Royal St George's

Royal St George's

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Course Information

Some 12 miles north of Dover, Royal St George’s opened in 1887, designed to be the English equivalent of St Andrews. So successful were the efforts of Dr Laidlaw Purves, of Royal Wimbledon, who both found the land and then designed the course, that just seven years later it became the first club outside of Scotland to host The Open.

Dr Purves would doubtless be delighted to know that a sense of patriotism still pervades this corner of Kent, with the cross of England’s patron saint adorning the flag on each and every hole outside of Open week.

In all, 15 Opens have been held here, most recently in 2021 when Collin Morikawa crafted his way around the Kent links. Ten years earlier, an emotional Darren Clarke won his maiden major here.

It begins with what is regarded as one of the toughest starts in Championship golf – a drive that needs to carry a valley known as ‘The Kitchen’ before an approach to a green guarded by a trio of bunkers that will swallow up anything either short or left. The challenge has been set.

Perhaps these early skirmishes are best summed up at the 4th. The Himalaya bunker holds no fears for the pros but, for the rest of us, the huge mass of sand that’s 40 foot deep is impossible to ignore off the tee.

Even so, finding the safety of the Elysian Fields isn’t the end of the challenge. Any firm mid-iron approach to a small green is going to flirt with out of bounds markers that sit barely a couple of paces behind the putting surface.

Although St George’s features as many as seven blind tee shots – and there is not a single marker post on the course – at most holes driver is an option from the tee with only the occasional bunker threatening.

The real challenge comes closer to the greens where a combination of factors will put a great premium on the short game. Fairways often dissolve into rough hillocks, obligatory steep-faced bunkers gather shots from all around while severely sloped gullies tend to gather imprecise approaches.

These run-off areas are never more in evidence than at the short par-four 9th. What would otherwise be a straightforward hole features a plateau green that cruelly kicks away less than perfect shots in all four directions. Needless to say, subsequently saving par can be nigh on impossible.

As with all links courses, judging the strength and direction of the wind will be critical. That’s all the more so here because, amazingly, no two successive holes run in the same direction. That should guarantee that one nine will not play significantly easier than the other, as well as demanding constant scrutiny from the players.

Because of the towering dunes and expanses of wasteland that cover much of the central ground on the course, there is a sense of isolation on many holes and it can be difficult to gain one’s bearings.

The first seven holes, with the exception of the short 6th, keep the boundary of the course roughly to their right but after that only the long 14th gives any sense of being close to the perimeter. The contrast with Lytham, walled in on all four sides, could not be more marked.

Perhaps the best place to appreciate the shape of the links is from the high ground of the 5th tee from where it is possible to see several holes, each winding in its own distinct directions. From here, and then again on the par-five 7th, are to be found the best views of the English Channel and the resort of Margate, otherwise obscured by the dunes.

The key to success at Augusta is often said to lie in taking advantage of the par fives, at least two of which are reachable with a drive and an iron.

At Sandwich, the 14th probably sees the greatest range of scores, with out of bounds down the right and the Suez Canal running across the fairway some 330 yards from the tee but well within reach in dry conditions and depending on the wind.

How the four short holes are negotiated will be every bit as critical. Two are long and punishing while the others are more subtle but eminently capable of extracting a double bogey from the unwary.

From the tee at the 3rd, it seems there are only two possible destinations: the oasis of the narrow-looking green or the voracious rough that surrounds it on all sides.

Uniquely among Open layouts, it is a par three without a single bunker. Nor does it need one. The long green, which is on two tiers, dictates that club selection will typically range between a three and a six iron.

The famous 6th, known as The Maiden for the enormous dune that sits high above the hole, presents a different set of problems with the green subtly set at an angle to the tee and four bunkers each protecting the green on one side.

And anyone who finds the 3rd a challenge, at 239 yards, will also wince at the 11th at 242. At least at the latter there is more room for error, with a generous green awaiting.

Finally to the 16th, which is the shortest at 161 yards. However, by way of recompense it normally plays into the wind. With its eight bunkers, par is generally considered a good score.

Like any Open venue, Sandwich also has its fair share of brutal par fours. The tough 8th is another hole where the fairway is interrupted by uneven ground while the 9th can play much longer than its 366 yards from the weekday tees would suggest and demands respect.

From this point, right in the heart of the course, the 10th travels relentlessly uphill to a green which falls away at the back towards some incredibly thick rough.

The 12th is all about finding the right position from the tee and provides an opportunity to make up a shot which could well be lost again at the 13th, where a long second is almost inevitable.

The final two holes are every bit as difficult as they should be, with the 17th particularly dramatic, played to a crumpled fairway and, eventually, a slightly-raised green.

The 18th features a narrow green with the famous Duncan’s Hollow gathering anything slightly left of target, including Sandy Lyle’s ball on his way to winning in 1985.

Information

Laidlaw Purves

01304 613 090

Sandwich, Sandwich, Kent, CT13 9PB