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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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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Neil
I have played all of the courses on the current Open rota. Birkdale is quite simply the best. It has everything a links devotee could want. Just down the road Royal Liverpool is at the opposite end of the scale being flat, forgettable and pointless.
April 02, 2007
10 / 10
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Alex Westenfield
Played in June 2006, in a howling 35-40 mph, and still enjoyed it immensely. You can tell that this is a tremendous course as you play it. Not tricked-up at all. Bring your handicap card, as it is asked for upon check-in.
March 15, 2007
8 / 10
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Andy Newmarch
All I can do is echo what has been said before. True quality from start to finish, not the jaw dropping stunning views like Turnberry, Old Head and Kingsbarns - but this is fantastic... Love the 17th green hope they do in 2008.
September 06, 2006
10 / 10
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Richard Smith
What an unbelievable golf course. Royal Birkdale is a fantastic links course that deserves all of the accolades and praise that it has received. Every hole is a unique and interesting championship test. The course winds it way through the marvelous Merseyside dunesland, but the dunes serve to frame the holes as you play around, but not over the dunes. This gives each hole a unique, almost isolated feel. Although a very modern and up to date track, there are still shots like the blind tee shot on 9 to remind you that you are, indeed, playing links golf.The course was in fantastic shape, even with the dry weather this past summer. The greens were especially good. The challenge of Birkdale is apparent from the opening tee shot. A high dune guards the left hand side of the fairway, while out of bounds guards the right. With a prevailing left to right wind, a slight controlled draw is almost mandatory to hit the fairway. Yet on 2 and 5 a fade will give the best result off the tee. So it goes throughout the course. The diabolically placed bunkers seem to threaten you on every shot making proper club selection a difficult task. I loved this course, and I can see why it is the top ranked course in England. The new green at 17 will certainly be controversial. The green does seem a bit out of place, but I think it makes the hole much more interesting and challenging. I'm looking forward to seeing what the pros think at the 2008 open. If you enjoy golf, and especially if you enjoy links golf, you owe it to yourself to play this magnificent track. Richard Smith, Knoxville Tennessee
August 13, 2006
10 / 10
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Cédric
Nothing to add really to Jim's words. A marvellous place not as "dunny" as we all thought and we even almost had the place to ourselves! Tough course with bunkers in play for most tee shots. Not as stuffy as some other top venues and we felt most welcome. Fantastic clubhouse too...
June 21, 2006
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

Birkdale is a brilliant Open venue with acres of space in and around the sandhills on the course – so much so that it looks like there’s room for another 18 holes here, though the dunes were not as imposing as I had anticipated before playing. If you really want dunes, go play the Portstewart (Strand) front nine holes!

I was surprised by the almost parkland feel to the early part of the course from holes 3 to 5 and further surprised by blind tee shots at the 9th and 16th holes – they still allow this in the modern era of Open venues; marvellous!

The undulations of the putting surfaces on holes 5 and 17 also raised eyebrows and I predict the latter recently redesigned green will draw some criticism when the Open is played at Birkdale in 2008.

The tee boxes, fairways and greens were in the condition you would expect from a course that is consistently in the top 10 rankings, which is something that cannot always said about other top tracks.

The clubhouse exterior design and interior fittings are most impressive and the atmosphere in the main mixed bar area was very informal – no stuffed shirts here!

A word too for the very efficient staff in the pro shop, the old boy at the starter’s hut and the people behind the bar (for arranging late evening meals) who were all very helpful and made our visit memorable.

Jim McCann

June 20, 2006
10 / 10
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Richard Smith
March 11, 2008
The "old boy" on the first tee is Burt, and meeting him is worth the green's fee!
Cedric
July 16, 2008
Spot on Jim about the 17th green!!! See the BBC
Neil Tilbrook
How can a course be any better? In fantastic condition with a fantastic layout. Our hosts and members alike were very welcoming.
May 16, 2006
10 / 10
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Royal Birkdale has been closed all winter so I can't wait for it to open its doors again to vistitors. I played here last September on a fairly benign day and as I was making my merry way along, I couldn't get the famous Groove Armada song out of my head which goes something like: "If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air"... and if you are a dune lover, you can't go far wrong here. Royal Birkdale is quite right and properly England's best course - nothing really comes near to it for a complete all round test. No weak holes, just a brilliant links course and a fair one too which is quite unusual.
March 06, 2006
10 / 10
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papa rabbi
What a tremendous golf course. Since moving to the North West 5 years ago I have played this course at every opportunity. Wonderful layout which tests golfers of all abilities. Very fair if you hit it straight - but beware the rough if you find it you will be punished! definately rated in my top three courses only behind Muirfield and possibly just ahead of Sunningdale. I dream of playing golf at Royal Birkdale for the rest of my life!
February 25, 2006
10 / 10
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Hugh
For me, Royal Birkdale is the most complete of the Open venues. It’s a fair course with relatively flat fairways but the dunes give each of the holes tremendous form and definition. The opening hole is one of the toughest I’ve ever played…having played here on more than ten occasions and never even bettered bogey! If you don’t know a member I appreciate that it’s expensive to play here but I urge every true links lover to play this course at least once and I guarantee that you’ll want to play it again and again and in doing so, you’ll love it more and more. Birkdale is a supreme test of golf and the art deco clubhouse is the perfect place to reflect on the round with a beer or two.
March 24, 2005
10 / 10
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