Hole to watch: No. 17 at the Old Course
490 yards, par 4
What’s distinctive: A blind tee shot over the “Old Course Hotel” sign and a long second shot to a vaulted green perched above the deep, revetted Road Hole bunker. A hard-surface road immediately along the back right of the green frequently comes into play and acts as a daunting challenge for anything long. When the hole is cut behind the Road Hole bunker, it’s the single-most inaccessible hole location on the course. This year, the hole has been stretched by 35 yards.
What to look for: The shame of the setup here is that the bold line off the tee to the right has been closed off by the R&A’s stubborn insistence on playing that area as rough. So the hole has a pencil-thin fairway, which has nothing to do with links golf and everything to do with a narrow definition of forcing golfers to play the hole one-dimensionally. The result is a tight squeeze all the way rather than a strategic path to an intriguing green. It’s scary all the way, with putting into the Road Hole bunker a distinct possibility – just ask Tommy Nakajima, who did that in 1978 while in contention during the third round, then squandered several sand shots on his way back onto the green. Par is a gift here; bogey seldomly loses ground to the field.
Course ranking: No. 3, Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list for Great Britain & Ireland