Saturday, July 17, 2010

The 18th At The Old Course: Simply Sublime

When you first see the 18th hole at the Old Course, all 357 yards of it, two thoughts come immediately to mind:

-- Wow, it's close to the shops that border its right side:

-- And, it has to be the most non-descript finishing hole in major championship golf.

It is close to the shops, close enough that if you were to hit a big old American tourist slice, you could one-hop it into the Tom Morris golf shop and have to find your Titleist from among the dozens they have for sale, along with knit caps, towels, shirts and anything else that can hold a St. Andrews logo.

And it isn't much to look at, not at first anyway. The tee sits a few yards away from the more famous 17th hole and the fairway is as wide as Kansas. There's the famous Swilcan Bridge you have to cross after hitting the tee shot and there are no bunkers around the green but the longer you're around it, the more you realize that the 18th hole at the Old Course is really cool.

It lets you fire away, hit a tee shot as hard as you can and it's going to run up there someplace close to the green. And that's where the fun begins.

It's fronted by the Valley of Sin, a big hole just in front of the putting surface, and it's a pain no matter what kind of shot you're trying to play. Pitch it, chip it, putt it, you have to deal with it. And it can embarrass you.

It had players scratching their heads Friday at the Old Course. Vijay Singh putted it up and watched his ball roll back then putted it again and watched it go in. Rory McIlroy, who knows his way around this place despite the way he played the second round, tried to putt it around the Valley of Sin and wound up about 30 feet away.

The hole is beautifully simple but challenging enough to get your attention and keep it. In the Open Championship, it's surrounded by big walls of bleachers and that famous yellow scoreboard. When the Open isn't in town, the 18th green usually has a small gallery anyway. Townspeople and visitors tend to gather around the fence bordering the hole and watch the action.

There are few sweeter moments for an amateur that to hit a shot on the 18th at the Old Course that earns some gentle applause.

At first glance, it looks like there's nothing there but at the 18th hole on the Old Course, everything is there.


Anonymous said...

It is the coolest tee shot in golf, period.

Town on the right, sea to the left, and the R&A clubhouse as your target line.

Nothing else comes close.