Royal Birkdale - Lancashire - England

Ten-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 Jordan Spieth USA

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).

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. 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.

Spieth "flips switch" to win by three - 2017 Open Championship Royal Birkdale

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Reviews for Royal Birkdale

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Description: Royal Birkdale Golf Club is the favourite English course on the British Open rota according to the results of a Top 100 poll... Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Reviews: 72
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Mitch kalcheim
This is the best course I have played in England. I just finished a "Royal" tour of England which included playing Birkdale, Liverpool, Lytham St. Annes, and St. Georges (this is the order I rate them) and Birkdale is head and shoulders above the others. Moreover the staff and pro shop are super friendly. I had a beer with and "artisan" and lunch with a member. I rarely play 36 anymore but I HAD to re round at Birkdale.
May 08, 2013
10 / 10
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David Mattana
I recently returned to Birkdale after a long time away. In my opinion, it is the outstanding course on the stretch from Hoylake up to Lytham. Every hole is great, and while the back nine at Hillside has the most spectacular views in the area, in the final analysis Birkdale is without peer. It is as good a course as I have seen anywhere. In addition, over the past ten years, the staff and members appear to have come a long way in being more welcoming to visitors. I found this a very welcome change.
April 25, 2013
10 / 10
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shigakogen
A fantastic experience. Conditions were perfect though the rough was particularly thick. The design and feel of this course is just magnificent . The best condition course I have ever played . Loved it and can't wait to get back there.
November 12, 2012
10 / 10
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handyyam
I had the pleasure of playing this absolute star of a course courtesy of a successful bet on Ernie Els winning the British Open and I have to thank Mr Els for affording me such a treat! On arrival you are warmly welcomed with the sight of the iconic clubhouse and subsequently by friendly, helpful staff. The starter then set me off with a good line down the first and away I went into golfing bliss...This course really does exceed all expectations in terms of its layout, challenge and fun! Fortunately I was having a "good day" and managed to get it round in 79 including an eagle at the last and this made me realise 2 things whilst enjoying my celebratory Guiness overlooking the 18th green:1. despite its beauty its not the true Links that I had imagined as the fairways are actually quite flat without all the usual lumps and bumps you find on many other Links which took away some of "luck" that you typically need on many a links course2. I had absolute perfect conditions to take advantage...there was no wind to give the course the teeth that it needs and recent rain had softened the course to stop balls rolling through fairways and enable me to stop balls on the greensHad we had a real summer to dry out the course and had it been blowing, even moderately, I think the course me would have eaten me alive - this is why I'll be back...I want to give this course the chance to gets its own back by playing it in less benign conditions.
September 21, 2012
10 / 10
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Ian Shannon
I visted Royal Birkdale in Feb 2012 and I can testify that it is a world class golfing experience from arrival to departure. As a visiting Australian, I found the pro shop and clubhouse team to be welcoming and professional. The course, even in winter, is absolutely magnificent with hole after hole of challenging and memorable shots. Royal Birkdale is a stunning golf course that presents links golf at its best. I will be back!
July 16, 2012
10 / 10
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Patrick McGarey
A wonderfall golf experience across the board: a classic, straightforward links design; excellent course conditioning (fairways, greens, traps); a full variety of shots required; and, (esp. in the wet summer of early 2012) penal rough. You really don't want to leave the fairway too often on this championship-level course, and short hitters should definitely choose the appropriate set of tees to avoid a very long day. No tricks involved in playing Birkdale, just the requirement of continuously hitting strong, straight shots. (Middlle-level handicappers may want to play the stronger par 4s as par fives to avoid constantly hitting 200 yard second shots to well-guarded greeens. The greens putted very true and good approach shots held nicely. Staff is friendly and the clubhouse is chocked full of golf history. Excellent value for the admittedly (but appropriately) steep price. A real treat for the serious player with a sense of golf history.
July 10, 2012
10 / 10
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Carl Tushingham
We were lucky to play here on a mild and calm February day with only a few glimpses of how the wind can effect the course so much. After receiving a warm welcome from all the staff we tee'd off with the course just about to ourselves. Hole after hole of magical golf, just about all of them are excellent, maybe 15-18 not as good as the rest as there is a lack of the dunes that dominate the first 14 holes. If I had to choose the stand out holes I would go with the 6th-9th stretch, just awesome. The course was also in great condition after lots of wet weather, greens not as fast or smooth as Royal Liverpool which we played the day before. Would love to return here, so I better get saving now!
February 22, 2011
10 / 10
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Andrew Whiteley
I played Royal Birkdale on 19th November 2010. It was a sunny day 7c and only 8mph wind, so the beast was certainly asleep. Every detail about Royal Birkdale exudes quality, The staff couldn’t be more helpful and friendly. The famous Art Deco style Clubhouse is beautifully presented inside also. Even the changing rooms are 5 stars. But you do pay for the privilege; £120 per round in the winter (including a delicious soup and sandwich voucher worth £9) rising to a lofty £175 per round in the summer. If you have suffient golf balls remaining and strong enough glue securing your toupee, then you can play a second 18 holes and 50% discount. That is if it is quiet enough and you don’t impede the members tee times (see club website for restrictions).

I’m not a links golf fan, I’ve played Royal Porthcawl once many years ago and remember having far to many unfair lies after reasonable drives. I also experienced putting on the green into a bunker a stroke I understand is called de greening! Also I’ve never really thought links courses look particularly attractive on the TV either. However, 18 holes at Royal Birkdale has completely changed my mind.

The course was in good condition for the time of year. I won’t go on in essay form about each hole but it was just simply magical. The fairways are fair and if you hit the target you won’t find an unfair lie. The majority of the holes have huge dunes encapsulating them giving each hole its own privacy. The par 3’s 7, 12 & 14 are absolutely fabulous. There aren’t any poor holes but I would agree with previous reviews that 15, 16, 17 and 18 aren’t quite in the same high class bracket as the previous 14. I can imagine that when the wind blows it would be a savage course to play. Solid, accurate ball striking is demanded and very focused course management.

As I mentioned I've only played two links courses, but Royal Birkdale isn't rated number 7 currently in the World by accident. So if you want to experience one of the best links courses in the world get out your credit card (we are all a long time dead) and experience Royal Birkdale, it’s surely how golf is meant to be.
November 25, 2010
10 / 10
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stephen voce
Marvellous!Played during the Ryder Cup final day 04.10.10 so the course was deserted.It was sunny and calm so i was able to play somewhere near my handicap.Loved the dunes - a real links feel ,walking through the valleys from a multitude of elevated tees was great.The place was immaculate very true, quick greens which weren`t over the top with undulation.Holes 9 to 14 phenomenal.My only criticism ,we sometimes found it hard to locate the tees - some signs please?
October 07, 2010
10 / 10
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Kris Marshall
Best links course I have played. In my opinion it over shadows St Andrews, Lytham, Royal St George's, Carnoustie, Turnberry and Royal County Down (and many others) in almost every sense. We played it in sideways rain, and despite a 7,7 start I recovered to a very satisfying round of 79. Brilliant course, just brilliant.
August 01, 2010
10 / 10
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David McKie
September 16, 2010
Having played Royal Lytham, Kingsbarns, Prestwick, Turnberry and Troon, I didn't expect to come to the view that a course could put all of them in the shade, but Birkdale did just that this week. It was absolutely superb. Immaculately maintained, each hole with its own unique character and a simply wonderful test of golf. Even the clubhouse exceeded my expectations. The best golf course I've ever played.