St Andrews to revamp Road Hole Bunker

Plans underway to toughen up par-4 17th on Old Course ahead of 2015 Open Championship


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The infamous Road Hole Bunker at St Andrews is set to undergo a makeover that will provide an even stiffer challenge for the world's best when they align at the 2015 Open Championship.

Regarded as one of the toughest par-4s in world golf, largely because of the deep and dominant bunker that protects the green at the end of a narrowing, undulating fairway, the 17th on the Old Course is to be widened by half a metre to the right.

Two years ago, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson rather wickedly said the hole had lost its ball-gathering capability. So it's little surprise to learn the green will also be recontoured to allow for more balls falling into the sand.

“We have considered the challenge presented to the world's top golfers by each of the Open Championship venues and carried out a programme of improvements over the last ten years,” said Dawson.

“While some holes have been lengthened on the Old Course in recent years it has otherwise remained largely unaltered. The Championship Committee felt there was an opportunity to stiffen its defences in some places to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the professionals.”

The work is part of an alteration programme being undertaken by architect Martin Hawtree after he was commissioned by St Andrews Links Trust and the Royal & Ancient Club.

“The proposals should place more of a premium on accuracy and ball control while retaining the spirit and character of the Old Course,” added Dawson.

Re-development will take place in two phases with the first including work at the second, seventh, 11th and the Road Hole 17th. The second phase will commence in winter 2013/14 with work on the third, fourth, sixth, ninth and 15th.

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Ever played St Andrews Old Course before? What do you think of the proposed changes?

Posted: 26/11/2012 at 15:32

I played it in April 1993!!!  I plan to go back next year as an anniversary...  I was struggling with woods in those days but could hit a 2 iron (Ping Eye2) really well off the tee.  (seems bizzare now)Remember some holes really clearly!

I hit the 2 iron left of where I was aiming! (nervous pull) ... got a decent lie in the semi...hit a 5 wood nearly to the green but wide right.  (that was an old wooden headed Wilson something)  A pitch and run got into the middle of the green and a regulation 2 putt carded a 5. 


I felt really pressured as I'd parred the previous 3.  A 4 down the last meant I'd played last 5 in one over!!

Posted: 26/11/2012 at 15:42

1st OB, 2nd got a 4 then threw a ball in the bunker and flipped it to about 4 feet...  The next time playing the other way round, got up and down(for a 6!!!)  from the grass the other side of the road 

Posted: 26/11/2012 at 16:05

'Funtion' now thats a good word!!! 

Posted: 26/11/2012 at 17:11

  Sorry I havnt found the function that inserts, its anything but a funtion !!!    

Forget it!!




Posted: 26/11/2012 at 17:13

In terms of the article, the discussion should really be why so many changes are again having to be made to the Old Course to keep it relevant. 

Posted: 26/11/2012 at 17:43

Played it once, it's good to play it but there are much better courses around

Hit driver, wedge to 12 foot on the 17th, seemed easy that day.

Posted: 26/11/2012 at 17:55

August or Augusta?

Posted: 27/11/2012 at 12:31

Played it April this year, hit Driver 4 iron to 30feet and 3 putted!

Posted: 27/11/2012 at 19:19

McStumpy wrote (see)

In terms of the article, the discussion should really be why so many changes are again having to be made to the Old Course to keep it relevant. 

Completely agree, Stumps. From a discussion with Golf Course Architecture editor Adam Lawrence yesterday:

"The Old Course is the most historic and important course on earth. Every designer studies it, every important player plays it. Should be preserved as is."

Posted: 28/11/2012 at 09:16


A lot of rather humorous rumours doing the rounds that the expected belly putter announcement will, in fact, be an announcement that Donald Trump is to take over St Andrews.

Posted: 28/11/2012 at 09:17


Here's what renowned architect Chris Doak has to say about the matter.

His "sacred ground" quote certainly hits home.

Posted: 28/11/2012 at 10:50

At what point is it improved, and then considered to be preserved? Is there a set number of years after which you can only preserve? Who decides this? Surley many courses have become better after improvements?

Posted: 28/11/2012 at 11:00

With regards specifically to the road hole bunker; it has a fearsome reputation and this needs to be preserved. If this involves some subtle contouring work here and there, then so be it. With regards to the Old Course as a whole; as long as alterations are in keeping with the original features of the course, then I'm all for subtle tweaks here and there. I don't agree with the way they seem to modify in the US; simply shove the tee back 50 yards, or call a 500 yard hole a par 4! The fact is that even us mere mortals are on occasion hitting shots that we simply couldn't do with clubs / balls 15 years and longer ago. You either cap technology (a debate I don't want to get involved with) or you adapt the course. On a links course, it's a little trickier to gauge. For years, the main defence of a links course has been the elements and how open the fairways are to them. Couple that with pot bunkers, huglely undulating fairways and stern rough; you've got a challeng on your hands any day of the week! Unfortunately during Open week, we can't control the weather, so you get players shooting in the 60's one day and struggling in to the mid to high 70's the next. I personally think that's what makes the Open unique and arguably the best championship in the world! Must be damned frustrating as a player if you get on the wrong side of the draw though!

Posted: 29/11/2012 at 11:36

Adjustments to maintain the difficulty are fine, but massive changes to length doesn't feel right to me.

Ball should be limited further rather than keep lengthening.

Posted: 29/11/2012 at 11:43

This is a product of allowing all the pro changes to balls and equipment, the pro's take advantage of this while manufacturers rub their hands selling second grade stuff to us golfers, and the course,s have to keep extending to keep up with the pro game. I think it's time they called a halt as Els and others have said or we will soon have six or seven hundred yard par fives and the smaller courses closing. Standardise the equipment and lets see who the best golfers really are.

Posted: 07/12/2012 at 11:22

There have been changes at St Andrews ever since golf started.  The Road Hole bunker was at one time - 1924 - a very shallow bunker.  There is a photograph in the St Andrews University archives showing Andrew Kirkcaldy playing from this bunker in 1924 and the lip is no higher than between his ankle and his knee.  There also used to be a bunker on the 18th between the road and the Valley of Sin.  These will not be the last changes and we whould not get stuck in the past.  Let them make the changes and then see how it affecrs the challenge for all golfers whether Professionals in the Open or amateurs playing for fun!

Posted: 11/02/2013 at 15:48

Send 'em all out with Dunlop clubs and Donnay balls. Let's see what they score then. LOL

Posted: 05/03/2013 at 09:38

GM may have a random number generator (see Srixon comp thread), but CF's random post generator trumps it every time   

Posted: 05/03/2013 at 13:09

I managed to get on the Old Course last April in benign conditions. Didn't go in a single bunker and carded an 82. That included driver into light rough on left at 17, followed by a 4 iron tomjust in front of the green, chip to 6 foot and one putt for par.

Had the changes been made, I imagine I'd have been in that bunker!

It's not the most difficult hole, so would certainly become harder with this change.

I'm all in favour of changes when they improve things.

Posted: 05/03/2013 at 22:51


Which is the worst major meltdown?
Jean Van de Velde - 1999 Open (73%)
Rory McIlroy - 2011 Masters (5%)
Adam Scott - 2012 Open (0%)
Jordan Spieth - 2016 Masters (11%)
Greg Norman - 1996 Masters (11%)
Arnold Palmer - 1966 US Open (0%)