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 oƒ 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


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 di†cult 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.

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