Driven Up the Wall; Golfers Claim Hotel Extension Has Ruined the Legendary 17th

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Byline: JAMES ROUGVIE

IT is probably the most famous golf hole in the world.

The daunting 17th Road Hole at the hallowed Old Course in St Andrews, regarded as the home of golf, has been the scene of some of the most memorable tournament finishes in the history of the game.

Indeed, the pot bunker guarding the green of the 464-yard par four became known as the Sands of Nakajima after the Japanese player flailed his way into double figures in a forlorn attempt to get his ball on the green.

But now players are predicting that some of the most legendary figures in golf will be apoplectic when they return to St Andrews for the Millennium British Open in July.

When they step onto the 17th tee, they will be confronted with a three-storey extension to the Old Course Hotel - a mere 56 paces away.

Some of the golfing greats will be unable to play their favourite shot, a right to left drive across the face of the main hotel, which cuts out the hole's dogleg, because the elevation of the new extension blocks it out.

Malcolm Campbell, a respected author, former editor of Golf Monthly and a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, raged: 'This hole is a shrine in world golf and they have mucked and messed about with it.

'T h e powers t h a t be a r e supposed to be defenders of the traditions of the game but this is sheer vandalism.' Respected local professional Jim Farmer, a past president of the Professional Golfer's Association and a Ryder Cup committee member, said: 'How can they do this to the most famous hole in the world? I t might be a great marketing tool for the hotel but it is an absolute disgrace for the Old Course.

'What they have done is build a block of flats slap bang in the line of sight of the greatest players who will be on that tee. When Nicklaus and Palmer see this they will go off the planet.' The hotel provoked fierce controversy when it was first built 40 years ago. Its brutal concrete lines have since been softened by a pitched roof and extensions but the latest construction has taken St Andrews, a town wary of change, by surprise.

Mr Campbell said: 'No one seems to have noticed this thing going up but what I don't understand is why the local authority and the R&A allowed it to happen. …