nonsense. . . and yet I have to say that I support a lengthening of the hole for the Open. If I remember correctly, Tom Watson hit a 2-iron to the 17th in 1984, the year he lost to Ballesteros. He was over on the green, on the road, and made 5. Ballesteros was in the left rough off the tee and played a 6 iron, trying to come into the green from the left, made 4 and won the Open. Point is -- the hole was pivotal and invited different strategies and had a scary second shot.

It's a lot less scary when they're hitting 8 or 9 iron to the green.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commentershug
So for the next Open we now have 5 tees that arent even on the golf course!Unbelievable!
Surely now they must realise that something more has to be done to keep equipment in check.The Links trust are lucky this extra land is available to them.Not many courses have that luxury.
They want long irons hit into the green-make a good drive 270 again-simple!
Tournament ball-simple!
Bastardise the greatest hole in the world-effin stupid!
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Par irrelevent, the idea of the game is to finish with the least number of strokes.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Jemsek
I have to say I think this is a reasonable change and won't bring the ruination of the Road Hole. It's just 35 yards. If it forces a few more guys who hit poor shots to end up in the bunker or across the road, I'm all for it.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterFWIW
I think that hole (length) has remained unchaged for hundreds of years. With all of the advancements in technology over that time, it is pretty amazing that it stayed the same length so long.

I played the old course in 1987 and had driver (persimmon), and a l3 wood into the green (that came up short). Three years ago when I played it, I had a 6 Iron and I am a 10 handicap, so it lad lost it's luster a bit as far as a difficult hole.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
No matter, it's a stupid hole at any length.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Blabbie
No soup for you, Aunt Blabbie
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterPickworth
aunt b raises an interesting point. i wonder what the design cognoscenti on here would say if someone designed a new course with a hole the played like the road hole? if we're honest, i'd guess it would be savaged as "artificial" or whatever the de rigeur term is over at gca..
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commenterthusgone
I'm not a fan of the recent ball technology advances and impact on "classic" courses. But wasn't this argument vallid in 1920? Or 1950?

Too often, this "malaise" is portrayed as a modern disease, a festering infection that seeped in while tired old men in starched collars slept. Technology is remorseless, the rapd improvements in ball construction could not have been forseen. This argument has raged before - or should we still be whacking our featheries with mashie niblicks?

At least a line has been drawn - distance has plateaued, the groove change may (I stress, may) result in a de facto rollback. And say what you like about St Andrews, the impact of technology, the plethora of driveable par 4's, and the siting of tee's outwith the bounfaries of the Old Course. It still results in the cream rising to the top. No Curtis or Hamilton on the roll of honour here - Woods, Woods, Daly, Faldo, Seve, Jack, Jack. Does a roll of past champions get much better than that?
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMcStumpy
The newest road hole is built at Old Macdonald - the 11th hole. The tee shot isn't blind, but a drive along the right opens up the green. I don't know how wide the fairway is, but my guess is that OM's fairway is wider than the TOC's (or The OC's) fairway.

I don't think including a building along the right side would have been accepted at Bandon due to liability and aesthetics. But for a modern version of the road hole, Doak and Urbina have created it - and it doesn't involve a blind tee shot to a narrow fairway.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered Commenterchene
"roll back the ball"

When they pry it from my cold, dead hand.
Joe Jemsek

Holy crap, someone remembered.

P.S. Remind me not to play with you, it could hurt my self esteem (unless I keep score).
chene - who cares about some replica hole at some American resort? There's only one Road hole.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterOB
Is nothing sacred?

Obviously not, a bloody shame.

Especially as the hole always plays above par - TOC is not about distance or par, it is about battling the elements. At the end of the day 35 yards does not make enough difference to change this hole.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterWalking Golfer

Building a new road hole somewhere would be seen as artificial because it would indeed be artificial.

We all need to review our prejudices but I don't think liking something precisely because it's not artificial is a prejudice.

And 'played like the Road Hole' applies to all par 4s between 350 and 520 yards. It doesn't stand up as a criticism of one particular par 4 of sufficient challenge. (See stroke average for the hole in past two Opens, helpfully posted here by someone a week or so ago.)

No soup for you, either.
10.16.2009 | Unregistered CommenterPickworth
Like I've said, just make it a par 2.
10.17.2009 | Unregistered CommenterFo Shiz
Because it is such a masterpiece. Lets make an special rule for the Road Hole. No drivers or 3 woods off the tee. Simple. Driver/3 wood is forbidden. And every player must get on his/her knees before teeing off and give thanks for the Road Hole.
10.17.2009 | Unregistered Commentervwgolfer
You want a hard par 4 for a lot less $ and all the thrill, try Mackenzie 's 11th at Pasatiempo GC. There's quite a view to welcome you after finishing the hole as well. But, of course Santa Cruz ain't St Andrews.
10.17.2009 | Unregistered CommenterUB
The Road Hole played 4.5+ in the last two Opens. It needs to be harder?
10.18.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
Excellent Point. Jordan. So where's the problem? Short irons into a green and everyone starts to freak out. Oh and todays PW was yesterdays 8 iron or something like that.
10.18.2009 | Unregistered Commentervwgolfer

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