Old Course: Hole by Hole

The basic qualities of the Old Course at St Andrews are the same today as they were when golf was first played there six centuries ago.

Natural evolution and man-made changes have reshaped some of the details, but the up-hill-down-dale nature of the dunes terrain and the special challenge presented by almost every hole would still be recognised today by the ancient pioneers who first struck a ball over the land centuries ago.

Hole by Hole Guide

Also, check out our complete Course Guide.

No. 1, 375 yards, par 4 (Burn)

This short, gentle opening test is bunker-free and blessed by a wide fairway, though watch out for the Swilcan Burn that runs down the right side and across the face of the green. As with every hole, the wind at St Andrews dictates the ultimate difficulty. Depending on how it blows, you could need anything from a iron and a wedge to a driver and a mid-iron.

No. 2, 452 yards, par 4 (Dyke)

The perfect drive would see you land inbetween the heavy rough and thick gorse on the right and Cheape’s bunker at just over 300 yards from the tee on the left. Pin positions will often be high and left on the green, bringing a sharp ridge into play that can send the ball left into a deep bunker or right, down towards the lower level.

Recent changes have seen two bunkers right and short of the green moved closer to the right edge of the green. The green is also now more contoured, particularly on the right side. Two fairway bunkers were removed.

No. 3, 398 yards, par 4 (Cartgate Out)

There aren’t too many solid birdie opportunities on an Open Championship layout, so players will want to take advantage of this short par-4. Avoiding the pot bunkers and small gorse bushes that line the fairway, a good drive will leave you on the right side, giving you the best angle to avoid the crescent-shaped Cartgate Bunker which guards the left side of the green. Like many of the putting surfaces, it has a subtle ridge in front which can make for unpredictable kicks.

Recent changes have seen the removal of the first fairway bunker on the right. A new bunker is waiting to collect drives on the right, about 293 yards from the tee.

No. 4, 480 yards, par 4 (Ginger Beer)

Players have two options from the tee – go straight at the flag down a narrow strip of fairway or drive over mounds on the left where the fairway widens. With a bunker on the left and the green sloping away to the right, a tee shot to the left makes for a shorter but more difficult approach.

Recent changes have seen the bunker on the right side of the green moved closer to the edge. The right side of the green was recontoured.

No. 5, 570 yards, par 5 (Hole O’Cross Out)

Arguably the easiest hole on the course, though its massive green, which measures 92 yards from front to back, can derail many a charge. One of only two par-5s on the course, it is easily reachable in two provided the players aren’t hitting into the wind. Seven bunkers on the right side of the fairway are within driving range and must be avoided.

No. 6, 414 yards, par 4 (Heatherly Out)

A blind tee shot creates hidden bunkers to the left and right of the fairway, as the hole drops to a lower level beyond a ridge covered in gorse. The approach shot can be deceptive as well, with a hidden dip running across the front of the green. The putting surface is relatively flat, however, and most players will be hitting no more than a wedge to reach it in two.

Recent changes have seen new contours added to the right of the green.

No. 7, 371 yards, par 4 (High Out)

The first hole of the St Andrews loop, which encompasses four short par-4s and two par-3s. It’s the only true dogleg on the Old Course, and most players will hit an iron to a flat area beyond a large mound. Shell Bunker guards the green, which slopes from left to right.

Recent changes have seen a large depression in the landing area filled and a slight mound created. As with most of the greens, more contours were added, this time to the right side.

No. 8, 174 yards, par 3 (Short)

The first par-3 and the only one on the front nine, the hole offers a view of the St Andrews skyline, with its prominent towers and steeples. The wind dictates what players will be hitting off the tee, a short or a mid-range iron. The green is quite flat but is partly obscured by a ridge, and the hole can be made very difficult by placing the pin behind a vertical-faced bunker on the left side.

No. 9, 352 yards, par 4 (End)

Some of the big hitters could drive this one all the way to the green, which is relatively flat and guarded by only two bunkers in front. Players will probably look to stay right, as gorse bushes creep close to the left edge of the green. On the right, there is a wide expanse of fairway between the gorse and two bunkers.

Recent changes have seen a fairway bunker added short and left of the green.

No. 10, 386 yards, par 4 (Bobby Jones)

With the wind at their back, some players could drive this green as well. The landing area is smaller than on No 9, however, with rough to the left and two small bunkers on the right about 290 yards away. The green also slopes much more than the ninth, falling away from a raised front.

No. 11, 174 yards, par 3 (High In)

The second of only two par-3s, and comfortably the hardest of the two. The wind could necessitate anything from a 9-iron to a 3-iron. The green is guarded by some of the most severe bunkers on the course and many a round has been spoiled by finding one of them. Landing in Strath Bunker in front of the green could even require a shot backward to get out. The green also has a severe slope to the front.

Recent changes have seen the back left portion of the green lowered to created more pin positions.

No. 12, 348 yards, par 4 (Heathery In)

Another hole that is potentially drivable, though it can be deceptive due to four bunkers that are hidden from the tee. The first man to reach the green in one was Craig Wood during the 1933 Open. Sam Snead also famously did it in 1946. The hole location will dictate the line of the tee shot. A small, tough two-tiered green means birdie is no certainty, however, as it requires utmost accuracy with wedge or putter in hand.

No. 13, 465 yards, par 4 (Hole O’Cross In)

The start of the toughest stretch, the 13th requires an accurate tee shot to avoid a line of Coffin bunkers down the left side. Then a long iron approach must carry the entire way to a green that is slightly elevated and guarded by a shallow hollow filled with rough on the left and a deep bunker on the right.

No. 14, 614 yards, par 5 (Long)

Go wide and right off the tee and you’ll most likely end up out of bounds, while the left side features four Beardies bunkers that must be carried. If the hole plays into the wind, players can forget about reaching the green in two. Whatever the case, the second shot should be played toward the fifth fairway in order to avoid Hell Bunker. The green face rises steeply before dropping away back and left.

No. 15, 455 yards, par 4 (Cartgate In)

Into the wind, the Sutherland bunker in the middle of the fairway comes into play. Big hitters should be careful of running out of space on a fairway which tightens and narrows at about 300 yards. The best approach shot comes in high to avoid bringing the bumps in front of the green into play.

Recent changes have seen contours added to the right back of the green.

No. 16, 418 yards, par 4 (Corner of the Dyke)

Players have only a narrow strip of fairway to work with, due to a fence that marks the route of the old railway into St. Andrews that runs down the right side of the entire hole. A cluster of three bunkers, known as the Principal’s Nose, also lie in wait. The green rises sharply at the front and is guarded by a bunker front and behind.

No. 17, 495 yards, par 4 (Road)

The Old Course’s most infamous hole, widely considered the toughest in the Open rotation and indeed the toughest par-4 in championship golf. The drive needs to carry 260 yards over the replica railway shed to reach the right edge of the fairway. The approach should avoid the Road Hole bunker at all costs, so best to go for the right half of the green. Anything long and you end up in the road behind the green.

Recent changes have seen the Road Bunker widened by about 2 feet on the right. A small portion on the front of the green was recontoured.

No. 18, 356 yards, par 4 (Tom Morris)

‘Short, simple and dramatic’ best describes the closing hole. It can be reached from the tee, but a road runs along the right side and any shot towards the green must be careful of the swale known as the “Valley of Sin”. Spanning the Swilcan Burn between the first and eighteenth fairways, the Swilcan Bridge has become an important cultural icon in the sport of golf.