What Is The Valley Of Sin?

The 18th hole's Valley of Sin guarantees the legendary Old Course is challenging to the last

Martin Kaymer takes a putt shot through the Valley of Sin in the 2010 Open at The Old Course, St Andrews
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The Old Course at St Andrews is one of the world's most difficult courses, partly due to its frequent and deep pot bunkers, but lurking on the 18th is another potential pitfall waiting for you as you finish your round.

The Grand Old Lady’s 18th hole can seem a benign enough looking 356-yard par 4. After all, the fairway is vast, so even wayward tee shots have a good chance of finding it. But, after your tee shot and a walk over the Swilcan Bridge, your next shot is likely to leave you facing the Valley of Sin.

If that sounds nasty, it’s because it is – a yawning eight-foot depression standing between your ball and the green. At this point, you have two options – attempt to chip the ball over the dip onto the relative safety of an undulating green, or play a low chip and run to get your ball over the other side and towards the hole.

Of course, there is always a chance your ball will land in the dip, either from a misjudged tee shot or a fluffed approach. But, despite its fearsome reputation, it’s not impossible to redeem yourself from this unenviable position. Costantino Rocca famously did just that in the 1995 Open. He forced a playoff against Jon Daly with his incredible 65-foot putt, inspiring one of the best Open celebrations. But, alas, it wasn’t enough as Daly went on to win, condemning the Italian to a career without a Major victory.   

Costantino Rocca celebrates after holing his putt from the Valley of Sin in the 1995 Open at The Old Course, St Andrews

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Two decades later, in 2015, history seemed poised to repeat itself. Jordan Spieth’s approach shot landed on the front of the green but then, agonisingly, ran back into the valley. Spieth would need to match Rocca's feat to force a four-way playoff with Zach Johnson, Marc Leishmann and Louis Oosthuizen. He almost holed the chip for birdie, but he had to settle for par. Oosthuizen went on to claim the Claret Jug in the ensuing playoff.

Jordan Spieth in the Valley of Sin after missing his putt at the 2015 Open at The Old Course, St Andrews

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The person responsible for the Valley of Sin? That's Old Tom Morris, the legendary former Open champion who designed the hole and after whom it is named. Until the late-1860s, the green had been 30 to 40 yards in front of the current putting surface. However, Morris had other ideas, relocated the green beyond the Valley of Sin, and one of golf’s great legends was created.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.