I have been to many professional golf tournaments and to quite a few of the Majors, including several US Opens, a PGA Championship and The Masters…
… but never have I had such an experience as I just did at the 150th British Open…better known as “The Open” which was held this year at The Old Course in St. Andrews.
Why was it SO special?
Because it is the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world, and it hosts the oldest Major every five years. But, in my opinion, the greatest feature of the Old Course is that despite its grand status it remains a public golf course, open to all. On Sundays the course becomes a public park where families build sand castles in the bunkers and others frolic with their dogs on the fairways. Today I watched people walk across the 1st and 18th holes on their way to the public beach. WHAT? Can that be true? On these hallowed grounds? It is indeed. What I also love is just how intimate the course is. I am sitting here in my hotel (more about Rusack’s in an upcoming blog), overlooking BOTH the 1st hole AND the 18th hole…which are just about 150 yards wide combined…so when you are teeing off on the first hole you can really hit on to the eighteenth fairway and still have a shot in to the first green without too many problems (forget about the Swilcan bridge and the deep burn in front of you..one of the most iconic sites in all of golf). Similarly, as you hit down the 18th coming home to the R & A (Royal and Ancient) clubhouse…you can use the first fairway as well. The angle in from that side is pretty good! And that is what I mean about “intimate”. So many of the holes have common greens and fairways. The 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th holes have their own greens. All other holes have shared greens. That makes for some pretty large targets which sounds good when you are hitting in to them…but not so good when you are so far away from the flag that a three putt is inevitable! All of the holes and many of the hazards have names, too. There is a bunker called “Hell” on the 14th hole. Take that for intimate!
While experiencing The British Open first hand this past weekend, one of our favorite places to watch from on Saturday was the stands on the 11th tee box. From there we could see the players come in on hole 7, tee off on 8, watch them putt on both 9 and 10, and then watch as they went tee to green on the #11 par 3 over a very difficult bunker. I don’t know of another Major tournament were you can watch five holes from one location. At first we didn’t know what hole belonged to what green…but soon it was so very exciting to watch so many great golfers criss crossing and shooting amazing shots from all angles. It was tough to keep up with! We even got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Adam Scott before he tee’d off on 11. So if you ever find yourself at The Open at St. Andrews …head to the stands on hole 11!
The Road Hole
On Sunday we spent most of the day sitting in the stands of Hole # 17 known as “The Road Hole”. We could also watch the players on all of hole 1 from our vantage point, tee off on 2, and of course tee off on the 18th. We decided it was going to be an exciting place to watch from…and it was! Why is 17 called “The Road Hole? Simple..
The infamous “Road Hole” is far and away the Old Course’s toughest and some say the toughest hole in the world. I would have to agree! When the British Open was last held there in 2015, there were more bogeys (217) than pars (203) and golfers scored 0.66 shots over par on average. I have not seen the stats on this years tournament yet, but I am sure they are similar. We did not see too many pars!
Distance is just one factor that makes the Road Hole so tough. At 495 yards, it is one of the longest Par 4s you will find. On top of the length, there are also obstacles between the tee and the pin. The Old Course Hotel stands in the way (yes…you have to hit OVER a part of the hotel), along with a daunting bunker near the green that we watched player after player TRY to get out of…only to have to hit a second time sideways or backwards to get out! However, we watched Rory and Cam Smith play it extremely well. Rory JUST missed a birdie shot that may have changed the outcome at the end! Finally, players can end up hitting on the the road which goes the length of the green…hence the name. Check this video out of Jordan Spieth hitting off the road! Again, if you want an exciting place to watch from, park yourself in the stands of the 17th!
Here is also another FUNNY video all about “THE ROAD HOLE”…..
Well…as you can see my visit to the British Open has been QUITE the experience so far…more blogs to come from this amazing trip as well. If you are thinking of a trip over here to play golf, I can HIGHLY recommend a group called “THE EXPERIENCE”…from meeting us at the airport, to making sure our transportation from the hotels to The Open was on time, to arranging for us to play TOP golf courses while we are here (including The Old Course), you can not find a better travel company to plan with. Check them out HERE!!!! Thanks so much to Robin and Ian!
Look forward to telling you more about this amazing trip to Scotland. Stay tuned and hit them straight and long!