Almost always, out of bounds on a golf course is reserved for the fringes of the course property.
And that makes sense. A golf course can only extend so far, and play needs to be kept on the course’s property instead of spilling over into the homes, ocean, wilderness or whatever else sits along the edge of the course.
But this week at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which is playing host to the 151st British Open, there is a rare internal out of bounds spot along the 18th hole — something that is very likely to have a big impact on the final major championship of the season.
A big chunk of land that sits between the third and 18th fairway is typically used as a practice range for members of the club in Hoylake, England. This week, however, that section of the course has been turned into hospitality areas and merchandise tents. So, the British Open blocked the area off with white lines and declared it out of bounds.
This shouldn’t be a big surprise. In 2014, the last time the British Open was played at Royal Liverpool, the course set up a similar internal out of bounds spot along the 18th fairway. In 2014, the par-5 18th played 0.2 shots under par. Per the Golf Channel, however, it had 26 scores of double bogey or worse, which was six more than any other par-5 on Tour had that season.
This time, however, the marker was moved about 20 yards closer to the fairway. The tee was pushed about 50 yards back, too, and there are bunkers along the opposite side of the fairway. That’s left golfers a very limited landing spot on the final hole.
“The tee shot is now parallel to the out of bounds, so that gives you a better perspective, but the fact [the out of bounds marker] has come in 20 yards does mean that the fairway’s narrower,” head pro John Heggarty said, via the Golf Channel.
Though it may seem strange, it’s really the only option for Royal Liverpool. In order to have infrastructure to handle the estimated 200,000 or more fans that will attend the tournament this week, hospitality and merchandise tents have to go somewhere. And instead of letting golfers play the hole directly and cut off a chunk of the hole, this extra out of bounds location will force them to play it the long way as intended.
It’s going over well so far with golfers, too.
“In terms of 18 bringing the out of bounds in, I think it’s a lot better,” Matthew Jordan, a DP World Tour member who has been a member at the course for about two decades, said Monday. “I think it makes it a proper risk-and-reward hole. If you hit a good drive, you can go for it. Then even bailing out on the left, it makes the lay-up a lot tougher because it’s a bit longer now. I think certainly from my opinion 18 especially has been a brilliant change.”
Brooks Koepka, who had plenty to say about the design of the previous major championship in Los Angeles, put it a lot more simply.
“It’s fine. Just don’t hit it over there and you won’t have a problem, right?” he said Tuesday.
That’s much easier said than done.