The trap that protects the 17th at St Andrews' Old Course is one of the most notorious in golf. But is it actually as difficult to get up and down as you think? Hannah Holden has crunched the numbers

The Road Hole bunker is known as one of the most difficult tests in golf, but how much of a test does it really present? I drilled into the stats to find out…

According to Shot Scope data only 15% of amateurs get up and down from the Road Hole bunker. Even worse, more than half of players who end up in one of golf’s most famous traps walk away with a double bogey or worse.

So how do the pros stack up against this?

The Road Hole bunker at The Open: Day 1

Only 14 players hit it in the Road Hole bunker during Thursday’s opening round. The biggest influencer on scoring was ball location. Both Si Woo Kim and Corey Connors had to hit their initial shot sideways to have a chance of reaching the putting surface.

Kim was unable to escape with his first attempt, but a touch of class followed to help him salvage par…

According to Shot Scope data, less than 1% of players hole out from the trap, Kim was one of the lucky ones.

Overall, the scoring average from the Road Hole bunker was 4.64 for the opening round, 0.24 shots higher than the field average for the hole.

So far 42.86% of players have got up and down from the Road Hole bunker. That means the pros are getting up and down nearly three times more than us amateurs.

The Road Hole bunker at The Open: Day 2

It is amazing how a slight change of conditions can completely change the strategy for a hole. Friday’s pin on 17 was tucked just 6 paces from the left of the green making the Road Hole bunker a much more frightening prospect. 

On a positive note only one golfer had to play out backwards, Jorge Fernandes-Valdes. He managed to salvage par with a splendid up and down back over the bunker. 

The scoring average from the trap jumped up to 4.71 from 4.64 in the previous round. This may not seem like much but the change in up and down percentage was very drastic. Only 28.57% of players got up and down from the bunker on Friday. This was 20% less than we saw on Thursday and shows you just how much pin location affects short game shots around the green.

The pin being tucked front left wasn’t all bad though. It meant players missing over the back of the green had more room to work with. 

Are you better missing the green long?

It is tempting to take the front trap completely out of play by taking an extra club and making sure your ball is long. But then you’re presented with a completely different problem. The road.

Both the path and the road at the back of the green are in play, and statistically you are much worse off here than in the front trap. It certainly caught Sergio Garcia out on Thursday.

It wasn’t just Sergio who made this mistake. Seven golfers ended up playing off the path or the road on 17. Their average score for the hole? A whopping 6.096.

Pin position plays into this though. On Friday with the pin at the front, players hitting the road or path averaged 5.66 for the hole. The up and down rate from long of the green was 37.5% better due to having significantly more green to play with than they did on Thursday.

So, if any players in contention at the weekend are reading this, statistically playing short of the pin is much more likely to reap a reward.

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Hannah Holden

Equipment and Instruction Editor

Hannah Holden is the Equipment and Instruction Editor here at National Club Golfer. If you’re looking to improve your game, by changing your golf swing or upgrading your golf equipment she’ll have the answers. As well as writing lots of features and reviews you can find her on our YouTube channel giving you insights on the latest rules, clubs and tips to improve your golf game. Hannah is a member at both Huddersfield and Alwoodley golf clubs. You will either find her here or driving up and down the country playing in a variety of elite amateur events.

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