Hannah Holden has dived into the stats to work out which holes on the famous Old Course are causing the most problems

A firm fast Old Course has required a sterner test than many thought. So which are the hardest holes at St Andrews? Let’s take a look at which are causing the most problems for players and where are they picking up their shots…

1st hole

On paper this seems like a tame opening hole but the pressure of the moment, and the pin being tucked close to the burn on the first two days, made this hole play harder than it looks. Moving the pin back on Saturday did reduce the scoring average for the week though.

Day one rank: 12th
Average score: 3.97

Day two rank: 10th
Average score: 4.03

Day three rank: 13th
Average score: 3.82

2nd hole

Although the fairway is wide, and the green large, it is the subtleties on Hole 2 that make it tricky. The slopes on the green are particularly difficult to navigate something which Joaquin Nieman discovered on Friday.

Avoiding the bunker off the tee and navigating around the large slopes on the green are key to good scoring here. You only need to be a fraction out for this hole to make you look very silly.

Day one rank: 5th
Average score: 4.24

Day two rank: 6th
Average score: 4.15

Day three rank: 6th
Average score: 4.11

3rd hole

At the start of the week the third hole was ranking roughly in the middle of the pack, which was surprising given this is a sub 400 yard par 4. The well placed fairway bunkers are the source of most of the scoring trouble here. Find one of these and you will be scrambling to make par.

Day one rank: 10th
Average score: 4.006

Day two rank: 11th
Average score: 3.89

Day three rank: 14th
Average score: 3.80

4th hole

The fairway of the fourth hole narrows considerably at 350 yards, forcing people to lay up short of this, leaving a longer shot to the green. This would not be a problem except the green has lots of run offs that feed your ball away from the putting surface.

Most players have from 140-155 yards for their approach. The average GIR hit from 150 yards on the PGA Tour is 69%. Only 49.4% of players are hitting the 4th green in two which shows you how demanding the surrounds are.

Day one rank: 2nd
Average score: 4.43

Day two rank: 5th
Average score: 4.212

Day three rank: 4th
Average score: 4.22

5th hole

The first Par 5 on the course has been proving a great birdie opportunity for the whole field. In fact on day two this was playing the easiest hole on the course with a scoring average of 4.558.

There have been eight eagles so far this week including this one from John Daly on Friday…

Day one rank: 14th
Average score: 4.78

Day two rank: 18th
Average score: 4.56

Day three rank: 16th
Average score: 4.57

6th hole

The blind nature of the tee shot, and the bunker lined fairways, make this tee shot a challenge. But if you manage to find the fairway a relatively easy shot awaits.

The firmness of the greens and the surrounds needs to be taken into consideration though as plenty of players have found themselves over the back of the green here this week.

Day one rank: 9th
Average score: 4.12

Day two rank: 9th
Average score: 4.06

Day three rank: 10th
Average score: 3.96

7th hole

The 7th has played under par every day this week. Mainly due to the fact the wind and firmness of the course has worked in the players favour. The slopes of the 11th green also work as a perfect funnel to channel your ball towards the pin.

Day one rank: 11th
Average score: 3.99

Day two rank: 13th
Average score: 3.85

Day three rank: 11th
Average score: 3.94

8th hole

This hole is harder than average for the course, which is surprising given it seems a very straight forward par 3. Bunkers at the front of the green prevent you from pitching the ball short and the firm surfaces mean balls are running out to leave lots of long putts or chips back up the green. Make a par here and you are gaining shots on the field.

Day one rank: 8th
Average score: 3.13

Day two rank: 8th
Average score: 3.09

Day three rank: 7th
Average score: 3.10

9th hole

The easiest hole on the course thanks to the fact players can drive the green and the putting surface is the flattest on the course. The field averaged the second lowest amount of putts on this green at 1.66 per player. It also helps the scoring average when players hole out from off the green…

Day one rank: 17th
Average score: 3.61

Day two rank: 16th
Average score: 3.67

Day three rank: 18th
Average score: 3.24

10th hole

The tenth is playing as the fifth easiest hole on the course due to the fact it is short and most players just have a short pitch onto the surface. Nearly 90% of the field are hitting the green in regulation here, or if you’re Rory, you simply drive the green.

The biggest challenge is the pot bunkers that sits 50 yards short of the green, put your drive in here and you may end up pitching out backwards like Jordan Spieth on Saturday.

Day one rank: 13th
Average score: 3.93

Day two rank: 14th
Average score: 3.75

Day three rank: 14th
Average score: 3.80

11th hole

Easily one of the most difficult holes on the course, danger lurks wherever you turn. There isn’t really a good miss anywhere, which is what makes this hole so tricky. You need to hit an exceptional good shot to get close to the pin.

If you do make the surface, danger still lurks, the green slopes severely from back to front leaving those uncomfortable short curling putts.

Day one rank: 4th
Average score: 3.31

Day two rank: 3rd
Average score: 3.24

Day three rank: 4th
Average score: 3.22

12th hole

The biggest, risk reward, short par 4 on the golf course. The driving area is littered with bunkers and gorse bushes, navigate these safely and you have a great chance of birdie. Don’t be too complacent though, a tucked pin here can make it extremely difficult to get near the hole, no matter how short your approach shot is.

Day one rank: 15th
Average score: 3.75

Day two rank: 11th
Average score: 3.89

Day three rank: 7th
Average score: 4.10

13th hole

Everything about this hole is fiddly, the tee shot demands precision to avoid numerous bunkers while making sure you don’t run out of fairway and into the waiting gorse.

When playing to the green there is nothing for short, the green is raised with slopes that feed the ball further from the surface. Play long for safety and you could have a monster putt for your return. The reason for this is the 13th shares a green with the 5th, and covers 37,000 square feet. No wonder the field are averaging 2.1 putts per player on this green.

Day one rank: 1st
Average score: 4.51

Day two rank: 4th
Average score: 4.23

Day three rank: 3rd
Average score: 4.24

14th hole

Fourteen is a good birdie chance as long as you avoid a few hazards. Out of bounds is tight to the right meaning many players choose to take the route down the left, up the 5th fairway. This is a good play as long as you can carry Hell bunker.

Around the green distance control is crucial. If you judge the steep ridge at the front of the green correctly you can get a really good look at birdie or eagle.

Day one rank: 16th
Average score: 4.72

Day two rank: 15th
Average score: 4.68

Day three rank: 12th
Average score: 4.84

15th hole

This ranks as the seventh hardest holes on the course despite 78.8% of players hitting the green in regulation. It is certainly a favourite of Hovland’s, so far he is two-under par here for the week.

Day one rank: 7th
Average score: 4.16

Day two rank: 7th
Average score: 4.14

Day three rank: 9th
Average score: 4.07

16th hole

One of the narrowest fairways on the course, made more intimidating by the out of bounds which sits just four yards right of the short grass. The field only hit this fairway 26.9% of the time with most favouring to aim up the left rough.

This hole has been one of the most challenging on the links, especially on day two when the pin was tucked right behind the raised false front of the green.

Day one rank: 6th
Average score: 4.19

Day two rank: 2nd
Average score: 4.30

Day three rank: 2nd
Average score: 4.30

17th hole

One of the most iconic holes in golf, and also one of the hardest. Getting the right line off the tee is only a small part of the battle. It is the small narrow green and the precarious surrounds that cause most of the problems.

If you think the Road Hole bunker is the biggest hazard on this hole think again. It is actually the road over the back of the green that has been causing the most problems.

Before we even got to the weekend players had dropped 133 shots on this hole alone.

Day one rank: 3rd
Average score: 4.39

Day two rank: 1st
Average score: 4.35

Day three rank: 1th
Average score: 4.63

18th hole

The easiest hole on the course thanks to the fact it has predominately been playing straight down wind. Paul Lawrie drove the green to set-up the first eagle one the week here on Thursday.

There have been 195 birdies here so far this week, the most of any hole on the course.

Day one rank: 18th
Average score: 3.46

Day two rank: 17th
Average score: 3.64

Day three rank: 17th
Average score: 3.40

The hardest holes at St Andrews

It will come as no surprise to you that the 17th hole is ranked the hardest hole. It is nearly playing half a shot over par at 4.425 stroke average.

St Andrews

Second is the the par-4 13th hole at 4.34 average followed by the 4th hole at 4.30.

Despite the 9th being the most reachable, the 18th is playing the easiest hole on the Old Course. The average drive length on this hole has been 324 yards, which leaves just 32 yards to the middle of the green.

Old course

The second easiest was the par-4 9th hole, followed closely by the par-5 5th.

So what about us amateurs?

You would think the difference in hitting distance between club golfers and the pros would make the pros play the holes differently. Interestingly, the stats show that the easiest and hardest holes are very similar for us mere mortals.

Hardest holes at St Andrews

Again, the 17th plays the hardest, followed by the 13th and the 2nd, while the 9th, 5th and 18th play the easiest.


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