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1.5 miles S of Southport
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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 Lowe, the course was ready in 1897. In the 1930s, the course was remodelled and upgraded to championship standard by F.G. Hawtree and J.H. 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).
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. F.W. Hawtree created a new 12th hole in the 1960s, this 183-yard par three is a wonderful one-shotter 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.
A great course and definitely worthy of the plaudits it gets, a must for a golfing enthusiast and I cant really add anything that hasn't already been said. Oh apart from we had a beat the pro on the 14th with Tom Watson !!
I didn't want to be the new Stuart Cink so I let him win that one!
All the open courses are brilliant and I honestly think your favourite is the one you play best at or more important, .....when you get the best weather ! When you compare the best of the rest , ie Ganton ,Royal Porthcawl , Royal St Davids, Saunton Sands, Burnham and Berrow, you realise the open courses have something extra that is hard to explain but is definitely justified in making them the top of the pecking order and you must put this on your bucket list.
Always within the Top 3 in the UK and rightly so. If you enjoy links golf you will struggle to play a better course. Birkdale always provides a stern test especially if its windy! I play this course every year and it gets better the more you play it...
Interesting opening to a review on a website that ranks the course no.10 in the UK!
I have a new favourite! Yesterday i played the impressive Hillside, but as i stepped out onto the 1st tee with the starter welcoming us to the course, this was simply different class. Everything about this course, from beginning to your last putt on the 18th oozes class and a course that can rival all the other World Class courses.
The course plays through the huge dunes and apart from the 9th, which is a blind tee shot, the course is generally laid out in front of you.
But before you even get to the 1st tee, there is the magnificent art deco clubhouse which oozes history wherever you look. And you know as you head onto the course you'll be noting where Speith hit his amazing shot or Palmer played out of the gorse. Hopefully you can do the course justice.
All the holes are strong. The 1st, ranked 11th, is probably in reality the hardest but is such a strong starting hole. And then what was for me a really good stretch with 2 pars and then a birdie on the par 3 4th. That will live long in the memory. Not as much as my second shot on the 2nd, which somehow travelled round the right front bunker and missed the one directly behind to finish bang on the centre of the green. And that is the beauty of playing these greens, where your creativity and skills are tested but rewarded if you execute well.
All the par 3s are standouts but for me the 12th is simply sublime. There was quite a bit of water on this part of the course and so a pond had forned in the valley between tee and green which added to the attractive of the hole.
And then you have the closing stretch of 3 par 5s in the last 4 holes. The 15th is 500 yards of bunkerdom and so how satisfying when you thread your shots through them without visiting the sand.
We teed off the championship tee on the 18th which offered a totally different perspective to the winter yellow tees and you are rewarded with a visually wonderful looking hole back to the iconic clubhouse. A par on this hole is a great way to finish what has just been a journey through golfing heaven.
Whilst some courses maybe Premiership but say a mid table team equivalent or scrapping away at the wrong end, this is a top half of the table course.
We fell lucky. We had a wonderful sunny day and the wind was moderate so we could score well and enjoy the odd bit of magic, which this course deserves.
This is the best course i have played in the UK todate.
Afterwards, soup and a sandwich in the clubhouse and last chance to soak up the history, before leaving but vowing to return again. Perfection.
I think I said in a previous review that links courses were not my favourite but I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that as this has got to be one of my favourite courses i’ve ever played alongside Portrush and RCD. Immaculate. Pure. Perfect. It truly was a treat to play such a prestigious course and I will savour the experience for a very long time. From hole 1 the course was fantastic and it just kept getting better, after the round we were trying to think of our favourite hole but it was so hard because not one of them was a weak hole, making the selection of our favourite a lot harder! The greens were rolling so well an were very speedy, the rough was awfully thick which is how it should be for a links course and the bunkers were fantastic but incredibly tough!
The first hole is a long par 4 measuring about 420 yards and a brutal opening hole with a very narrow fairway to hit and out of bounds down the right hand side. The 4th hole is a great par 3 playing about 190 yards with many tough bunkers surrounding the green. The 7th hole was a fantastic par 3 with their famous donut bunker at the front of the green. The back nine played much easier than front nine with 3 par 5s in the last 4 holes, however the par 5s still played extremely tough. I will go for any par 5 in 2 if I can however you have to be a mad man to attempt to hit the greens in 2 on the 15th and 17th. They are so narrow and well protected by deep bunkers that you will come away with a better score if you take your medicine and lay up, which makes playing par 5s a lot more interesting and fun. The 18th is probably my favourite hole on the course as you hit into the green in front of the famous clubhouse making it a beautiful approach shot and a lovely end to the round.
All in all, the experience was fantastic and I absolutely adored my time at Birkdale, would absolutely go back to play there again if I ever get the chance!
Have played off every tee box in every condition. Simply incredible.
The Birkdale—along with Sandwich, Turnberry and the Old Course—constitute my pantheon of top Open courses, past or present. Though there are plenty of fairway bunkers, most every tee shot here asks the golfer to decide how much risk can be taken to create a reward opportunity for the next shot. All but one of the par fives provide the same challenge on the second shot. And the running approach is in play on all but the short par three holes.
Another fine feature is the routing. The course meanders through (not over) the dunes in all directions, giving the golfer the chance to experience the oft present wind in a variety of ways.
PROPER LINKS COURSE, in my opinion one of the better Open tracks.
Good variety of holes and challenges.
I've had the pleasure of playing Birkdale many times over the years. Its reputation as the "fairest" of the courses on The Open rota is well founded. With two other Open courses not far away, and several other wonderful courses nearby, this is one of golf's best areas to visit. Played two days in lovely weather, with only a mild breeze, with a member I've known since the 1997 Walker Cup. Such a wonderful course in great condition despite the unbelievably dry English summer. No weak holes and many very strong ones. Hard to beat! M
Played RB on Aug 24, 2018. Absolutely fabulous. But what I wish to report is that one of my playing partners, a young man named Chris Severn, drove the 422 yard 13th hole. That’s right. Slightly uphill and dead downwind to be sure, it’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen on a golf course!
Royal Birkdale is a golf course which is incredibly hard not to like but at the same time it’s not an easy one to truly love.
If it were a football team it would probably be the Arsenal side that won multiple trophies under George Graham in the late 80’s and early 90’s when the phrase, “One-nil to the Arsenal” was coined.
That successful team was built on a tight defensive discipline and similarly Birkdale hardly has a chink its golfing armour.
However, I like my golf (and football) a little bit more free-flowing and whilst I’m not quite from the Kevin Keegan school of “however many you score, we’ll score more” I do like to be entertained when I’m on the golf course and whilst Birkdale certainly has its moments (several of them) it’s mostly calculable and lacks a certain flair. Unlike some other top bracket golf courses it hasn’t got a sparkle in its eye.
Not dissimilar to Saunton the fairways are relatively flat and they give mostly predictable bounces, although there are still many subtle creases and natural undulations to be found. The green complexes are all very nice but without any real moments of true magic and the actual greens themselves are good without being exceptional.
The above probably comes across in way that I don’t like Birkdale and that’s wrong because I do and it’s in my personal top 15 in Great Britain. I hold the course in high esteem and really admire it. I have enjoyed every single one of my many rounds here, wandering through the dunes, but I have to admit it doesn’t stir the soul like Royal St. Georges, Dornoch, Turnberry and St. Andrews to name just a few of its peers.
Many commentators say Birkdale is the fairest of them all and as far as Open courses go ‘tis true but this is still high quality links golf we’re talking about and it embodies so many elements that makes golfing by the sea so great. Birkdale isn’t one of my personal favourites but it’s irrefutably one of the best.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.