HOW HOGAN’S ALLEY TRICKS YOUR EYES
The notorious tee shot on Carnoustie’s 6th hole looks innocuous off the tee but the devil is all in the details, as Nick Wright and Rob Jerram discovered when they recently took on this epic par 5 from the tips.
As we walked up the 5th fairway during our twilight round in late May, we glanced across at the sixth hole to get an early perspective of what awaited us on the next tee. We’d heard the tales of how Ben Hogan, in the 1953 Open, had threaded his tee shots on this hole between the out-ofbounds and the fairway bunker, and how his tee shots on the final day were so accurate, his drive in the afternoon is said to have landed in the divot made by his second shot on the hole in the morning.
While the latter tale has likely been highly embellished, so much has been made of Hogan’s accuracy on this hole over the years we expected to see a slither of short grass between the white posts and the sand. Instead we were surprised at the generosity of the landing area.
Even staring down the fairway from the tee, we were confused as to what the fuss was all about. Granted, it was a still, clear day with no major on the line, but it all seemed rather innocuous. We pulled driver out the bag without hesitation.
Nick’s drive split the gap perfectly while Rob pushed his tee shot towards the cluster of fairway bunkers. It wasn’t until we reached our balls that the narrowness of the fairway hit home. We paced out the gap at 25 yards. The other factor we hadn’t considered was how crumpled the fairway was. Nick’s drive had looked perfect off the tee yet his ball had rolled to within 10 feet of the out-of-bounds. An unfortunate kick could easily have sent the ball out of play. In reality, you’re aiming at a 15-yard strip of grass because you can’t risk hitting left of centre of the fairway.
We returned to the tee to take another look at the hole. This time we realised the wide open vista was a little bit of an illusion. With no trees to frame the hole, the fairway looks much wider than it really is.
All the above should be moot points for the top players who these days – in similarly benign conditions – are powerful enough to drive over the bunkers without a care. For us mere mortals, however, it’s a drive that demands your full attention.