Royal Birkdale


Southport, Merseyside.
Par 72, 6,817 Yards.

Designer: George Lowe/JH Taylor/Fred Hawtree/Martin Hawtree.
Green fees: Monday-Friday £185; Sat-Sun £215.
Tel: 01704 552020.

There were few disagreements among the panel about Birkdale retaining its position at the top of the rankings; Martin Hawtree’s alterations to the course prior to the 2008 Open were popular – with the only gripe, the 17th green, now softened off. It begins as it means to go on, a long, challenging double dog-leg par-4 making an opening par here a badge of honour for even the professionals. Others point to the short 12th or the three par-5s in four holes to finish as the highlights but the strength of Birkdale is surely not in the high points but in the lack of low points. Yes, those aforementioned holes are indisputably excellent, but the reason it is No.1 is because its so-called ‘lesser’ holes remain so impressive.

Why Birkdale is No.1 by European Tour winner Chris Wood

Naturally, I have very fond memories of Royal Birkdale after my fifth place finish at the 2008 Open. It was where I burst onto the scene I suppose, although it seems a long time ago now!

It’s just an absolutely classic links. The UK has got some fantastic links and I have been fortunate enough to play most of them through amateur golf and The Open, and Birkdale is right up there for me. It is just so fair. On one or two of the famous links you hit a good shot and can be punished for it while there are also blind shots, but that very rarely happens at Birkdale. Everything is there in front of you.

The challenge begins with the first shot of the day – that is one difficult drive, especially when you are playing in your first Open as an amateur. Pretty daunting. You’ve got to position the ball all the way round. Links are renowned for the bunkers and Birkdale is no different. On the 12th on Sunday I caught that front bunker and in typical links fashion I didn’t really have a shot with one leg in and one out.

Then you have a brilliant climax with the par 5s where so much can change. Ian Poulter and I were on the 17th in two and he had a long putt for eagle which jumped on him and took the pace off it. He then missed the next one whereas Padraig made eagle; a four-shot swing on one hole. After Birkdale, I’d go for Royal Liverpool, where I won the British Boys, then Saunton.

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