Hole 1: Burn 376-yards
A fairly easy opening hole with the widest fairway in the world at 175-yards wide, sharing it with the 18th. The top players expect a fast start around The Old Course and depending on the wind, the first hole can play anything from a three-wood and a flick with a sand wedge to two full blooded wood shots when the wind is in your face. The only real trouble is the Swilken Burn itself, which catches many a ball over the four days, especially Sunday when the pin is tucked just over the edge of the burn.
Hole 2: Dyke 413 Yards.
Again, depending on the wind, this hole can be a drive and a flick with a wedge or wind against, difficult to reach in two! The main hazard from the tee is to avoid Cheape's bunker in the fairway. If you safely negotiate that, the sensible play is to aim for the right half of the green. A huge bunker awaits anything pulled left and with a steep downslope behind it, getting to the Sunday pin position is going to be very tricky. John Daly managed to make a birdie here in 1995 during the playoff against Rocca.
Hole 3: Cartgate-out 397 yards.
As with most tee shots around The Old Course, miss left if you are going to hit a bad one! That will give you a shot in, but Cartgate Bunker, one of the biggest and most fearsome on the links will come into play. If you can drive down the right hand side, it makes for a much easier opportunity for a birdie putt.
Hole 4: Ginger Beer 464-Yards.
This hole is named as such because in the days of Old Tom Morris, this hole became the first halfway hut where players sought refreshment behind the green where there is now a menacing little pot bunker called Ginger Beer! A monster of a par four when the wind is against and many fives will result! Avoiding both the Cottage bunker and Students bunkers from the tee, along with thick whins on the right is the goal. A very undulating green in places and one where if par is made, the pro's may feel they have picked up a shot on the field.
Hole 5: Hole O'Cross-out 568-yards
A birdie opportunity for the bigger hitters, but the second shot must climb the steep bank in front of the green, otherwise, it is an awkward chip and putt for a four. The huge double green it shares with the 13th hole might give way to some extremely long putting if club selection is even just a fraction out on the hard fast greens expected next week.
Hole 6: Heathery-out: 412-yards
One of the better opportunities to make birdie on the front nine. Only the coffin bunkers get in the way of a drive and that is only wind against. The sloping fairway could pose a few problems to the second shot, but as there are no bunkers around the green, a traditional running shot is the prudent play into this double green, shared with the 12th.
Hole 7: High-out 388-yards.
Most of the players will take a driver from this tee and clear all the trouble, leaving a short pitch into the heavily sloping green. Watch out for the few who find Strath, Cockle or Hill bunkers…they could be in there a while! A good birdie opportunity.
Hole 8: Short 175-yards
Start of the famous "Loop" at The Old Course where birdies are commonplace, except for this hole! Despite the name, the only par three on the front nine can be a bugger to play especially if the pin is tucked behind the notorious pot bunker that fronts the massive green. Expect few birdies here as most players will bail out long and happily two putt for par.
Hole 9: End 352-yards
First of the gimme birdies for the big hitters. If they can avoid Boase and End Hole bunker, the ball will run up onto the green which is just a close mown extension of the fairway. A flat green where putts can be tricky to read, but two putts will see a red figure posted on the card.
Hole 10: Bobby Jones 379-yards
Yet another birdie hole, depending on the wind, even so it will only be a short pitch in if they come up short. The tee was moved back in the 1998 Dunhill Cup so only the biggest hitter would manage to reach it in one. However, play smart here and a three will be likely for the pros.
Hole 11: High-In 174-yards.
Many players will opt out of aiming at this pin when it is tucked behind Strath Bunker, which is deeper than the Road Hole bunker. A Long iron played left is the sensible shot and a chip and putt would see par. But the green is heavily tilted back to front and those who play long can expect a fast curling putt which could roll off the green when it is downwind!
Hole 12: Heathery-In 314-yards.
Another good birdie opportunity for the brave or arrow straight pro's off the tee, but bunkers and lots of gorse await the wayward. A classic risk and reward hole, but the punishment could result in a double bogey or worse. When the pin is tucked away back right, it is very difficult to get to and easy to roll the ball off the green with a tricky shot to recover from.
Hole 13: Hole O'Cross-In 430-yards
Avoiding the bunkers from the tee is not too much of a problem, but running out of fairway is! The bigger hitters have no advantage on this hole but positional players can place the ball in the Cats Trap, leaving a mid iron into the green. But there is a busy, steep faced bunker short right of the putting surface that can rack up numbers on a card.
Hole 14: Long 581-yards
A good round can be lost or found here. Jack Nicklaus took a ten here in 1995 when he found Hell Bunker and took three to get out of it. Nick Faldo found the "Beardies" on the same day and blew his chance. But Greg Norman made Eagle here in 1990 so anything can happen at this treacherous par five. Thread a drive between the "Beardies" and the Elysian Fields, which are out of bounds is easier said than done, especially in a crosswind. The second shot over Hell is heart in the mouth time for everyone. A good birdie chance downwind, but trouble awaits everywhere if not played well for 581-yards!
Hole 15: Cartgate-In 455-yards.
A brute of a hole with out of bounds all down the right and the infamous Sutherland bunker in the way of a well-positioned drive. Like any good line in at The Old Course, you must take on the bunkers. But for this hole, Sutherland must be avoided or it is curtains. The rest is fairly straightforward and the best shot to play is a "runner" up the slope in front of the green.
Hole 16: Corner of the Dyke 424-yards
Again, out of bounds down the right, but that is by far the best line in to this green. The Principal's Nose bunkers are waiting for any straight drive and as the hole has been lengthened recently, they are in play, even for Tiger Woods! If he does catch one flush, Deacon Sime awaits just behind. The safe line in is from the left, but that will leave a tricky approach over Wig bunker and a long two putt for par on this, the biggest of the greens at St Andrews.
Hole 17: Road 455-yards
This hole is legendary. More disasters are expected this year as the hole has changed a little. With a new wing on the Old Course Hotel, wind from the right could affect how the players play it. The Pro's will tee off aiming over the O of "Hotel" inscribed on the side of the old railway sheds in front of the tee. But that is just the first problem to solve in this 455-yard puzzle. The approach shot must be perfect to avoid the Road behind the green and the most fearsome bunker in the world, It has been refurbished as have all of the 112 bunkers on the course and no doubt it will see the championship decided come Sunday evening if the Championship offers a tight finish and Tiger doesn’t do a "Pebble" around the Auld Lady! The grass between the Road and the green has been grown up a little, so players who find the path will have to make a miraculous recovery if they are to save par. Watch for how many different shots are played into this green…only a vivid imagination and a lot of luck will see par or better made during the week.
Hole 18: Tom Morris 357-yards.
Perhaps the easiest hole on the course with no trouble except the Valley of Sin in front of the green. Aim at the Clock face on the R&A Clubhouse for the best line in, but the bigger hitters will have a "shy" at it when conditions allow. A great chance to make a birdie a la Seve or Rocca waits, but remember Doug Sanders in 1970…18-inches away from a Claret Jug!