The five key shots for winning at The Old Course

St Andrews’ pro Kevin Hale shows you how to play the five key shots that are needed to win around The Old Course.

Having hosted the Open Championship a record 28 times you would think the secrets to St Andrews success have long since been revealed. However, while the Old Course may be considered the easiest of the venues on the Open rota, it continues to take amateurs and professionals by surprise. Tweaks to the course for this year’s event, along with subtle changes in wind direction and the unique links turf, can fool even the game’s greatest. There is a recipe for success, though – a series of shots that this year’s field will need to play well to prosper. We took to the famous layout with St Andrews Links Academy senior instructor Kevin Hale to find the most extreme examples of these. “The holes here follow a formula,” Hale told us. “We could have put these shots on any of the holes, but 17 and 18 felt right as this is where the guys will really be feeling the pressure and both can make or break a round. Aside from the closing pair, I had to showcase the monster 5th green that is 98 yards from front to back! Eagle and four putts are both distinct possibilities here. These holes perfectly show the five shots that this year’s field will have to master.”


1. Pitch it close

Almost half of the holes on the Old Course are par 4s that play under 400 yards. For the big hitters, with the wind behind, holes like 18 will be driveable. However, in normal conditions and for most of the field, they will frequently find themselves with a pitching distance of around 60 yards. The shot on 18 is the toughest of these and not just because of the pressure. With out of bounds right, the popular spot is short left of this green, close to the first tee. However, that leaves a tricky pitch over the Valley of Sin where another tough
up-and-down awaits.

Five key shots

Shallow attack
Choosing the right wedge is crucial and you may see guys going for slightly less bounce to counter the firm conditions. As with the longer approaches, a shallow attack is needed. For a crisp strike, quiet wrists and legs are required with the chest and arms dictating the action.

Make the putt
The Sunday pin will be cut here on the left side. The champion-elect shouldn’t be faced with a long putt, but it can be misleading. With the banking beyond the green, it looks like it slopes from back to front and away from the road. In reality, it’s a pretty flat green and you won’t have too much break.


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