Every year at the Open Championship, fans and players alike are treated to one of the few tournaments played on true links courses. In links golf, creative course management is essential to navigate the hard, fast conditions and difficult weather patterns. This year's Open at Royal Birkdale is no different.
Early in the week, some players and caddies were considering a unique course management decision on the 9th hole. The 9th is a par 4 that doglegs right toward the green. Players recognized that because of this dogleg, the path to the 9th green is much shorter from the 10th fairway, so the easiest play would be for a competitor to drive into the 10th fairway and approach the 9th green from there.
When the R&A got wind of this, they quickly instituted a unique internal OB area that only applies to golfers playing the 9th hole to prevent them from using this strategy: "When playing the ninth hole only, a ball on or beyond the 10th fairway (defined by the edge of the closely-mown area) is out of bounds."
Here’s a look at the 9th and 10th holes for a visual representation, courtesy of the official Open Championship website.
On Wednesday, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, explained the reason for the change had to do with spectator safety: "In this particular case we've been out there with our health and safety people, and the only way you can get the ball onto the 10th fairway is to drive it straight over the top of the grandstand, and then bring the ball back across to the 9th green, across two opposing groups of people. And we felt that that was just dangerous. So that's been put in there to protect the fans and the players, because it's also blind to the 10th fairway from the 9th tee."
As a result of the new rules, all competitors will be forced to play the 9th hole at its full length of 416 yards.