The Takeaway: A bucket list course for fans of the Open Championship, Birkdale is a stout track with a stronger back nine than front. While there are other courses in England that are more fun and scenic to enjoy, few courses rival Birkdale's history. Grade A-
Designer: George Lowe 1897 (F.G. Hawtree & J.H. Taylor 1920s)
Cost: £185 - £285 Click for current rates
Phone Number: +44 1704 552020
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Royal Birkdale Golf Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Waterloo Rd, Southport , PR8 2LX – UNITED KINGDOM
What to Expect: Known mostly for being a stern but fair test, Royal Birkdale is on the British Open for that very reason; and rightfully so. The championship layout was designed to test the best players in the world and it does so in admirable fashion. That being said, it feels a bit like an Americanized version of a links course with flattish fairways weaved through the dunes and greens that require little local knowledge to putt well on. There is little mystery off the tee (except on the 9th) or on approach shots as would be typical of links in the UK, but the bunkering is stout and the foliage outside of the fairways stand ready to deliver a punishing blow when shots go wayward; often devouring balls altogether. The routing comes out of the dunes for the final four holes which is a bit anticlimactic compared to the rest of the property, but as a championship layout, Birkdale is one of the best. As is common with most courses in the UK, players will be required to walk but can rent a trolley to help tote their clubs around. Where Royal Birkdale delivers the best is in the history department. The iconic clubhouse features memorabilia from the two Ryder Cups and double digit Open Championships it has hosted with winners including Peter Thompson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Jordan Spieth, and others.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 12th Hole – 181 Yard Par 3 – One of the most recognizable holes on the Open Championship rota, the par three 12th is an icon of British golf. Four bunkers lead up to the green that is surrounded by dunes that are covered in deep rough. Coming up short is a death sentence, so be sure to take enough club to get well into the depth of the green or even utilize the small backstop at the rear of the putting surface. Probably the most photographed hole at Royal Birkdale, the 12th marks the closest spot to the sea though you don't see it while playing.
Best Par 3: 7th Hole – 178 Yards – The only spot on the course where players can gaze out to their right and get a distant view of the ocean, the second par three on the front nine is a virtual island surrounded by seven pot bunkers. The alternate tee left of the traditional tee brings the greenside donut bunker more into play and offers more depth of putting surface to work with but less width. With the number of slopes throughout the green, it will require some touch to navigate your two-putt from certain positions.
Best Par 4: 10th Hole – 406 Yards – The back nine starts with a classic dogleg left design where accuracy is more important than brute length. The tee shot needs to stay short of the bunkers at the far side of the fairway which come into play 250 yards from the back tee, so a long iron or fairway wood should be the play. From the corner of the dogleg the hole ascends about five feet uphill to a greensite bowled out of the surrounding dune. The pot bunker off the front right corner of the green is a perilous spot to end up when the pin is nearby.
Best Par 5: 17th Hole – 521 Yards – A hole that begs players to hit a draw late in the round, the 17th uses a hillock on the right side to mark the line where players should stay inside. The hole doglegs to the left before heading towards the green that has a trio of bunkers around it. A fourth bunker sits short and left of the putting surface to catch balls that get too aggressive when laying up. The tiered green rises from front to back making getting above the hole a challenging scenario to conquer.
Birdie Time: 18th Hole – 475 Yard Par 5 – A gift in regular play as a par five and a brute in the Open as a par four, the closing hole at Royal Birkdale is an iconic offering with the course's beautiful clubhouse setting the background. The hole features tee boxes with different angles, one that has the hole play mostly straight away while the other tee turns it into a dogleg right. A pair of bunkers flank the sides of the driving zone 275 yards away but there is plenty of room beyond them if you have the juice to carry it that far. The entrance into the green is narrow and demands your best game all the way up to the last shot. Balls that carry to the center of the green or beyond are often quick to roll off the back and require some touch on your final strokes. As a par four this hole is tough, as a par five it should be an easy par and a good chance for birdie.
Bogey Beware: 13th Hole – 433 Yard Par 4 – The hole that Jordan Spieth made the most memorable bogey in recent championship golf history during the 2017 Open, the 13th at Birkdale is a long and challenging par four. For the Open it tips out a single yard under 500, but even for regular play this 433 yard two-shotter still poses plenty of challenge with 11 bunkers to contend with along the way. The shoulder on the right hand side of the green poses some challenges for getting approach shots close and the pot bunkers should be avoided altogether. When Spieth carded his bogey on the final round, his tee shot went seemingly miles right and he ended up taking an unplayable lie before hitting his third shot from the practice area. The shot came up short of the greenside bunker on the right before getting up and down for a five. He was thrilled and you might be too if you can take a bogey here.