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?