124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

The Road Hole: Change won't hurt, but...

October 29, 2009

John Hopkins of the Times asked four well-regarded course architects to weigh in on the merits of the Royal & Ancient lengthening the 17th hole, the Road Hole, on the Old Course at St. Andrews by 25 yards (to 490 yards) to take into account the distances modern pros are hitting the ball.

The consensus opinion from Bill Coore, Tom Doak, Doug Carrick (president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects) and Robin Hiseman (European Golf Design) was that the added distance won't harm the integrity of the hole so long as the angle of the tee shot remains identical. It does, R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson said.

However, each of the architects was disturbed over the circumstances that made the change necessary, to wit high-tech equipment.

"One thing time should have already told us is that if the golf ball had been better regulated regarding the distanced it travelled, we would not be pondering these questions," Coore, Ben Crenshaw's design partner, told Hopkins.

"The proposed tee on the Road hole," Doak said, "is just another symptom of the same disease which has been gnawing away at golf for years...the inability of the ruling bodies to preserve the challenge of the game through effective equipment regulation."

-- John Strege