This week at the 2018 Open Championship, the best
golfers in the world will have to make an important decision on the 6th tee at Carnoustie; play it safe up the right side, or aim for the narrow part of the fairway known as Hogan's Alley.
For over one hundred years, golfers have stared down the 6th at Carnoustie and fought nerves and uncertainty. Consider a 578 yard par 5 that plays predominantly into the wind, several bunkers protecting the middle of a fairway and out of bounds up the entire left side. Yikes! Formally known as "Long", number six at Carnoustie was renamed Hogan's Alley in 2003 to honour Hogan's victory at the Open in 1953. Arguably the greatest ball striker the game has ever seen, Hogan attacked the par 5 every round of the 1953 Open Championship with relentless aggression. He drove his ball to the tight stretch of fairway between the out of bounds left and the bunkers in the middle of the landing area, giving him the best possible angle into the green.
Most players typically hit a safer tee shot up the right side that finds more fairway and lessens the out of bounds danger, but this almost always turns the hole into a three-shot par 5, as your second shot from the right side is a long, blind carry over fescue and green side bunkers. By trusting his swing and his expertise in course management, he was able to split the narrow fairway each day, and went on to his first victory at The Open Championship. Throughout his career, Hogan had previously won golf's other three majors and only needed the British to capture the career Grand Slam. With his victory, he became the only golfer in history to hold the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the British Open titles in the same calendar year. He unfortunately missed out on holding all four in the same year as the 1953 PGA Championship overlapped with The Open that year.
The last time the open was held at Carnoustie was in 2007 when Padraig Harrington won in a playoff against Sergio Garcia. When looking at course stats from Hogan's Alley in 2007, it was the hole that produced the highest number of scores more than double bogey. Luckily, Harrington played the 6th -2 par for the week. The scoring average for the hole was 4.8 and only gave up 4 eagles throughout the tournament. Carnoustie's only other par 5, the 514 yard hole known as "Spectacles", had a scoring average of 4.4 and gave up 16 eagles.
Looking at Hogan's 1953 total score to par versus Harrington's 2007 score to par and you'll find something pretty amazing. Hogan won with a four day total of 282 (-6) and Harrington won with 277 (-7). Fifty four years apart and the winning scores differ by a single stroke to par.
Check out this great video put together by The Open Championship and Rick Shiels and for a better idea as to what makes Hogan's Alley so difficult and why it has adopted the name of one of golf's greats Ben Hogan!