The Road Hole may be one of the most famous holes in golf. Funny thing is, you can't see it. Honestly, your aiming for a letter on a wall. That's it. Well, I managed to clear "the line" within a few feet, and got a "great shot" from Mitch and Hamish. Sweet! One of the most nerve racking shots out of the way with approval from my caddie. As I said, the wind was nearly in our face, blowing 20ish at this point. As you have seen from the pics before, the pin on 17 was tucked behind the road hole bunker, closer the 18th tee marker than the bunker. The bunker was reconstructed over the winter to make it slightly bigger, but to blend the surrounding areas to funnel more shots from further away into the bunker. Having walked by this pin position, there is NO WAY possible to get anywhere near this pin. I was 192 to the front, into at least a club wind. We decided to play it 210 just off the bunker, trying to catch a piece of the green. Talk about an intimidating shot. It looks like your trying to land on a piece of toast, trying to stop it before the walking path/road/stone wall. I just couldn't commit 100% to it, and pushed a hybrid slightly right. I ended up in the rough, but was past the bunker with a straight shot to the hole. Mitch gives me the line...the tee marker for the 18th and I step in to chunk it along the entire length of the green with a wedge. Turns out, the ball was sitting a bit off the ground, and I catch it a few grooves high on the face. I end up 20 feet just under the hole. I burned the right lip, but walk off the 17th with a solid 5. And no bunker!
When we reach the 18th tee, it's nearly 4pm. At this time of day, there are people everywhere both on and around the course. We waited for the group in front to clear, then had to wait for a truck to cross, then a group of 5 people walking across the course on the road. With the wind blowing 20 in your face, the shot gets a little tougher knowing you can't just swing away and let it bound its way up the fairway. The line is just left of the monument in town, not quite to the first tee, but favoring the left side. I caught one of the best drives of the day for me that bounded along and scooted across the road, just left of the color change in the fairway. Getting to the ball presented another wait for the green to clear as well as for the players on the first tee to clear. Luckily, you are looking right at what's coming at you, so you can can see when a low screamer scatters the group, and splits you and your caddie with 5' to spare on either side. Time to take a breath and hit an approach to the 18th. I was coming in directly over the Valley of Sin, so full concentration was needed. I caught it fairly cleanly, and dropped it 25' from the pin.
When you get to the green on the 18th, there are even more people milling around in the general vicinity. Some are watching, some are betting on you, some are rooting for you, some couldn't care less that you have on loudmouth pants and are 6 over on your first time around the Old Course. However, they may be impressed that you managed to miss EVERY SINGLE bunker during the round. That's right! No sand for me!!! That is a proud moment. I get over the putt, and Mitch and I agree that it's a ball out right. I charged it a little, just running it by 3' on the high side. A knee knocker for par gets me off the Old in 78! My round is complete.
Now, anyone who tells you that have to play the Old because of the history, but it really is just a ho hum track either struggled or didn't take a good caddie. The place is amazing. Little nuances on the layout make it interesting at every turn. The routing and weather add to the fun. The mix of short and long add to the interest throughout. The big Big BIG greens mean potentially 100-150' putts, if you don't listen to your caddie or get a bad bounce. Maybe it's the 78 with no bunkers talking, but I loved it. Beyond the mystique of the course, it was a great test with the club wind and fast greens. To add to the ambiance of the day, there were jets practicing for the air show two days later. That was a treat having them fly directly overhead while playing on the oldest course in golf.