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 Open Championship has been hosted at Birkdale no fewer than ten times (most recently in 2017).

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.

After the 1991 Open, Martin Hawtree rebuilt all the greens, re-contouring and fashioning swales around the edges of many of the putting surfaces. Prior to the 2008 edition of the tournament, Hawtree remodelled the par five 17th, using the back half of the old green as the front half a new one, surrounded by new dunes. For the 2017 Open, the architect added new tees, tightened entrances to nine greens and added fairway bunkers on ten holes.

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: 78
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Javier Pintos
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
10 / 10
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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.
Cédric
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 08, 2014
10 / 10
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Bananas
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
8 / 10
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Mark Knight
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 24, 2013
10 / 10
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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
Fergal O'Leary
Royal Birkdale is a serious test, playing hard and fast, exposing the joys of true links golf with knee-high hay lining the bumpy fairways. There are numerous back tees added to the course for tournaments, many of which you hesitate to turn around to look at for fear of heart failure amongst the endless waves of dunes. Sometimes you just have to trust your host when they tell you “there’s another tee back there which you can’t see from here”. The thought of adding length to some of these already daunting holes just makes you tremble. Click the link to read Fergal’s full report on Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
July 24, 2013
10 / 10
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Wee Jonnie
Quite simply a spectacular golf course and it is easy to see why the pro’s love playing here. Made the trip to Southport on a rare sunny day and couldn’t resist paying the sizeable green fee to enjoy playing ‘the best golf course in England’. I watched the open here twice as a young lad and the holes came back to me as I played every magnificent one of them. The course is extremely challenging but rewards good shots and punishes bad ones. This was summed up by the fact I had 3 birdies but lost 5 golf balls!?! Bit nervous playing 17 and 18 with my last cherry! There really isn’t a ‘weak’ hole on the course and as many have said already, the par 3 collection is sublime (12 my personal favorite for both layout and aesthetics). Not normally a fan of blind tee-shots but the 9th won me over as well - a par 4 leading to the welcoming halfway house. People very friendly, clubhouse wonderful, balls provided before playing to warm-up. Can’t wait to return to the area to play Hillside and the other smaller brothers of this this great links.
June 15, 2013
10 / 10
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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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