GIR meant a lot more at last month’s U.S. Open than they will at the British Open. Bradley S. Klein and Golfweek crunched the numbers for the square footage of each green at the four majors, and you could fit, on average, more than six Pebble Beach greens on one green at the Old Course.
There are seven double greens at St. Andrews — and only 11 total greens — with the dual 8th and 10th green measuring the largest at 36,063 square feet. Pebble Beach greens averaged just 3,500 square feet. In other words, you could fit 10 Pebble Beach greens on that double green alone. The controversial 14th hole at Pebble Beach had only 1,400 usable square feet for pin positions, which means you could squeeze in more than 25 of those bad boys on the eighth and 10th double green.
Per hole, St. Andrews has an average square footage of 13,608, way more than the PGA’s Whistling Straits (8,000), and Augusta National (6,435).
The fairways are just as generous, at least in cut. The shared first and 18th fairway is 140 yards wide. As Klein says:
On all but the two short, back-to-back par 4s at the turn, players face par 4s and par 5s with out-of-bounds tight down the right side and 100-plus yards of open landing area to the left. It would seem to be paradise for a right-to-left player, or for anyone inclined to bail out left.
But that’s where those massive greens work their peculiar magic.
A close inspection of those oversized double-duty putting surfaces reveals that the ideal, unobstructed line of approach is from the right side -– the same side that is most heavily defended on the fairway by out-of-bounds and a tightly bunkered landing area.
So pick your poison. Are you feeling brave with the driver so you can set up an easier approach? Or do you just want to whack it left and deal with the turbulent double greens and hellish bunkering on the approach? If you are approaching from the left, you’ll need to hit a high shot to carry trouble and hold the green, which can be daunting if the winds is up.
This is why the fairways don’t need to be narrowed. And why a setup mistake might have been made on the Road Hole, which has a fairway that slims down to as little as 13 yards wide. As Klein says:
The full strategic intrigue of the Old Course comes through only when the fairways are wide. The decision by the R&A setup team to constrict the fairways reduces some of the course’s inherent flexibility. For example, the ideal line of approach on the 490-yard 17th hole is from far right, close to the wall fronting the Old Course Hotel. This allows golfers to approach the green via a low-slung shot that can skirt the infamous Road Hole bunker that sits front left of the green. For all the attention paid to the lengthening of the hole this year by 20 yards to put driver back into play, the real issue is the abandonment of the right-side landing area because it’s going to be cultivated for the British Open as rough.