Why St Andrews' 18th Hole Being Drivable Is Amazing

The home hole is like nothing else in Major championship golf, and the way it's playing this week is fantastic

Rory McIlroy at the top of his backswing on the 18th tee at St Andrews
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Old Course at St Andrews is once again reminding us how brilliant it is this week, with R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers saying pre-tournament that the course was exactly where they wanted it to be.

It's brown, it's bouncy, it's beautiful.

We spoke to a caddie this week who said that balls are running as much as 120 yards if they get the right bounce off a downslope. Others have said the fairways are faster than the greens. It's crazy golf but it's brilliant.

"The golf course is playing so, so short. But it's still tricky," Rory McIlroy said after his opening 66, just after revealing that he hit a pitching wedge into the 615 yard 14th.


One hole that is playing particularly short this week is the finishing hole. It's one of the best holes in the world but there may well be some fans, players and officials questioning it this week. It always is officially 'drivable' but this week is something else. It's probably only playing around 250-270 yards depending on the first bounce, and that's shorter than par-3s have been in past US Opens. 

A senior golfer drove the par-4 18th hole in a Major with a fairway wood today. It sounds quite funny when it's written down. That was Ernie Els, who sadly three-putted to record a par on the 356 yarder.

The hole has been decimated in the opening round and has been birdied by dozens of players and eagled by two. Paul Lawrie and Danny Willett both made 2 on the home hole. Richard Mansell had a tap-in eagle in practice too.

Watch Lawrie's drive on 18:

See more

The world's best are finding it with 2-irons so some may argue that the Old has failed to stand the test of time amid a fight against a longer ball, improved technology and a professional game full of athletes.

That could be true for this specific week in these specific conditions but who cares? Par is only subjective anyway. The par of the hole today will be whatever the average score is for the round. If that's 3.5 or 3.6 then that's what its par is and players who make a four are essentially losing strokes. Players are making four and they're doing so by being caught out by the Valley of Sin, or hitting an average chip, an average drive or maybe a weak putt.

That's fine and the players who are making birdies and eagles are being rewarded for good shots, while the players who are making pars clearly aren't hitting shots to the best of their abilities.

The 18th on the Old Course is a true icon and no matter whether it's soft, downwind, into wind or firm and fast, it's one of the best and most famous golf holes in the world. This week, we've been very lucky with the conditions and it being a one-shotter has made it a delight to watch.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x