Road Hole Augmentation: Sir Henry Cotton Shares Blame

Road Hole Augmentation: Sir Henry Cotton Shares Blame 1

A 1930s era golf postcard of Henry Cotton.

“ … in an attempt to deflect their [critics’] ire the R&A claimed the inspiration for the changes to the Road Hole came from Sir Henry Cotton, who said in 1964 that he would like to see the hole lengthened and a new tee built.”

−Lawrence Donegan,

SHOULD GOLF PURISTS get their knickers in a knot over the lengthening of the world-famous Road Hole by 35 yards?

I’m still trying to make up my mind. Probably. It’s St. Andrews, after all. The home of golf.

The 17th, the Road Hole will play 490 yards for next year’s Open Championship. A new tee will be built on an adjacent driving range. The Royal & Ancient (R&A) said it had to be done.

“Over the years we have seen the threat from the road behind the green, and to a lesser extent the Road Bunker, diminished as players have been hitting shorter irons for their approach shots, allowing them to avoid these hazards more easily,” R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson told “This change will ensure that the hole plays as it was originally intended.”

Fine, but did they have to bring Sir Henry Cotton into the discussion?

Three-time Open Champion

To brush up on our golf history, Henry Cotton was a gifted player. In one nine-year stretch in the 1930s, Cotton never finished out of the top 10 in the Open Championship. During that span, he won twice and had two third-place finishes. He won his third Open in 1948 and finished his career with 17 professional wins and later earned a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Of course, Sir Henry can’t comment about the Road Hole changes since he passed on to the heavenly fairways in 1987. But if he could, the three-time Open winner might say, as is fashionable these days, that his remarks were taken out of context. They were certainly taken from another century.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by and the ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.)

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

3 thoughts on “Road Hole Augmentation: Sir Henry Cotton Shares Blame”

  1. According to the R&A (via The Telegraph), the 1964 Cotton quote was:

    "I would make a tee just beyond the railway line on the other course (the Eden Course is now the practice range). It would restore this drive to its former value."

    But back then the hole played as a par-5.

  2. Hmm, humbug. While I have every bit of respect for Henry Cotton and his accomplishments, I really doubt that he knew more about the "value" of a shot on Old Course than Old Tom Morris and Alistair MacKenzie, the two mainstay "designers" of the game's most prestigious track. While no one man can claim to be the designer of record for the course, and in fact, its first designer was Mother Nature herself, those two were the ones that made the course recognizable as what we see today.

    That in mind, their placement of the tees provided exactly the shot value that they intended. Had it not, it is difficult to believe that they would not have made the tee change themselves.

    You could argue that Morris Sr. nor MacKenzie were able to foresee the evolution in equipment nor the evolution of golfer-as-athlete, but in riposte it could be said that neither could Cotton, not in 1964.

    Further, an implication that Morris Sr. didn't know a thing or two about the improvement in equipment would show a woeful lack of knowledge of his history. Old Tom left his apprenticeship with Alan Robertson (the first golf pro, BTW) because he was caught by his master playing with a gutta-percha ball rather than a Robertson featherie…when of course the gutta-percha had an incredible distance and flight consistency advantage. That in mind, it could be said with ease that Old Tom knew and foresaw many a change in the game and that his course modifications have lasted well over a century already.

    Good thing these boobs at the R&A don't run The Louvre. One would suspect that if they did, they might have a modern painter retouch the Mona Lisa to "restore it to its intended value." Poppycock.


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