A comprehensive guide of all you need to know about the Claret Jug

Thu, 15 Jul 2010


The Old Course

The Old Course is unlike any other golf course you will see on television. Even when you are watching on the box, it can be hard to tell what you are seeing.

Sam Snead, one of the all time greats, played the 1946 Open at St Andrews. Arriving by train, he remarked on the view that “looks like it used to be a golf course”. He was looking at the Old Course.

Arising from its naturalistic origins, the Old Course looks like some seaside grass with tees and flags stuck in at random. Fairways can be hard to spot and are often irrelevant to how to play the hole.

Many holes on the front nine share their green with a hole played in the opposite direction on the back 9 – including the sixth and 12th and eighth and tenth – which means some greens are massive, with vast undulations.

Players have been known to resort to using a wedge on the green to cover the distances and avoid humps and bumps.

The course usually plays very bouncy, meaning the ball can run a mile, which is good or bad depending on the direction you have hit it. There are hundreds of deep bunkers around, so the course is all about strategy and putting.

Three holes are very well known. The first and the 18th are short, straight par-4s in front of the clubhouse, sharing a vast fairway.

For most players, the biggest problem on the first is the burn in front of the green.

However, if you are Ian Baker-Finch, 1991 champion and protagonist in the greatest collapse from top level golf in history, then there are other problems, as seen in this video of his first shot in the 1995 tournament - possibly the worst shot ever seen by a major champion.

That is out of bounds, and about 100-yards left of target. Nobody goes out of bounds over there.

The 17th, on the other hand, is notorious for its difficulty. It is known as the Road Hole, but its most obvious features are a rather large hotel where the fairway should be, and a small bunker that extends approximately 600-feet below sea level.

The road runs along the right hand side of the green, and it is in trying to avoid the bunker that most people end up on the road, or vice versa.

Tommy Nakajima of Japan once took 13 shots to get out of the Road Hole bunker. And when David Duval was challenging Tiger in 2000, he came to the 17th only 2 shots back but took 4 to get out of the bunker.

The course is par-72 and will play at 7,305 yards. It has only two par-5s and two par-3s, one on each nine.

The front nine goes out in a line from the clubhouse, and the back nine comes back in. This layout means that the wind, the courses main defence, is the same for one nine and then the exact opposite for the next.

The holes all have names, and so do many of the bunkers, but I won’t go into it because I don’t think anyone’s reading this any more…

The Card

1. Par 4 376 yards “Burn”
2. Par 4 453 yards “Dyke”
3. Par 4 397 yards “Cartgate” (out)
4. Par 4 480 yards “Ginger Beer”
5. Par 5 568 yards “Hole O'Cross” (out)
6. Par 4 412 yards “Heathery” (out)
7. Par 4 371 yards “High” (out)
8. Par 3 175 yards “Short” (out)
9. Par 4 352 yards “End” (out)
10. Par 4 386 yards “Bobby Jones
11. Par 3 174 yards “High” (in)
12. Par 4 348 yards “Heathery” (in)
13. Par 4 465 yards “Hole O'Cross” (in)
14. Par 5 618 yards “Long” (where do they get these names from...) 
15. Par 4 455 yards “Cartgate” (in)
16. Par 4 424 yards “Corner of the Dyke”
17. Par 4 495 yards “Road”
18. Par 4 357 yards “Tom Morris”

So who’s in contention to win? Turn the page for our comprehensive guide.



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