ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (AP) - Scott Verplank walked off the 16th green on the Old Course and headed for the next tee when his caddie made a startling observation.
“Hey, look,” Scott Tway said. “We’re teeing off out of bounds.”
Sure enough, the right side of the 16th green is lined by white stakes to indicate out of bounds. The new tee for the British Open, 40 yards beyond where it used to be, is located behind those stakes. That stretches the par 4 to 495 yards.
As if the Road Hole at St. Andrews wasn’t peculiar enough.
The Royal & Ancient is up to speed when it comes to the modernization of championship golf, and chief executive Peter Dawson figured it was time to lengthen one of the most famous holes in the game. It was intended to challenge players toward the end of the round, yet more and more players were getting by with an iron off the tee and a short iron to the green.
Now, the driver is required on days except when the wind is at the back. And the hole appears to be as tough as ever.
“I’ve never had to hit over a building before,” Dustin Johnson said Monday during his practice round.
Players cannot see the green from the tee _ they can’t see most of the fairway, for that matter _ because the proper line is blocked by the Old Course Hotel. The ideal tee shot is over the hotel’s lettering written on the side of a maintenance shed.
The confident players pick a letter _ typically the “o” in hotel, although any “o” usually will suffice.
“Actually, in practice rounds I always go along the limit, so I hit it down along the hotel to see how far right I can go,” Padraig Harrington said. “It’s one of those things, you want to know how far you can go right. And it’s not that far.”
Keeping it in the fairway is the chore.
Whereas the fairway used to go in the direction of the tee, the angle now is so severe that it goes sharply to the right in the direction of the second shot. To play a tee shot away from the hotel, which looks safe, will put the ball in thick, rough and make it virtually impossible to reach the green.
And then there’s the green.
To the left is the Road Hole bunker, which is about 6 feet deep and has a sodden wall up toward the green. Beyond the putting surface is a paved road, which is in play and how the hole got its name.