Over the five-plus years of our Yolk with Doak series, Tom Doak and Andy Johnson have discussed St. Andrews surprisingly little. With the Open Championship making its return to the Old Course this year, they decided to fill that gap and devote an entire episode to the Home of Golf.
Tom’s history with St. Andrews goes back to his first visit there as a teenager on vacation with his family. Later, he spent a portion of his college days doing independent study in the area and has since made many trips back. During all of his visits, the Old Course’s bunkers and their influence as true hazards made an impression on him.
Now, bunkers are always a topic of discussion during Open weeks. Videos of players trying to see over the edge of the lip of a pot and pitching out sideways always make the rounds. But Tom goes a bit more in depth in this podcast. He speaks to how the scale of the bunkers differs from what you see in professional golf almost every other week of year, and how this characteristic contributes to the bunkers playing as true hazards even for skilled players.
“Most golf courses, most of the world, those bunkers are not very hazardous for good players anymore,” Tom says. “At St. Andrews and the courses on the Open rota, that’s not true. They are real hazards. And even the best players in the world are focused on plotting their way around that place so that it’s hazard free. Driving it in the bunker is a penalty. And there’s not very many places they deal with that.
“The hazards that are out there aren’t placed in obvious spots, and a lot of them you can’t even see very well from the tee. So you don’t see a hazard until you get up by it or past it and you’re like, ‘Oh, I would’ve played different if I’d had known that was there.’ They’re tiny little things, but they don’t look so ticky-tack as people think because you also don’t see them very well. They sit down in the ground. So they’re in visual scale by the time you get up there to see them, but they’re not in visual scale from the tee.”
Listen to the entire episode to hear Tom’s advice for first-time visitors, his thoughts on playing the course in reverse, and what he thinks of its evolution over the years.