- +44 (0)1704 567920
1.5 miles S of Southport
Contact in advance - Not Sat
Championships hosted: Boys Amateur, Brabazon Trophy, British Masters, British PGA Matchplay, Curtis Cup, English Men's Amateur, English Women's Amateur, Men's Home Internationals, Ryder Cup, Senior Open, The Amateur, The Open, The Womens Amateur, Walker Cup, Women's Home Internationals, Women's Open
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.
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.
Respond to above review
Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful