The R&A's preferred architect Martin Ebert picks out some of his favourite holes as he tries to piece together his perfect layout from the Open venues
The idea is simple. We’ve given Martin Ebert 10 post-war Open Championship courses to go at and he has to come up with a layout that has challenge, some sort of flow, no more than two holes from any course and at least one from each.
Par, as it should be, is an irrelevance and for Royal Liverpool you will be picking from the Open layout as opposed to the course that the members play.
Martin Ebert: My ultimate Open Championship layout
I began with the first and last holes, which are always important. I’ve gone with the 1st at the Old Course which, other than the enormous fairway, has the out of bounds and the burn.
This was my first hole on the team sheet, no doubt about it. It was incredible to watch Paul Dunne in the final group of the Open not even reaching the burn with his second. That shows not only the tension of the occasion but also what that burn can do to a golfer’s mind. Carnoustie’s 18th hole had to go in for the sheer unpredictability that it potentially brings to any Open.
Then I went with the venues that had essential holes and filled those in – so the Postage Stamp 8th hole at Troon and I also really wanted to include the 11th at Troon for how terrifying it is along the railway line.
Then I had the Road Hole 17th at the Old Course, which meant leaving out the 14th there.
For Portrush, you have the 16th, Calamity, which has to be included along with the 5th, as having some short 4s in the layout is essential. So those two defined Portrush.
I really wanted to put in the par-3 6th at Turnberry but that didn’t fit with Hogan’s Alley at Carnoustie being included, so I was then thinking about 9, 10 and 11 at Turnberry. The much longer 9th (below) works pretty well with the Postage Stamp and I would always have the 10th at Turnberry, which sweeps round the bay and the green location is hard to beat – so a lot of the holes took care of themselves.
Then it was a question of plenty of head scratching. I would have loved to have had the 13th in at Muirfield but the 2nd is a great hole and so I’ve gone with that. I refereed there in the Open and walked round with Darren Clarke and Jordan Spieth and that green floats away from the golfer and was playing so firm that I was convinced they would go over the green and into all of the hoardings. I was so relieved that they didn’t.
I could also have had the par-5 9th at Muirfield, a great Tom Simpson design.
Some people can’t understand the 3rd at Royal Liverpool, which is the 1st as the club play it, with its internal out of bounds but it is one of those great opening-hole experiences. Otherwise at Hoylake, 13, the Alps, would have been a good short hole to have but I would go with the 14th, with the green perched up into the dunes.
Certain holes on the courses just pick themselves and then, on occasion, you have to fill in with maybe not the best hole on a particular course but that’s the nature of the exercise.
The 12th at Birkdale (below) is another which is hard to leave out. The feeling of isolation, a hole out there on its own, an across-the-valley par 3 sensation, a well-bunkered green, trouble over the back – it is just a brilliant hole – but having that then knocks out Muirfield’s 13th.
The 13th at Lytham conjures up images of Seve in ’79 and ‘88 and provides some relief before the finishing stretch in my layout which is so demanding. It’s great to have a short 4 like Portrush’s 5th on the front nine and the 13th at Lytham provides that on the back nine.
I finish with Hoylake’s 14th, the 15th at Sandwich, Calamity at Portrush, the Road Hole and Carnoustie, so that is quite a big finish!
The 15th at Sandwich is just made by the green; you could probably argue it was a bogey 5 in the old days. The undulation is beautiful and, with the banking off to the right, it is a fantastic hole. There is an element of blindness with the approach but you know what you have to do.
I think that the Road Hole is a fantastic test of nerve; the bolder you are, the easier your second to a slither of a green. It might be the most difficult hole in golf and you couldn’t imagine the Old Course without it.
You would have to make your score in the middle section. Hogan’s Alley and Lytham’s 7th are birdie chances and then the Postage Stamp is a wedge – the best players are hugely talented so they might be capable of a 66 or 67.
I did a similar exercise for Portrush, Turnberry and Troon and ended up with seven par 3s and actually thought that was a pretty good model for a course these days. Everyone enjoys good par 3s and it allows control over the approach shot to the green.
I think my play-off holes would be the 1st on the Old, then I might have the 4th at Royal St George’s and then 17 on the Old and 18 at Carnoustie.
Or I might want a par 3 in there so I could stick in the Postage Stamp…