Royal Birkdale - Lancashire - England

Royal Birkdale Golf Club,
Waterloo Road,
Birkdale,
Southport,
Merseyside,
PR8 2LX,
England


  • +44 (0)1704 567920

  • TBC

  • George Low, FW Hawtree and JH Taylor

  • Brian Hodgkinson


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Royal Birkdale

Nine-time Open Championship venue, Royal Birkdale was the last English course to be added to the Open rotation. Turnberry is the most junior Open Championship venue.

Date Winner Country
1954 Peter Thomson Australia
1961 Arnold Palmer USA
1965 Peter Thomson Australia
1971 Lee Trevino USA
1976 Johnny Miller USA
1983 Tom Watson USA
1991 Ian Baker-Finch Australia
1998 Mark O'Meara USA
2008 P.Harrington Ireland
2017 TBC TBC

The Birkdale (as Royal Birkdale Golf Club was originally called) was a nine-hole golf course located at Shaw Hills and it opened for play in October 1889. In 1894, the committee decided to extend the course to 18-holes and move it to its current home at Birkdale Hills. Designed by George Low, the course was ready in 1897. In the 1930s, the course was remodelled and upgraded to championship standard by FW Hawtree and JH Taylor.

In his book, Golf Between Two Wars, Bernard Darwin writes: “J.H. Taylor was the architect and he has unquestionably made of Birkdale a ‘big’ course on which it is good fun to see the big men stretch themselves… no bad player is going to win over Birkdale, and yet it is no slogger’s paradise, for in the English Championship the final was fought between Arnold Bentley and W Sutton, who are neither of them particularly long drivers.”

The club was simply known as Birkdale until 1951 when King George VI bestowed the royal charter on the club. Royal Birkdale Golf Club has hosted all the important events—the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup, Curtis Cup, Ladies British Open Championship. The British Open Championship has been hosted at Birkdale no fewer than nine times (most recently in 2008).

Royal Birkdale Golf Club played host to the 1965 and 1969 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain. Team Captains in 1965 were Byron Nelson (US) and Harry Weetman (GB). Despite injury problems the Americans outplayed the British at their own links game, using low punch shots into the ever-present wind. The face of the Ryder Cup changed forever after Birkdale member Brian Park donated £11,000 for the erection of a tented village, a trade exhibition and the carrying of the now all-familiar banners showing individual match scores. USA 19 ½ - GB 12 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at East Lake in 1963 and at Champions in 1967.

Team Captains in 1969 were Sam Snead (US) and Eric Brown (GB). This was the closest contest in Ryder Cup history with 17 of the 32 matches being decided on the last hole. With the 18th Ryder Cup tied, focus was on the last match as Jack Nicklaus stunned the world of golf by conceding a tricky two-footer to Tony Jacklin. It resulted in the first tie in Ryder Cup history and the act is known simply as “The Concession” and is widely considered golf’s greatest single sporting gesture. USA 16 - GB 16. The Ryder Cup was played at Old Warson in 1971.

It truly is a famous links and widely recognised for its fairness. If you hit the fairways, rarely will the ball be thrown off course. The fairways are laid out in the flat-bottomed valleys between the towering dunes. These dunes, in turn, provide superb viewing platforms for spectators. Invariably in immaculate condition, Royal Birkdale is a very tough cookie to master. The greens were re-built prior to the 1998 Open and despite their youth, are extremely difficult to read.

Birkdale has a superfluity of great golf holes. The 12th, a 183-yard par three is a classic hole and as natural as you can get. From a raised tee, the ball must carry across a hollow, whilst avoiding four deep pot bunkers before coming to rest on a narrow, raised green that is nestled at the feet of tussocky sand dunes. The par five 15th is Birkdale’s longest hole and one of the most heavily bunkered on the course; knock it straight down the middle off the tee and then using a long iron or a fairway wood, avoid the bunkers spread-eagled across the fairway; chip it on and, bingo, an easy five! The monstrous 18th has seen drama over the years, a heavily bunkered par four measuring 476 yards. Only our best two shots in the bag will see us putting for a birdie.

Royal Birkdale can be a torrid experience when the wind is up, with white horses kicking and rearing their heads in the Irish Sea, crashing like kamikazes onto the beach. In these conditions, many of the carries from tees to fairways into the prevailing wind can be too much for the average golfer. But whatever the weather, Royal Birkdale is a provocative place to play golf.

Did you know that Royal Birkdale is the favourite English course on the British Open rota according to the results of a 2006 Top 100 poll whereby we asked: "Four Royal English courses are currently British Open venues. If you've played them all, which do you think is best?" 42.9% voted for Birkdale with St George’s coming 2nd with 28.6%. In 3rd place was Lytham & St Annes with 19% but Liverpool could only manage 9.5% of the vote.
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Reviews for Royal Birkdale

Av. Reviewers Score:

The rankings are spot on as Birkdale is a touch below RSG, although whether Sunningdale Old is better depends a great deal on your links vs inland preference. A touch below as it has perhaps a couple of "ordinary" holes such as 2 and 5 (maybe). The course opens with a memorable par 4 and 6 and 7 are superb. The "closing" stretch from 12 onwards is spectacular including the 13th which is my favourite. A top golf course and worth the additional green fee when compared to other courses in the region.

March 17, 2017


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A wonderful golf course with a natural routing testing every shot in the bag, from long drives to doglegs of varying length in both directions.

Sadly we caught up with a Corporate day that pushed what would have been a 3.5 hour round at 12 holes to 5 hrs by the 18th. Not the course's fault, but worth checking if you have some flexibility on your dates or times.

Probably the most varied yet flowing Open course that I have played and notably superior to its local (and in my opinion on reflection somewhat over hyped) competition.

Would love to play again.

July 15, 2016


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Magnificent golf course with great bunkering, dunes, greens and overall design. Most holes played in isolation and goes very close to the top of my list. I wouldn’t mind seeing some more outrageous dips and hollows on the greens ala St Andrews Old.

Misses out a bit with not a great deal of natural undulations and it would be best if the club got someone else in the pro shop instead of the bloke who looks like he quickly sucks a lemon before dealing with paying visitors.

I will allow myself a rant here….I did just pay 210 pounds afterall. I go into pro shop and the lemon sucker and a mate are chatting away for a few minutes, ignoring me as I stand 2 metres away. The mate walks away and then the pro goes to a shelf, looks at something, walks back to his desk, gives me a once over, lingering on my 5 year old golf shoes and then types something into his computer. Then he looks at me and asks can I help you. On paper it may not sound too bad but it was ridiculous.

Anyway, after forking out another 5 pounds for a simple trolley (plain rude), getting told that yes there is a range behind the putting green, walking 300 metres to it , then realising it needed a token which he did not mention. Preposterous. Put the starter behind the front facing counter as he was a nice bloke.

This poor start does not detract from the obvious 6 balls this course deserves. I know there are various arguments on this website about whether value for money should be taken into account when ranking. I don’t consider cost or the approach of staff or the way I am playing, I base it on the course itself and Birkdale is top class. The back 9 is not as great and there are 2 average holes on the front 9, the par 3 fourth hole and the 5th but the rest of it is up there. If I could find a member to play it for 30 pounds (I say we start a petition for this fantastic website to include a social page) I would be there every holiday playing it and the equally magnificent Hillside. Warren from Australia.

July 07, 2016


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Host venue down the years for the Curtis Cup, Walker Cup, Ryder Cup and the Open, Royal Birkdale stands head and shoulders above just about every other course in the British Isles. You can understand why so many prestigious events have been held here as, in the words of author James W Finegan in his book All Courses Great and Small “the flattish fairways – there is very little undulation – prompt neither freak bounces nor awkward lies... This is a remarkably fair and straightforward test. ”

And there you have it, you can understand why the top professional golfers love the course as it’s more of a manicured links, largely shaped by the hand of man (or three generations of the Hawtree family, to be more precise) instead of a rugged course like some of the supporting cast of links layouts that line the same stretch of coastline. Shots that are properly executed will normally receive an appropriate reward at Birkdale and not unduly suffer a bad bounce off a rippled fairway into a bunker or into the rough.

Royal Birkdale Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

I played the course last week, almost ten years since I was last here, and was lucky enough to catch it on a sunny day with hardly any wind, which is the sort of weather you dream of when you’re visiting one of the top tracks. After a quick look at the golfing memorabilia in the various display cabinets around the clubhouse, it was time to get my golf shoes on, register with the pro shop then head out onto the first tee where scorecards (and complimentary sandwiches) were dispensed by the starter.

What a start with a double doglegged par four – so much for easing yourself into the round! In fairness, the next two holes are pretty straightforward par fours, followed by the two weakest holes on the card for me, the par three 4th and sharply right doglegged par four 5th. The other short hole on the outward half is wonderful, played downhill to a green surrounded by seven deep bunkers, one of which is doughnut-shaped. And the 9th hole, with a forced carry to a hidden fairway that swings right and up to the green is just a brilliant way to end the front nine.

Royal Birkdale Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

On the back nine, the only disappointing hole for me was the par three 14th – then again, I suppose any short hole that follows so soon after the fabulous par three 12th will look weak in comparison! Three of the final four holes are rated as par fives from the regular yellow tees but forget about thoughts of finishing with a birdie blitz as this finishing stretch is as tough as old boots, especially with the narrowness of the 17th fairway, all the way from tee to green, including the putting surface. And the kink in the fairway short of the home green is very devious!

Royal Birkdale’s one of only 13 courses awarded a perfect score of 100 out of a possible 100 in The Rolex World’s Top 1000 Golf Courses book and it’s also one of only three courses in the latest Top 100 chart for GB & I to currently score an average 6-ball mark. That tells you how highly regarded it is in the world of golf. Donald Steel once stated: “Birkdale, because of its many virtues, will remain in heavy demand to decide golf’s weightiest issues” and I fully expect that to be the case when the European Tour pitches up here again next year.

Oh, and I don't think there's a better view from the lounge in any clubhouse that I've been in of the 18th green, which lies virtually within touching distance of the bay windows - what a place to view next year's Open Champion hole the winning putt...

Jim McCann

May 19, 2016


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Royal Birkdale is indeed a special place and a round here is a wonderful experience. A few of the things I noticed about the course that could be slight criticisms would be that even though I believe most of the dunes are natural and this is pure links land the routing gives the feeling of some of the more modern courses in how it seems to aRoyal Birkdale Golf Course - Photo by reviewerlways play through (in-between) the dunes. One prevalent aspect is how the dunes are used to showcase the greens almost like little amphitheaters. This makes for beautiful pictures, however it’s a strong reoccurring theme. The greens and surrounds are excellent and challenging when you miss the greens.

One other mild criticism I would have on this great course would be the fact that nearly all the fairways seem very flat. This aspect didn’t feel natural to me. It felt more like the bulldozer operator got a little carried away with having things nearly perfectly flat. This is the only real disappointment I had with the course. I just feel if the course had more rugged feeling of the dunes with uneven lies and more undulations the course would be tremendously better to me.
Royal Birkdale Golf Course - Photo by reviewer
My favorite holes were the par 4 5th with a hard dogleg right and an approach into a back to front heavily tilted and bunkered green set into the dunes and the par 3 12th. Which is a great mid length par 3 with a raised quarter moon shapped green protected by 4 bunkers and tucked into the dunes. I must admit to also enjoying the par 5’s on the day as for the first time in my golfing life I managed to birdie all 4 of the par 5’s on a course.

I realize I’ve been a little critical of what is by most considered the best course in England and a great championship course but I can just imagine it being that much better. Personal preference no doubt and I even managed to play my best round of the year, not to mention birdying all par 5’s (first time ever for me) so have great memories from that respect.
July 14, 2015


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I am lucky enough to have played Royal Birkdale around a dozen times and each time it never fails to impress. The layout is complete mix of holes, both short and long, turning left and right facing in constantly changing directions providing a new test on every tee. Each hole is framed by the dunes and, other than between holes 2 and 3, it’s very difficult to meet any fellow golfers playing on the ‘wrong fairway’ – so most of the time you feel you have the place to yourself. The are no weak holes at all, but my favourites are the double dog-leg opener at 450 yards (a rather difficult S.I. 11!), the beautiful par 3 12th (set on the outer edge of the course where I still remember sitting with my Dad behind the green and watching Lee Trevino in the 1975 Open) and the par 5 17th with the most intimidating drive to be threaded through 2 mountainous dunes. To get a taste of what the Pros have to cope with, I suggest detouring to view the Championship tees on 7 and 18. On the short 7th, the Open is played from an elevated tee to the left of the 6th green, set at right angles to the normal yellow tees which gives a completely different view of the heavily-protected green and forces the Pros to carry over the course’s only ‘doughnut’ bunker. The Championship tee on the final hole is set on top of a dune directly behind the 17th green and has a long carry towards a distant fairway below with only a small thin stick fence stopping a fade drifting out of bounds onto the neighbouring Hillside course. Imagine standing on that tee with a left-to-right wind trying to get a par 4 to win the Open! Much easier for us mortals to play from further left and lower down and for us it’s a Par 5. The only criticism I can find is the lack of sea views - the back of the yellow tees at the 7th being one of the few glimpses of the sea over the coast road. The best view is reserved for the upstairs dining room in the clubhouse with a wonderful West-facing panorama of the whole links with the Irish Sea in the background. All in all, as a golfing experience, Royal Birkdale has everything. Of the top courses I have played, it is not as spectacular as Turnberry, it does not have the atmosphere and history of St. Andrews, it is not as tough as Carnoustie but I prefer Royal Birkdale above all of these illustrious courses. The only course where I’ve experienced the same level of ‘golfing perfection’ is Muirfield, which I need to experience more than just the once to reach a firm opinion! RdD
July 13, 2015


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The Birkdale (as it was originally named in 1889) was my second stage of The 3 Royals Adventure in 3 days. The trip was planned several months ago and I was certain that it would not be possible to play here but until the last moment I kept my illusion alive. The alternative plan was playing Hillside which is not bad at all, but I wanted to play the best English Course of the Open Rota. The day started early in the morning with my friend Andy at Royal Birkdale Golf Course - Photo by reviewerRoyal Lytham & St Anne’s and I was not supposed to play at Birkdale despite Andy had made many tries with no success. My disadvantage was not only the not availability of tee times, but the sharp times as Lytham is almost 45mins away, but once we finished the round we called the proshop and we were encouraged to make the try. We arrived 4.30pm and with almost no time the Proshop Manager told me “Get your driver and fire it”. I had not time to spend at the Shop and only bought a flag, but at least I could play the course on my own. It was tough as I had no caddie, no yardage book, I was not that familiar with the course and although sunny it was windy. But it was a super experience, I got to know and play the course and under an amazing twilight sun I enjoyed one of those great golfing experiences. The Course was in pristine shape, maybe even better than Lytham and Hoylake, greens rolling extremely true and fast, fairways hard and like carpets, rough dense and tough, Royal Birkdale Golf Course - Photo by reviewerall in one in brilliant condition. I loved all the holes, but especially 1st, 4th, 6th, 9th and 17th – 18th. It was nice to finish birdie on 17th and then holing a 30 footer for eagle on 18th for a great 74 from the tips. Once I made the putt some members on the terrace clapped at me and I felt really happy, as they invited me to join them for a beer. A complete golfing day ended walking another special Club House with history. One last note: I cannot believe the Senior Open lost by Bernhard Langer in 2013, I walked into that bunker and the shot is not that difficult for a player of his status. It is unbelievable what pressure or lack of concentration can do, but he lost it. If I have to value the 3 Royals I would say: Birkdale is the nicest, Hoylake is the one that I felt more traditional and Lytham was the toughest to score. But loved them all 3 and hope to return in the future, it is really worth to be played again.
February 03, 2015


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Colin
February 11, 2015
When did you play the course?
Javier Pintos
February 11, 2015
I played it July 31st 2014. Teed it off 4.45pm on my own and finished by 8pm after taking more than 50 pictures, finishing birdie-eagle. It was a quiet nice round of golf.
Wonderful club, wonderful course, wonderful atmosphere, wonderful welcome to visitors. Really a place of superlatives. Even when it's blowing a gale like on the day I played, everything about the place is top notch. The "temporary member" mark on the green fee ticket sums it all.... Cédric
May 09, 2014


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I played this early March 2014 on a wonderfully sunny day. A lovely course beautifully maintained as you would expect and a proper fair test of golf. I felt if I had played better then there would have been a good score out there but bad shots are certainly punished as they should be. My only issue with the course was the lack of 'Wow' factor with any of the holes hence only 5 balls. Having played Pebble Beach last year I couldn't in all honesty put this in the same league. Lovely friendly staff in the pro shop, the spike bar staff were a bit slow with service but helpful. Overall a great day out at a lovely course.
March 08, 2014


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For a special day myself and a friend played Royal Birkdale today for his 50th Birthday treat, and what a treat. I played shocking and found most of the bunkers on the course which just swallow a rolling ball that dares to pass within a yard or two of them, so I could go on about the course being rubbish or bad because believe me I was. But it is stunning and I appreciated every bit of it and you are able to put yourself in the shoes of the greats as you follow it round, particularly with the recent Seniors Open still fresh in mind. This course is a must do from the hospitality to the perfection of the track itself. I will go back when I'm feeling on top of my game and my self esteem has returned, but beware it is very very tough, Having played some of the others on the Open rotation this is the tester.
September 25, 2013


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Colin
October 13, 2013
Played this gem on Thursday and it is simply stunning. One hole, the 5th, appeared out of style but played on a windy day (20mph plus) and despite 29 points it was a great day and the staff are all very friendly and rightly proud of their course