Royal Birkdale course guide

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National Club Golfer breaks down the 146th Open Championship venue...

1st

448 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.515, Rank 2

A great scenesetter. It’s almost always a long iron of 245 yards to the corner but there isn’t as much rough down the left so you might see a few hit the driver.

The green slopes away from you so a lot of approach shots and chips tend to dribble to the back.

2nd

422 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.368, Rank 6

Generally into the wind so the bunkers down the right are a good line with a draw. The low-lying land can hold a bit more moisture but it’s not too bad now.

The green is set nicely into the dunes. Tommy Fleetwood drove it recently when the wind switched.

3rd

451 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.147, Rank 14

A lovely driving hole from an elevated tee. You have to think of the bunkers down the left as being bigger than they are – they really gather the ball. The left though is definitely the best line in.

If the wind turns, which it can in July, it can be a monster.

4th

199 yards, par 3
2008: Average 3.250, Rank 9

An elevated tee again and the wind tends to come from the left. The players don’t like that wind on their back. They can hide the pins away here.

Ernie Els hitting a drawn 4-iron was one of my favourite sights of the 2008 Open Championship.

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5th

346 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.147, Rank 14

The first two days they will play it from the back and then they might push the tee forward. You turn back into the breeze with the wedge and it is easy to see the ball balloon and come up short so you could do with pushing in a lower lofted iron.

6th

499 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.765, Rank 1

A par 4 for the Championship. You have three options off the tee – left of the bunker, play short or take it on. The long and exposed green is difficult to putt on and more of a par-5 green than a long 4.

It’s likely to be the hardest hole at the end of the week.

7th

177 yards, par 3
2008: Average 3.237, Rank 11

They might switch the tee around on one or two days, it might be a 9-iron from the shorter one so they can then tuck the pin away.

The Channel bunker back left is a horrible hazard to get in, you can’t get a proper stance and you have to get the ball up quickly.

8th

458 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.134, Rank 16

The tee shot is crying out for a draw, this is a lovely driving hole. You can really get the ball out there and get within 60 yards of the green with the right wind.

We get 20mph winds quite regularly and the ball will still run. A long green which measures 40 yards.

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9th

416 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.179, Rank 13

Most players lag the drive up to the top of the hill. It’s the only tee shot where you can’t see your ball land. The rough down the right was horrendous in 2008 but not now.

You can leave a short iron if you carry the corner. A tough green to hold.

10th

402 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.419, Rank 4

A much-improved hole now they’ve moved some bunkers around. With the wind off the left you need to have some distance and flight control.

The approach can balloon off the fairway like the 5th. They can hide the pin back left and it’s now a good test.

11th

436 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.437, Rank 3

A good driving hole and a really interesting domed green. You have to be in the right part of the green or you can face some really tough putts over the hog’s back.

You should see one of the pins in the top right of the green depending on the wind.

12th

183 yards, par 3
2008: Average 3.272, Rank 8

They have softened the bunkers and the grass is a bit shorter on the left-hand bank. Most likely our signature hole, a classic par 3. If the wind is off the right you need to hold off a longish iron.

One day it was the third-hardest hole relative to par on the course.

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13th

499 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.323, Rank 7

When assisted by the prevailing wind, they can get it so far down there and there is a bit more leeway down the right so that’s not a bad call. Otherwise you are hitting towards the left bunker.

The green site is so natural. You can face a lot of sloping putts here.

14th

200 yards, par 3
2008: Average 3.249, Rank 10

A big green and another elevated tee but you don’t see a lot of shots hit too close. I always think you are sheltered off the tee so you can misjudge the strength of the wind.

This might be the safest of the short holes – you’re not going to make a double here.

15th

542 yards, par 5
2008: Average 5.089, Rank 17

A thinking-man’s par 5. You can blast away but generally it is better to plot your way down there. They’ve cleared out some room down the right to give more of a view of the green. It can be reached in two but there are 15 bunkers to stay out of.

16th

438 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.395, Rank 5

If the wind switches it is almost drivable. The green is set up above you which makes it a bit different visually and it can be difficult to judge the distance.

You don’t see too many shots finish close but it is a big putting surface, bigger than it looks.

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17th

567 yards, par 5
2008: Average 4.747, Rank 18

The green has been modified since last time. I like it more now, but Padraig Harrington preferred it the way it was! Unless you are certain
of getting to the green you are better laying up short.

Another long green with lots of options for the pin.

18th

473 yards, par 4
2008: Average 4.234, Rank 12

A brilliant back tee and view. All the deep rough is down the right. That’s where the wind can take you and it is a very narrow entrance to the green. Tom Watson’s 2-iron, Justin Rose’s wedge, Seve’s chip – the hole is steeped in history.

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