Straightening the Leaning Tower: R&A Lengthens Road Hole

The Royal & Ancient has decided to lengthen St. Andrews’ famous “Road Hole” for the 2010 Open Championship.

Nothing like fixing something that ain’t broke.

The R&A says they want to make it more challenging. But in fact, by lengthening the hole, I wonder if they won’t make it somewhat easier. As it stands now, it seems as though you would have to hit it straight, or fade the ball to hit the fairway, requiring a stick other than the driver. Moving the tee back 35 yards further back from the restrictions on the right hand side could have the geometric effect of making it less tight, and thus actually easier for the big hitters who draw the ball.

But does it matter for the Championship? Only for second place. Tiger owns this course.

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3 thoughts on “Straightening the Leaning Tower: R&A Lengthens Road Hole”

  1. I am sure that all are aware that the left side of the fairway on 17 has a generous bail-out area, although laden with bunkers. Most holes at St Andrews are designed like that. Take the short route down the right side that has a risk or bail out left for a longer approach to the green. With new technology, it is now possible to play to this bail-out area from off the tee with a shorter club, avoid the bunkers and still have a reasonable shot at the green. The hole was originally designed so that the second shot from this area was to very difficult when considering its length and the hazards.

    I believe that pushing back the tee back will put the position of the safe tee shot down the left far enough back to make the second shot from there so difficult that the player will need to reconsider the risk/reward tee shot over the hotel(actually a shed type extension). Longer iron shots into a sloping green, guarded by the Road Hole bunker front left, fescue right and an in-play road behind, will make a tough hole even tougher. The pros have not felt the bite of the Road Hole or the road itself as often in recent years due to changes to the ball and other equipment. I hope these adjustments change that.

    And because the 17th tee is right beside the 16th green, it will be interesting to see where the new tee will go. It may end up on or near a road or path just outside a fence that borders the property. Length is not the issue when taking the risky shot over the “O” in “Hotel”, it is accuracy. The shot will still require a fade that skirts OB right. I don’t think 35 yards will make that shot any more difficult,(it already is extremely intimidating) just make the less risky shot a little more challenging.

  2. What threatens the history of the course, these changes or not addressing the advances in technology?

    The golf ball and other advances in technology have already changed the “history” of St Andrews and other courses with a famous past. And there already has been changes made to the layout in the last 10 years that rival those being made on the Road Hole. Those changes (lengthening of holes to bring strategic bunkers back in play) were a result of players no longer being required to face the long iron approach shots that the course was originally designed to call for.

    Nobody wants to see scores of -25 or another comically easy pitch and putt courses the pros so love these days.

    The thing is, without bad weather, the course is practically defenseless to these guys. Since the R&A can’t depend on bad weather to keep the scores reasonably low, changes had to be made to the layout – again.

    One could argue these changes are a way of re-claiming the history that some feel are threatened.

    Half full?


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