‘A 3 is a massive bonus’: Players dish on the Road Hole and its avenue of hazards at the 2022 British Open

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Justin Thomas made the most out of missing the cut in last week’s Genesis Scottish Open.

With an extra two days free of demands, Thomas cruised to the quaint seaside village known as St. Andrews and set up shop. That Saturday evening he strolled around the Old Course with Tiger Woods, each armed with a putter and wedges, to familiarize himself with the lay of the land ahead of the 150th Open Championship. The next day the two played 18 holes with every club.

And Thomas played a tour guide to his fiancé, Jillian Wisniewski. The two arrived at the tee box of the Road Hole and Thomas went all explanatory.

“Trying to explain that hole and that tee shot to my fiancée was a little bit difficult,” Thomas said. “So I had to take her out there myself.”

Yardage Book: Take a closer look at the Old Course

Here’s the exchange.

“You hit (your tee shot) over the hotel,” Thomas said.

“OK, but not really,” Wisniewski replied.

“Oh, no, really. You have to hit it over this hotel,” Thomas responded.

Road Hole
Road Hole

Adrian Meronk of Poland and Tiger Woods of The United States make their way past the Old Course Hotel during a practice round prior to The 150th Open at St Andrews Old Course on July 12, 2022 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The hotel would be the Old Course Hotel, just one of the features that comes into play on the quirky, 495-yard, slight dogleg-right 17th hole that may be the most famous hole in the world and will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the Open.

Players choose a letter from the Old Course Hotel sign to aim at for their blind tee shot. Side note: the hotel features extra-resistant glass in the windows.

There also is the greenside pot bunker that has made grown men cry, the Old Station Road and stone wall behind the putting surface that has produced an equal number of tears. Rough and hay rim the fairways, the green is a sliver of safety just 13 yards deep in one portion.

Justin Thomas

“It’s so unique and it’s so cool,” Thomas said. “It’s one of the 16 holes out here that can totally change your line, your strategy and thinking overall based on the wind direction. You’re going to see a lot of 4s and 5s this week and the potential of someone trying to take it on and make a birdie that could turn into a 6 or 7.”

Road Hole
Road Hole

Jean Van de Velde of France plays out of the Road Hole bunker on the 17th during the second round of the British Open on the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland. (Photo: Paul Severn/Allsport)

Rory McIlroy

Added 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year Rory McIlroy: “A 3 is a massive bonus there. You take four 4s and run very happily to the 18th tee.”

St. Andrews Old Course
St. Andrews Old Course

The StrackaLine yardage book for the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, site of the 150th British Open (Courtesy of StrackaLine)

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth would have loved a 4 in the final round of the 2015 Open, the last time the oldest championship in golf was at St. Andrews. Having won the Masters and U.S. Open that year, Spieth was tied for the lead when he reached the penultimate hole but after a poor approach, he made bogey. He couldn’t produce a birdie on the 72nd hole and missed the playoff by one.

Spieth’s bogey was one of 217 on the hole that week, a number surpassing the total of pars registered on the hole; it was the only hole to do that. The hole has ranked as the toughest of the week the past four starts in St. Andrews – the field averaged 4.712 strokes in 2000, 4.626 in 2005, 4.665 in 2010 and 4.655 in 2015.

And there were only 57 birdies made on the 17th in those four years combined – 13 in 2000, 19 in 2005, 16 in 2010 and nine in 2015.

Road Hole
Road Hole

US golfer Jordan Spieth (R) chips from the road on the road hole, the 17th during a practice round on The Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland, on July 15, 2015, ahead of The 2015 Open Golf Championship which runs July 16-19. (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

Scottie Scheffler

“It’s pretty funny,” world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler began his description of the hole. “You hit over the hotel, and then the green, like it is so small. Then I went down and fooled around in the bunker a bit yesterday. I’m definitely going to do everything in my power to not go in that bunker. It’s so bad down there.

“It’s such a fun hole to play. I think that’s one of the special things about this golf course. It’s so simple, but it’s really fun to play. No matter the conditions, I’m going to go out there and have a good time just hitting all kinds of weird shots.”

Road Hole
Road Hole

Momoko Ueda of Japan plays her chip off the wall on the 17th Road Hole during practice for the 2007 Ricoh Womens British Open held on the Old Course at St Andrews on July 31, 2007 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Jon Rahm

Originally, the hole played as a par 5. Some players joke the hole remains as the toughest par 5 in the world. At least we think they are joking.

“It’s a proper championship hole,” Jon Rahm said. ““Obviously under pressure any hole can be hard, but 17 is a proper test for somebody that has a one-shot lead. If you can make par on that hole, it definitely feels like a birdie anytime. Just difficult. Just difficult.”

Road Hole
Road Hole

Fred Couples of the USA in action on the Road hole during the third round of the British Open Golf Championship at the St Andrews Links Old Course, in Fife, Scotland. (Photo: Andrew Redington/Allsport)

Matt Fitzpatrick

And reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick called it a “fantastic hole.”

“Everyone knows left in the bunker is dead,” he said. “Missing the green right is dead. Short is the safest bet, but it’s not easy from there. It’s just a tough hole. If you’ve got a lead coming into there, it really puts pressure on.”

Road Hole
Road Hole

Adrian Meronk in the Road Hole bunker during a practice round for The 150th British Open Golf Championship on The Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland on July 12, 2022. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

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