Armchair Architect Tim Gallant looks at the design of the par-5 sixth at Carnoustie, known as Hogan's Alley.
Armchair Architect: 6th Hole, Carnoustie
Welcome to Armchair Architect! I’m Tim Gallant – a budding golf course enthusiast and panelist for Golf Monthly’s Top 100 rankings. In this segment, I discuss the merits of great golf holes all around the UK&I. Each month I’ll choose one hole and look at its strengths from a design perspective.
This Month’s Hole
What better course to start on than the host of this year’s Open Championship: Carnoustie. Today’s hole that we will be assessing is the par-5 sixth, named Hogan’s Alley.
Par: 5 (SI 2)
Yardage: Medal – 520 yards; Daily – 500 yards; Red – 485 yards
Peering out from the tee, players will see out-of-bounds (OOB) all the way up the left side of the hole, two centre-line bunkers that bisect the fairway, and two bunkers farther up and to the right. With the prevailing wind coming straight into players, it makes finding the fairway of paramount importance.
Go a bit more and a burn starts coming in from the right, tightening the landing area as players get closer to the green. The green itself is angled from left-to-right, with three bunkers short right, one long left, and one in the front. Not exactly an easy birdie!
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While initially daunting, there are actually a number of ways to navigate this hole. And therein lies its genius. It doesn’t force an answer upon players, but gives multiple options, demanding precision once decisions are taken.
At 520 from the medal tees, most low-handicap players might be looking to get home in two depending on the wind. But to do so, they will need to challenge the OOB off the tee. Anything left, and it’s a reload. Miss right, and there are gorse bushes and two greedy bunkers awaiting poor shots.
Successfully challenging the OOB will give players the best (and possibly only) shot into the green for their second. Otherwise, they will need to lay-up and play a delicate pitch shot to a modestly undulating green from a tight lie – a tricky proposition.
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If players are feeling particularly Tiger-ish, then they can take on the same tee ball as the low handicap players, but more likely, they will bail out right, where there is fairway and light rough. Their second shots will then need to stay left of the burn that starts creeping in from the right, while staying short of the OOB, which continues to loom to the left.
There is an option to play a short iron for safety to the fat part of the fairway, but that will leave an almost impossible third that will need to fly 180+ yards over the greenside bunkers short to a putting surface that falls away from players.
Those willing to play smart golf all the way up the hole may very well walk off the green with the best score! Bunting it short of the centre-line bunkers, playing it safely down the middle for their second, and laying up short of the green with their third might lead to an easy nett par or even nett birdie!
What makes the 6th so great is the OOB to the left, which dictates choice and play all the way up the hole. That, along with the green angle and perfectly placed hazards gives golfers plenty of options and lots to think about!