Dunhill – How Amateurs Play The Old Course

Dunhill – How Amateurs Play The Old Course

4 October 2023

The Old Course, one of the most iconic courses in the world and a bucket list venue for all golfers will host the Dunhill once again this October, how do amateurs perform at The Old Lady.

We will look at holes 1, 17, and 18 to see how the typical golfer navigates these holes.

Hole 1 | Par 4 | Average Score = 4.75 | Rank 7

One of the widest fairways on golf, approximately 129 yards wide, with out of bounds left and right, as well as the Swilcan Burn within reach for longer hitters it is a daunting tee shot. 

On top of that, add in spectators ready to critique your swing and shot as well as the history of the course playing on your mind, and you could understand why you might have first tee nerves. Ranked 7th in Shot Scope data, this means that amateurs find it one of the harder holes on the course.

The image shows an overlay of tee shots based on handicaps. Lower handicap players play somewhat more aggressive and get closer to the Swilken Burn compared to higher handicappers. 

Compared to average tee shot distance lower handicap players are hitting it shorter than their average, possibly due to wind, but we can confidently assume they are likely not using driver off the tee. Whereas, higher handicap players are hitting closer to their average tee shot distance and so are more likely playing driver off the tee. Due to the average higher handicapper hitting the ball shorter, the burn does not come into play.

When players find out of bounds or the water hazard off the tee, their average score is typically 2.3 strokes over par. Whilst this is a tough way to start off your round, players that find out of bounds off the tee on 17 or 18 typically record a 7 – what’s worse, starting with a double or finishing with a treble?

Looking at Shot Scope data, we can see that the further down the hole on the first, the closer they will hit their second shot – this will likely result in better scoring opportunities.

From the data, all birdies that were made came as a result of a tee shot that finished in the circle below, a slightly more aggressive tee shot. Similarly, anything left of the Swilken Bridge or tight on the right side negatively impacts scoring.

Those who find themselves on the extreme right of the hole will find their scoring opportunities typically disappear as 36% of doubles bogeys or worse come from here. Why? Well, from this location amateurs must cross the Swilken Burn at three different points depending on pin location. 

Hole 17 | Par 4 | Average Score = 5.31 | Rank 1

The Road Hole, another iconic hole in golf with another tee shot that could give you sleepless nights, especially if staying in the hotel! Amateurs looking to score here must play over the Old Course Hotel and many a roof tile has been replaced as a result!

This hole is mean in every sense of the word with various ways to derail your game, survive the tee shot and you can still find yourself playing from the road just long of the green, or the Road Hole bunker. With all these challenges to overcome, it comes as no surprise that this hole ranks as the hardest on the course for Shot Scope users.

Amateurs typically make a bogey, double, or worse at this hole – just what you need coming down the stretch! If you can par this hole, you are ahead of the game and should savour the moment as many will score a lot worse.

From the data, 100% of tee shots that go left on the 2nd fairway result in a bogey, double, or worse – 50% bogey and 50% worse. An aggressive line over the hotel is a must to have any chance at scoring, unfortunately the most common amateur miss is right so exercise caution when choosing your line – many will cross the wall into the hotel, but not everyone will make it back over!

Regardless, being further up the hole and on the fairway as you would expect gives much better scoring opportunities, like with the first hole – playing a shorter club into the green results in closer proximity and thus putting make percentages increase.

Off the tee, those that miss left find the rough or second fairway and struggle to score from here. Similarly, we can see this with the scoring map – 8% don’t carry the corner at the hotel, 3% duff it short and left off the tee, 5% don’t reach the hotel at all!

An interesting hole from start to finish and approach the Road Hole with caution, it doesn’t play fair!

Hole 18 | Par 4 | Average Score 4.34 | Rank 16

A short Par 4 to end the round with great scoring opportunities for players of all levels, from the data the 18th is ranked the 3rd easiest hole on the course. However, interestingly it is only the 5th most birdied hole on the course behind the 9th, 10th and the two Par 5s. 

Scoring Stats Hole 18

As previously mentioned, the fairway is 129 yards wide and so unsurprisingly the fairway hit % is incredibly high at 96% – 1% less than the first hole. Perhaps the thought of hitting it into the buildings or cars to the right of the fairway plays on golfers minds. 

Those that do find themselves out of bounds right do not score well at all! – perhaps the near miss, or contact, with cars, people, and buildings rattles the confidence of golfers. Reloading on the tee box typically results in a triple bogey, seven – not the fairytale ending many would hope for!

To score well, players must drive the ball over the road, 71% of birdies are made from this position and 67% of pars. Although, depending upon which tee box you play from, you can be looking at a 230-250 yard drive to cover the road – a good drive required!

Shots that favour the left side typically score better, even more reason to aim far far away from out of bound right!

Very few approach shots finish long or right of the green due to the proximity of the boundary fence. However, those that do find themselves on that small strip of grass will struggle to get up and down in comparison to those who miss short and left. 

The contours of the green favour an approach from short and left as the green slopes from back to front. Playing from the back of the green makes it difficult to stop the ball and many players could go coast to coast and de-green it at the front. 

Could a shot from the Valley of Sin be easier than people think?

Scoring from The Valley of Sin

The Dunhill is a unique tournament played over three courses with tough conditions and good golf guaranteed. Ryan Fox will be looking to defend his title as the season begins to wind down ahead of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai.

Data for this article has been collated from the continually growing Shot Scope database with over 300 million shots recorded and 180k users worldwide. 


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