Too Easy?: Holes at St. George's During the Open

While waiting for winner Carl Pettersson to show up for his post-round interview on Sunday, I spent some time digging through the Shotlink system the tour supplies to the media. Aside from remarkable number in regards to shot dispersal (someone hit a 360-yard drive on 11!), I found it interesting to look at the hardest — and easiest holes.

Let’s start with the obvious quesetion — why were the scores so low when early predictions had them much higher? It had a lot to do with the 11th hole, a downhill par-5 that played just slightly over 500 yards.

Hole 11

The 11th proved to be quite easy for the PGA Tour's best.

Scoring average: 4.45

28 eagles, 232 birdie, 21 bogeys

It is almost hard to fathom a hole that had more eagles than bogeys, but that is an indication of just how easy the 11th hole played. Even a missed drive could lead to a birdie. If you didn’t go low on this hole — and the other par-5, No. 9 — you dropped almost a full shot to the field. Note Pettersson birdied or eagled the hole three out of four days.

So what were the hardest holes?

Hole 18

The 18th hole with the clubhouse on the other side of Islington

Scoring average: 4.28

Not surprisingly, given this hole played 467-yards uphill and into the wind, many players were left with more than 200-yards into the green. Pettersson was left with 186-yards on his final approach, while Canadian Cam Burke (who missed the cut) had the long drive on the hole at 324 yards. With the pin tucked to the right on Sunday, this was a fine finishing hole that required two excellent shots.

Hole 4

The 4th hole played as a converted par-4.

Scoring average: 4.24

This one shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. A converted par-5, the tee shot was tricky and the approach wasn’t much easier.

Hole 12

The 12th, with its tricky raised green

Scoring average 4.17

This is interesting because stepping onto the tee one wouldn’t think it would be much of a challenge. It only played 400 yards, but the green, plus the fact many players weren’t sure what to hit off the tee, made it a much more difficult than it appeared. Proof that a hole doesn’t need to be tricked up to be challenging, though the steep green does make this a difficult putting surface.

And let’s take a careful look at the 3rd hole, the par-3 that I raised concerns about heading into the event. Why was this hole, with a green that makes your driveway look slow, so easy for the pros? I’d say it came down to pin placement. The tour was obviously concerned about the right side of the green, where balls can easily roll from the back to the front. In order to remove that from the equation the pin was placed in the middle of the green, just over the bunker, for three of four days. On day three it was to the left, but the right side was ignored. The center of the green has less slope compared to the remainder of the putting surface, and the soft conditions and slow greens meant balls would stop.

Overall, the golf course was handed tons of accolades and rightfully so. However, as one former St. George’s insider pointed out in an e-mail to me, the PGA Tour, which ran the course set-up, played the green slower than a typical member-guest. The great irony of the situation is that many people — members and guests — playing the course on a typical day would face green speeds faster than what the PGA Tour’s best had to deal with. Since players continually mentioned speeds were slow, I’m surprised that wasn’t changed.

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Jeff Lancaster

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • saw Luke Donald and Dean Wilson putt from virtually the same spot on 18, 20 feet below the hole or so- very big money on the line at that point and neither one of them saw that it broke left to right, leavin both their balls 3 feet right of the hole- so pin placements were tricky on sunday from what I saw.

  • Rob,
    Those who perceive the 11th hole at St. George’s as being easy are a little misguided. Quite frankly, that hole is an incredibly challenging hole. Disorder occurred for the simple reason that the 11th hole was a “2-shot hole” for players last week and not a “3-shot hole” that many perceived it to be or as it is shown on the scorecard. Either way, it doesn’t really matter does it? The attitude should be held firmly that the 11th hole is just a hole to make a score in the fewest possible strokes, like all other holes. The concept of “Par” clouds the issue and really has nothing to do with difficulty. Beside, the Standard Tour Players Score (STPS) at St. Georges is not 70… it is 68….and that does not make it less of a championship course. If it was positioned in the proper manner, perhaps Pettersson did win in single digit relative to STPS.
    I know there are those out there who cannot get past this notion, and it would be blasphemy for St. George’s and the RCGA to put anything less than Par-70 on the scorecard let alone for a PGA Tour event… but let’s click our heels three times and repeat out loud “The 11th at St. George’s is a Par-4”. Now we can take comfort that in some captivating and miraculous happenstance the 11th hole produced 28 birdies; 232 pars and 21 bogies last week, we can spread the word to all the munchkins the wicked witch is dead, the 11th hole at St. George’s has righted itself and the only thing we now need to worry about is BP in the Gulf and piece in the Middle East.
    Seriously, the term Par is the most misused term in the game and typically causes more confusion for golfers and should not be used in reference to how difficult or easy a hole may play. In a fair apples-to-apples comparison, the 11th hole should be compared to other 2-shot holes on the course.
    The bottom line… the 11th at St. George’s one of many great holes on the best golf course in Canada.

  • Go smoke another one Zokol.

    By the way, good luck on the senior tour when you tell them “par is just a number that clouds the issue and really isn’t relevant to me, I play to my own “par””.

    When it comes to a competitive event where score is being kept, or really and game of golf, par is relevant, and this whole notion of “for tour players, this hole is a par X”, is BS. Par is par and we all play to par on a hole, that is how we measure ourselves against our competitors and the tour pros. For many that play St. Georges during a typical year, the 11th can be a challenging par. When they see the pros play it, it gives them a measuring stick to who good these guys actually are.

    If you have a 300 yard par 4 – it may be an “easy” hole, if you make it a 300 yard par 3 it can become a hard hole, so while it may be cool to say “par is just a number man…” it is the number by which we measure our performance in this great game and it will continue to be that way.

    Now, if you want to say par isn’t what it used to be in the face of the new equipment, balls and athleticism of today…….that is another story.

    Having said all that: I don’t in any way feel that St. Georges is / was too easy. If that tournament had been played in dry conditions the story would have been much different.

    • Isn’t St George’s a PAR 71 that the Tour played at 70? Does that make the score relative to ‘par’ actually more akin to18 under. Bottom line is just didn’t play tough. And this is a place where nobody really had any familiarity – imagine what the scores would have been had these guys had a little more course knowledge / experience on the greens etc. Maybe, if it returns, we’ll see a 58!

  • Wild Bill

    It seems you are easily upset over how St. Georges is being perceived. You also sound like a member of St. George’s who feels personally hurt over this Par issue? And why don’t you use your real name?

    However, you did prove my point. Player’s compete against the field for the lowest score… it’s that simple… and it doesn’t matter what Par is… it’s just a number. It does appear you are caught up in perception. Professional players only care about shooting the lowest score possible and give no credence to Par in performance.

    I certainly agree that Par is relevant when it’s used to “measuring performance relative to Par” against other players in competition. Scoring measurements could also be kept “relative to Bogie” just as easy… it doesn’t really matter.

    Because perception drives most people and those in power would never make the 11th hole a par-4… because it means the course would be a Par-69 or better suited, a Par 68 … God Forbid That!

    What I said is that Par makes no sense when it comes to determining how “difficult” a hole plays. If you choose to make it relevant, which it sound like you like to do, whether you know it or not, it will cause you problems in performance. That’s why Tour players don’t give it any attention. Par has no fundamental use in Match Play. If you compare Match Play against Medal Play you may get a better understanding of this concept.

    You stated, “If you have a 300 yard par 4 – it may be an “easy” hole, if you make it a 300 yard par 3 it can become a hard hole” this statments absolutely proves my point. Your perception of Par alters your thoughts on dificulty. This means you’re all ready in trouble buddy.

    The characteristic on the 11th hole at St. George’s isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t matter if it was caused by changes in equipment, balls, athleticism or anything caused by the tooth fairy… the 11th hole at St. George’s is a 2-shot hole for Tour players. If you or anyone else want to perceive it as a 3-shot hole, that is up to you.

    I also agree that it does not matter how difficult St. George’s played last week. The players loved it. That’s the most important thing for the club and the tournamnet. It was fantastic and the weather did have a great deal to do with how it played which is natural to the game. Rain made for soft conditions and made the course play easier than it would have if it didn’t rain. So what!

    Par is not significant from a player’s perspective and it’s not relevant when it comes to determining if a hole is difficult or easy. If you want it to cloud your thoughts, have at it. One of the many beauties of the game allows you to choose how to look at it any way you want.

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