They made them tough at Royal Portrush two years ago and the drop zones for this week’s Open are just as snarly. Steve Carroll went to take a closer look

Playing by the rules or against the spirit of the game? However you feel about ‘grandstopping’, you’re not likely to see any of it at Royal St George’s this week.

It’s dominated a raft of big tournaments over recent years as players facing a difficult approach have sometimes aimed for the stands and taken advantage of a drop zone that’s given them a nice clean lie just off the green.

Two years ago at Royal Portrush, Open rules chiefs unveiled a genius solution. Many of their drop zones – or DZ, if you’re in the trade – weren’t in very nicely manicured areas at all.

Instead, they looked just like the hellhole rough at the very spot the players had been aiming to avoid.

This time, the huge structure around the 18th green at Royal St George’s is set back a little from the putting surface with a small strip of path separating the course from the main stand.

But any player who manages to get their yardages a little confused, or puts in a bad swing and finds themselves too close to that big bit of steel and plastic seating, could still have to to come through some particularly tough looking fescue that surrounds it – with the drop zones giving little in the way of relief.

Grandstands are temporary immovable obstructions and the R&A has Model Local Rule F-23 in place for the championship.

Players who find they’ve have physical interference from a grandstand, and require relief, must drop their ball without penalty in the dropping zone nearest to where their ball originally lay. That can actually be closer to the hole.

Each grandstand at the Open has at least one dropping zone – the 18th has about half a dozen spread around the giant horseshoe-like structure – and some of them are in some pretty deep stuff.

But it’s not just at the climactic hole where they are on the treacherous side.

drop zones

Check out the spot on the already tough 16th that will surely give any players with serious dreams of lifting the Claret Jug some recurring nightmares if they have to play from it.

Not only does the grass come up around the ankles but a bunker lies between the ball and the green. Good luck with that one.

The motto of this story? Keep away from the grandstands. They might not provide the short cut you’re looking for.

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