Book Review: Wry Stories on the Road Hole

by Roy M. Barineau, Ph. D. on March 28, 2011

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

Book Review: Wry Stories on the Road Hole

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Sidney L Matthew, Wry Stories on the Road Hole, Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2000.

Sidney Matthew is an attorney in Tallahasse, Florida and a member of Golden Eagle Golf and Country Club, home of the Hucks. Sid, as we know him, is also a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. He has written many other books, such as the the Life and Times of Bobby Jones, a subject area in which he is considered an expert. Sid is not officially a Huck, but he would make a good one.

Sid was nice enough to give out free copies of Wry Stories on the Road Hole at one of Golden Eagle’s member-guest tournaments. Sid played in the event with Bob Jones IV, and my copy of the book bears both of their autographs.

The Road Hole to which Matthew refers is the infamous seventeenth hole at the home of golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. The Road Hole is a slight dogleg right, and for a good tee shot, one is required to hit over a shed utilized by the Road Hole Hotel. A second shot approaches a well guarded green with the menacing “Road Bunker” on the left and an actual road just behind the green (hence, the hole’s name). Matthew relates how, in years past, this seventeenth hole was actually the first hole because the Old Course was reversible. The course could be played as a “right-handed course,” according to which the Road Hole was the seventeenth, or it could be played as a left-handed course, according to which the Road Hole was the first hole. Also, as a right-hand hole, the seventeenth was formerly a par five. Today, however, it is a demanding par four.

Matthew recounts several great stories. Tom Watson, in contention during the final round of the 1984 Open Championship, hit his two iron over the road behind the green and up against the wall. Watson did well to get his next shot onto the green, but a bogey ruined his quest for an Open title at the Old Course. In a chapter entitled “THE SANDS OF NAKAJIMA,” Matthew relates how in the 1978 Open Championship Tommy Nakajima, in contention, hit his second shot onto the Road Hole green. He, then, however, putted his third shot into the Road Bunker. Three shots later, Nakajima was on the green again. A score of nine overwhelmed what had been a good tournament for Nakajima. The Road Hole has claimed many victims and has been involved in several controversies. Matthew does an excellent job relating the Road Hole’s stories.

One of my favorite stories in the book was actually written by Arthur Montford and is entitled “THE GREATEST STROKE THAT NEVER MATTERED.” Thanks to a friend of mine, Ken Ellis, I had the privilege of spending a day with Arthur Montford in Glasgow, Scotland. We played Glasgow Club, Arthur’s home course and the last course to be designed by Old Tom Morris, and we dined together that evening. Montford is a Scottish television sports journalist, best known for his thirty-two years of service as the presenter for Scotsport. He tells a story of the 1970 Open Championship when, during the final round, Doug Sanders hit a magnificent shot out of the Road Bunker to make par. Having hit an exceptional, nay, amazing shot from the Road Bunker, Sanders needed only a par on the eighteenth to win the Open. Alas, Sanders three putted the eighteenth to tie with Jack Nicklaus who won the playoff, by one shot, on the following day.


Arthur, Roy, Nick, Jerry and Ken at the Glasgow Club, 2002


Wry Stories on the Road Hole is a great title, not only because of the alliteration, but because “wry” is a good description of the stories. One must either cry or have a sense of humor when encountering the tragedies of the Road Hole. Matthew helps his readers find amusement in golfers’ follies. I am awarding Wry Stories on the Road Hole a full sleeve of balls.  For a related review, see Life and Times of Bobby Jones.

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

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