If it’s downwind, the Old Course’s 18th hole could be a birdie-fest this week. But The Open's big hitters could find themselves in a spot of bother, as Steve Carroll explains

It conjures famous images of the Swilcan Bridge, the infamous Valley of Sin, and balls that come perilously close to parked cars.

You’d be delighted to come away from Tom Morris, the most famous finishing hole in golf, with a par and a story to tell.

The game’s finest, though, are surely eyeing a bit better than that as they take on the 356-yard closer at the Old Course at the 150th Open.

With turf that’s getting ever quicker in the St Andrews summer and a wind that’s been favouring off the tee so far, it would be no surprise if it is ranked the famous layout’s easiest hole come Sunday night. A ready chance to put a three, or even better, on the card with the last stroke of a pencil.

That does not mean, though, it is without threat. You don’t want to steer it to the right for a start.

And the bombers had better beware if they’re considering launching too much club towards the Hamilton Grand.

For lurking just a couple of paces past the green, and just in front of a huge grandstand, is a green fence lined by a series of white posts.

Yes, go beyond that fence on the 18th green and you’re out of bounds. Could that prove an expensive reload during this championship?

Old Course

In their practice rounds on Wednesday, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka were getting into the vicinity with a 3-wood, while earlier in the week, Richard Mansell rocked the big stick to great effect by striking it to within kick-in distance.

Add in a surge of adrenalin, though, or a player chasing to make the cut or bag a birdie to stake their claims for the Claret Jug and who knows what might happen?

Remember that Rule 18.2 says that when a ball is out of bounds stroke-and-distance relief is the only option for the cost of one penalty stroke.

There’s no free relief from the fence, either, because it’s a boundary object. Anyone up close and personal, and unable to get a swing at it, will either have to find a miracle or take unplayable ball relief – again for a penalty shot.

So while there are plenty of rewards available for those who are aggressive at the Home of Golf’s final test, there is still enough going on at this wonderful hole to put a sliver of doubt in the minds.

Have you played the 18th at the Old Course? Let me know how you got on. You can tweet me.


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