Royal Birkdale is widely acclaimed as being the fairest of the nine great courses on the Open rota. Padraig Harrington reveals why, and we look at some of the key holes for this year’s championship.
Brendan James previews some of the key holes at Royal Birkdale ahead of this year’s Open Championship. Plus, Padraig Harrington explains why it’s the fairest course on the Open rota.
The last man to hoist the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale believes the course for this year’s Open Championship will present a level playing field for all types of players.
Speaking during a recent visit to the Southport links, Padraig Harrington said every player, not just the long bombers, will be able to make a score around Birkdale.
“Birkdale will definitely bring everybody into play. It’s a big golf course. It’s a solid golf course,” said Harrington, who won his second Open title at Birkdale in 2008.
“It’s nice to have a bit of power. But ultimately on a links golf course, everybody can play.
“You know, it brings everybody back into play. If you want to be a shot maker and you want to bounce the ball up and put the right shape on it, you can compete on a links golf course.
“I’m not saying, it’s not a disadvantage to be a power hitter, but when you go play links it’s not taking anybody else out of the field. It’s letting everybody compete on a fair footing. Whereas on certain parkland golf courses, clearly you’re better o being the guy who can hit it over the bunkers at 320 rather than the guy who has to lay up at 270. But not Birkdale.
“Birkdale will suit everybody. Everybody will be able to play it. I personally would be hoping for not as tough as it was in 2008, but a good strong week.”
Here are six holes that will play a huge role in determining the Champion Golfer of the Year for 2017.
1st Hole, 450-yard, par-4
A good, testing opening hole, which might just be the toughest in the Open rota. Club selection from the tee depends on the strength and direction of the wind but a brave longer-hitter can take driver here, carry the fairway bunker at 230 yards and be left with a straight-forward approach. Any birdies here can be considered as gaining a shot on the field.
2nd Hole, 422-yard, par-4
It’s just over 300 yards to the fairway bunkers to the right so many players will play short with a long iron or fairway wood when it is playing downwind. Players can make big numbers here when it plays into the wind, when they will be forced to hit driver and the fairway bunkers really come into play. In 2008, this hole ranked the 6th hardest during the championship.
7th Hole, 177-yard, par-3
One of the smallest targets that will present at Royal Birkdale. The upturned saucer shape of the putting surface easily repels balls to the sides and, possibly, into one of the seven bunkers surrounding the green. The average score here in 2008 was 3.23
10th Hole, 402-yard, par 4
The sharp dogleg left can be attacked with a good drive, in the right conditions. Depending on the wind strength and direction, the 10th
BIRKDALE WILL SUIT EVERYBODY. EVERYBODY WILL BE ABLE TO PLAY IT. I PERSONALLY WOULD BE HOPING FOR NOT AS TOUGH AS IT WAS IN 2008 ... – PADRAIG HARRINGTON
can be a lob wedge or long iron approach. The wind, and the sharp dogleg, really make this hole a tough test. Hitting into the wind o the tee, leaves a hard right-to-left wind for the approach shot into a relatively small green.
15th Hole, 542-yard, par-5
A good strategic par-5 that requires some thought on the tee. Prior to the 2008 Championship, the tee was moved to the left to make the drive tougher. The hole had more bunkers added to raise the bar to 13 bunkers in total lining the hole. Although the prevailing wind here is into the players’ faces, it does o er a birdie opportunity late in the round. That said, there were just as many bogies as there were birdies here in 2008.
16th Hole, 438-yard, par-4
This hole is famous for Arnold Palmer’s shot from the bush on the right side of the fairway back in 1961. Standing on the tee the primary concern is just getting your ball in play. Any player who gets out of position o the tee, will have a really dicult approach into an elevated green that boasts plenty of bunkers around it as well as a steep drop o to the left, ready to repel balls into the thick rough.
17th Hole, 567-yard, par-5
The second of Birkdale’s two par-5s is an obvious birdie opportunity as it is normally played downwind. A good drive past the sandhill on the left and the bunkers on the right, will put players in the go zone to head for the green in two. But a poor drive here will be harshly dealt with. The green, which was redesigned for the 2008 Open, has since been softened from the wildly undulating putting surface that greeted players nine years ago.
It was here in 2008 when Harrington hit his famous five-wood to three-feet behind the hole on his way to claiming a four-stroke victory over Ian Poulter.
The upturned saucer shaped 7th green feeds slight mis-hits into the surrounding bunkers. The 10th is by no means a long par-4 but was ranked as the 4th hardest during The Open in 2008.
The deep bunkers around the 2nd green are score-killers of the highest order.