No hole at Carnoustie is more storied than ‘Home’, the eighteenth. A challenging par 4 with the potential to grow hideous rough out either side, it requires accuracy from the tee to the fairway and pinpoint precision to the green as you have to cross the Barry Burn three times
In 1975 it denied Johnny Miller at the death when he found a bunker. In 2006 it was Sergio Garcia who would perish after he and Padraig Harrington took it in turn to lose. It’s the name of Jean van de Velde in 1999 however who really carved the holes reputation into golfing folklore, when he floundered in the Barry Burn.
Iconic? Yes. Difficult? No. Only the ‘valley of sin’, a small depression on the front left as you approach really protects the 18th on the Old Course, which with a prevailing wind has now become driveable from the tee for the biggest hitters.
The trip over the swilcan bridge, the vista looking down the fairway to the R&A’s headquarters, and the walk back into town along the fairway make it amongst the most famous views in sport, yet alone golf. We had to include it.
'Foxy' - 445 yds
With no bunkers and precious little clues elsewhere in the landscape to offer sighting lines, Foxy has been described as "the most natural hole in golf" with another plinth green It's just damn difficult.!
Bruce's Castle - 248yds
Previously a strong par 4 playing in land, the hole is now a challenging par 3 playing across the rocky cove and waves, to a green perched near the lighthouse above it
'Battery' - 424 yds
Biting off a dog-leg isn't a new challenge from the tee. When the penalty is a beach however, you begin to realise why the Battery is considered by many to be golf's finest opening hole
It took a 1909 article written in Golf Illustrated with more than hint of palpable protest about it rather than affection to work the trick. Willie Park Jnr described the eighth hole at Royal Troon as “A putting surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp”. What is it about this beautifully simple description that immediately ensured that everyone who read it, knew what this green was about? It’s fair to say the name stuck.
It’s all about the target ‘at the stamp’. From front to back the green measures 31yds. It’s protected by a phalanx of deep pot bunkers, two right, two left, and one centre front. It’s the width of the green that makes it so frightening. It measures just 9yds at it’s narrowest, and 14 yds at it’s widest (front bulge).
All three scores are possible here, ‘Par’, ‘bogey’ and ‘double’. No hole on the Open rotation plays to a bogey more than the ‘Road Hole’. The tee-shot is blind, played over a hotel wall into a fairway that narrows the further you try to advance on it. The approach is the key though. The green is narrow and set at 45 degree to the approach. Viewed from above it resembles a peanut, with bulbous ends and a slender middle. Playing to the nearest of these bulges leaves a lengthy putt over a ridge with little prospect of anything better than a par. Trying to hit the middle section is hideously difficult. Not only is it a mere 16yds in width to land on, it is brutally defended. The front is protected by a deep tapering bunker that draws bouncing balls into it. The rear is protected by a swail that rolls down to a road, carrying anything hit too firmly across the tarmac and up against a dry stone wall.
If imitation is indeed the ultimate complement of excellence, then the original Redan Hole, North Berwick, can probably lay claim to be considered the best hole in golf. No single hole in the history of golf course architecture has been more copied. The yardage is important. It’s designed to be reachable with a longer club and hence a shallower angle of approach. The green is set at an angle of forty five degrees to the approach, right to left. This reduces the available landing area. A Redan is characterised by a downward slope downward, typically the front right portion of the green towards the back. A shot played for the flag will roll away on the contours. You need to play for the edge and allow the ball to run. The final twist in the DNA concerns earthwork defences at the front. In golf, this means bunkers on the direct line, and the use of mounding at the front.
No hole on the Open championship rotation destroys like ‘the Railway’. A dog-leg right, the tee invites you to clear a sea of gorse to a distant fairway on a 45 degree angle. Too much club though and you’ll continue through the fairway into more gorse on the other side. Almost certainly a lost ball.
The approach is tight on on the ragged edge of reachable. An out-of-bounds railway line runs down your right, whilst the left side is guarded by bunkers. In 1962 Jack Nicklaus took a 10 here. In 1997 the British press reported “Tiger in the Jungle” as the newly crowned Masters Champion signed for a 7 on his first encounter. No hole taxes golfers for more triples or worse, and in 2016 some new illustrious names were added to the list of victims
Bubba Watson (7) Dustin Johnson (7) Danny Lee (7) Rickie Fowler (8) and Louis Oosthuizen (9).
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