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Countdown to The Open: Royal Birkdale Course Review

We’re one week away from the 146th Open Championship and some of the world’s best are taking the final chance to hone their links golf skills on the fairways of Dundonald in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Time for us here at Hole19 to do our own build-up work, and what better way to start than to focus in on the layout at Royal Birkdale in Southport, Merseyside – a historic, majestic golf course that has seen its fair share of Open Championship drama through its nine previous hostings of the tournament.

About the course

A course which was designed in 1889, initially by George Low, it has been tweaked and chiselled in the intervening years – partly by those charged with its upkeep, partly by mother nature herself – into somewhat of a golfer’s paradise in the links game.

Despite the fact that Birkdale is most certainly a links course (i.e. it is built on land reclaimed from the sea), it is unlike many of the other courses of a similar ilk on the British Isles in quite a few ways. With large, imposing dunes throughout, rather flat fairways, and quite a lengthy distance from the shoreline robbing us of a sea-view, a few of its characteristics seem somewhat detached from that of a links course as we know it.

Despite this, golfers love playing at Southport’s flagship course and it is often thought of as the finest links course that England has to offer.

Have a look at a course guide below:

Course Layout

Par: 70
Yardage: 7,156 yards

The 18 holes at Royal Birkdale play along valleys and between dunes which all help to provide impressive framing and separation from one hole to the next.

The first hole is one of the toughest on the Open circuit. The fairway sweeps past a sand-trap cut into the left-hand side of the landing area and then slightly right to a green partially hidden by a mound to the right and protected by bunkers on both sides. Added to that is the threat of out-of-bounds all down the right hand side.

This all adds up to as uncomfortable an opening hole as you are likely to find anywhere.

There are four par three holes which collectively provide a real demanding test of ball-striking and shot-shaping. There is not a weak hole between the four, each with their own gnarly hazards, and they require real game intelligence to prevail unscathed.

Signature Hole - Par-4 16th

There are quite a few holes which could be deemed Royal Birkdale’s most difficult on any given day however, quite regularly, the par-4 16th is considered its signature.

The green sits on a plateau and is guarded by bunkers on either side, making accuracy imperative on the approach shot. To get into a position to hit that approach shot you will need to shape from the tee to find the fairway – if you miss and find the rough, you’re dead

Seve had his troubles back in 1991, and had his fun with it:

It is anyone’s guess what the final score will be come next Sunday. If the golfers are going to be faced with an uncomfortable, humbling round of golf (as can easily happen on a links course) then it will require that the wind gets up. If the blustery conditions stay away then the world’s best will be confident of shooting some low scores.

What is clear is that Royal Birkdale is a thoroughly deserving Open Championship venue and will we see another chapter of its history written this coming week in Southport.

What do you think about Royal Birkdale? Is it your favourite Open venue? Who wins the 2017 Open? Let us know below.


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