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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Russell Lambert
Have played Birkdale twice now as a members guest and it goes down as my favourite course, just edging out it's neighbour Hillside. Had played hillside first, didn't think i could enjoy birkdale as much, but i did. Hillside is prettier, but birkdale knits together better and is more consistent, would probably have 9 holes from each if i could make a composite course, but birkdale has a slight edge. Best hole for me is the 9th, although the famous 12th is also very good, as are 2,6,8 and 11. Would agree with a coulpe of other reviews that the end is a little disappointing. You come back to the clubhouse after 14 and the last 4 are in a loop, that i feel are not quite as good as the rest. Hitting up to that iconic clubhouse is a real thrill though. This is a great golfing experience.
May 09, 2010
10 / 10
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steve
Played R Birkdale on 24.03.10, the whole experience including the fabulous clubhouse and the amazing golf course was just fantastic. It is without question the best course i have played in my 24 years of playing.
March 26, 2010
10 / 10
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Vorndron
Absolutely fantastic course. Tough but very fair and in excellent condition. Played here on a lovely thursday morning and had the course to ourselves!! All the holes were very good with some good birdie opportunities but the 6th, 12th and 17th were the stand out holes and the 18th provides a wonderful finish in front of the clubhouse. £120 for a green fee but excellent value and the staff and starter made us very welcome. Definatley be back.
October 22, 2009
10 / 10
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Mick Valerio
I guess most serious, travelling golfers have a list of Top 10 'must play' courses - if Royal B isn't on your list, you're letting the best in golf pass you by - shame I played it in driving rain but OMG...what a course - I've played some of the very best around the world and this goes straight into my top 3 [alongside Ballybunion & Royal County Down] - sublime!
October 22, 2009
10 / 10
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Simon Wakefield
I have just returned from Royal Birkdale with 3 friends, the course without doubt remains one of my favorites, the Tees, Fairways & Greens were 1st Class. if you have to beg, save or borrow to play please do so before the legs, swing or heart gives in. I would like also to thank Brian in the Pro-Shop and all the other staff for the courtesy that was showed to us on the day.
September 22, 2009
10 / 10
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Pete Sanderson
nice! quite a few blind shots and shame you don't get the views that you get at Hillside next door. worth the visit especially for the history!
August 12, 2009
8 / 10
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Patrick Skakel
Played Royal Birkdale on thursday and have nothing bad to say about it. The course was in fabulous condition and was an absolute pleasure to play, with accurate driving a necessity. No dull holes at all, plenty of great ones, possibly the greatest of which, the par 3 12th. A medium length par 3, with a small green perched high up, with dunes either side and bunkers short. A tough test especially in the wind and rain which we played it in. Would place it above the likes of Turnberry, Ballybunion, Waterville and Royal Lytham and St Annes, all of which I have played.
July 17, 2009
10 / 10
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martin
loved it!!! would rate it as 2nd best course after kragerø! super!
June 05, 2009
8 / 10
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Ed Hall
I had the good fortune to play Royal Birkdale yesterday and was not disappointed. The course was in terrific condition, the fairways were tight and fast running, the greens were true (if a little slow), and there wasn't a weak hole on the course. Outstanding holes were the 12th and 17th - Tom Watson called the 12th his favourite par 3 in golf, and the view from the 17th green from the fairway is outstanding - you realise how good Harrington's 2nd shot on the 71st hole at the Open last year was, although the green is a bit artificial and totally different to the other greens on the course. The finish was a touch disappointing - fairly flat holes and not as much character as the previous 14 - but the level of customer service was terrific, and well worth a visit. Not 100% sure on the no 1 ranking in England- Royal St George's gets my vote.
May 18, 2009
8 / 10
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James
I just can't bring myself to give Birkdale top rating. It is a superb golf course, of that there's no doubt, and in the two to three club wind that we played it in it is a brutal test. But the finish from the non-pro tees really is disappointing: 3 par 5's in the last 4 holes and none of them really much of a challenge. The 17th is the best of these and the approach if you're going for it in two is certainly dangerous, making padraig's 5 wood last year that much more impressive. But the 18th is a let down if played as a par 5. If you are looking for real thrills, spills and big dunes, try Hillside next door.
May 17, 2009
8 / 10
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chris
July 27, 2010
The course is a completely different experience from the back tees. If you had played the last 4 off them I'm sure your opinion would be different. In a 3 club wind you just wouldn't have finished if you played from the championship tees which are further back again. Played Royal St George's earlier in the year and that is the only course in England which comes close to Birkdale as a golfing experience.