Golf is like no other game in that on any given hole, amateur players like you and me, even the high handicapper, can produce a score as good as the best professional.
During my one and only round at the Old Course at St. Andrews a few summers ago, I hit a drive just over the left edge of the maintenance building on the famed 17th “Road Hole” and found myself on the left side of the fairway, a six-iron from the green. I won’t ever forget the next shot which I hit straight and true and just short enough to take the required bounce and roll to about six feet from the cup, which was set at center left on the green. Quaking with the sense of where I was and what I was about to perhaps do, I kept my head as still as I could and stroked the putt just into the front door of the cup for my only birdie of the day.
If truth be told, I was half hoping to hit my approach over the green so I could say I had made par (maybe) from the road at The Road Hole. But the unexpected birdie was better because, like most amateur golfers, I can brag to myself that Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson and every other professional who ascends the tee at 17 at the Old Course this weekend in the Open Championship would love to play the hole exactly as I did.
This weekend, though, the pros will play an entirely different hole than the one I did. Tournament officials have lengthened the Road Hole to nearly 500 yards by moving the tees back about 50 yards. But the maintenance shed still covers the view of the fairway ahead, and the pros will be content with a tee ball that finishes just about where mine did, about 150 yards to the pin. I would never presume to tell them what club to hit from there, but I could tell them, with some confidence, where to hit it.
With so much trouble around the Road Hole green -- the Road Hole bunker and the Road itself -- amateur and pro alike should be happy to be on the putting surface. I was thrilled to be six feet to the right of the pin.