July 14, 2010
The British Open is this week, at the home of golf. Luckily, I used to caddie at the Old Course, and will be breaking down a few of the important holes throughout the week. We already tackled No. 1, No. 5 and No. 11. Now we will look at the 14th, the second par-5 on the course, measuring 618 yards.
They call it Long, and for good reason. It isn't the same par-5 that the British Open used to play. Tees have been moved so far back, that when you play a regular round at St. Andrews, you must walk your player around the corner just so they can see the tee that the professionals play from. It is so far off the beaten path that it is literally on the Eden Course, one of the other six tracks St. Andrews Links owns.
If strategy is a factor in any hole at the Old Course it is this one. The first challenge? Avoiding the four Beardies Bunkers off the tee. They are only 250 yards out from the back tees, but if the wind is into the players, it will play more like 295. That means that they will have to either squeeze a driver between the bunkers and the out of bounds that runs all the way up the right side (and you are looking directly at it from the new tees, basically set up to hit it right) or pull out a three-wood and play it short of the bunkers.
With wind, the next step is even trickier. You have a decision to make. Play it down the 14th fairway, and leave yourself a long third-shot approach, or take it up the fifth fairway at the church tower, a place so popular that there is actually yardage markers there for the 14th.
The problem with not going the route of the fifth is you could find yourself in Hell Bunker, a plot of deep sand so fierce that most amateurs just snag their ball and drop it out since they don't see a way to exit it (Here is a photo of me in it in 2005).
If the wind isn't into the players, they'll have an opportunity to go for this one in two with a good drive. The problem is, the green is as slopped from front to back as any on the course, and has a nasty false front that collects a lot of shots and makes a two putt extremely difficult. If you miss any approach to the green left, you could find yourself in Grave Bunker or Ginger Beer Bunker, and long means another pot bunker that is no treat.
The 14th is the most difficult par-5 on the golf course, and takes a ton of strategy and skill to get past it with a birdie.