They are course boundaries that divide opinion, but internal out of bounds comes into play on two pivotal holes at Royal Liverpool
One shot. That’s all it took. It wasn’t off the planet. It was just a little pulled. But it popped the cork and took the fizz out of everyone who saw it.
Rory McIlroy’s Open hopes essentially ended, just as they’d begun, when he hit his opening tee shot beyond the boundary at Royal Portrush in 2019.
He was a victim of the course’s internal out of bounds and it’s a spectre that again looms large this week as the Open comes to Royal Liverpool.
The third hole, Course, and the final hole, Dun, wind around the same internal boundary – which separates the course from the Hoylake club’s practice ground.
This week, that area hosts the Open’s massive tented village but the impact on the destination of championship for those who skew a shot could still be profound.
Internal out of bounds is used to “maintain the character of a hole or to protect players on adjacent holes,” says the R&A in their advice on course marking found in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf.
It’s usually brought in by Local Rule, but it’s use in big championships can be controversial. The well-known golf architect and commentator Geoff Shackleford, writing after McIlroy came to grief at Portrush, wrote: “Internal out-of-bounds has sunk the reputation of most courses.
“It’s right up there with slow play, lost balls and Caddyshack 2 on most golfers’ list of worst nightmares”.
There was more on display at Oak Hill during May’s PGA Championship with any player hitting from the 6th onto the 7th fairway at the Rochester club learning they had fallen foul of the boundaries.
Now we’ve got a further two to deal with at Royal Liverpool. It’s in the eyeline at the 3rd, which usually plays as the opening hole for the members, but it would be a surprise if too many found themselves breaching the boundary which runs all the way down the right-hand side.
Even so, it will probably put some doubt in the mind. Players are likely to look more to the left, and just be a bit more defensive, but the rough that lies beyond the fairway is gnarly and difficult to negotiate.
Out of bounds still remains an issue for the second shot.
Even The Open’s own media guide thinks this will be an iron which will “leave themselves around 180 to 220 yards to the green”. Par is the goal.
It’s on the last, where the same boundary comes into play, where the impact could be far more profound.
With the arrival of the new par 3 17th, Little Eye, the championship tee on the 18th has been moved much further right and pushed back around 50 yards.
As the hole curves to the right on the second shot, the out of bounds line comes more into play. It’s mere yards off the fairway and green as it makes its way down the full right hand side of the hole.
This could prove very interesting for those on Friday needing to take an aggressive line to make the cut. Its possibilities with the Claret Jug on the line on Sunday are obvious.
It will not require much of a push, or a ball that gets on the wind, for disaster to strike those who put everyone on the line.
So it’s bound to be dramatic but does the threat of a championship being ended by an internal boundary sit well with the purists? We’ll find out if it plays a key role this week.
What do you think? Is internal out of bounds a good thing on a golf course? Let me know with a tweet
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