Friday, June 02, 2006

Royal Birkdale

The best golf course in England.


Royal Birkdale Golf Club (ranked #28 in the world), ranks as the highest ranked course of all of the nine English courses on the list. I adamantly disagree about its placement. I would say it's the best golf course in England after the following courses: 1. Royal St. George's; 2. Royal Liverpool; 3. Sunningdale Old; 4. Woodhall Spa; 5. Ganton; 6. Royal Lytham & St. Annes; 7. Walton Heath and 8. Wentworth West. While I'm not a math genius, I think that would make it the lowest ranked course in the country.

The course is not near enough to the ocean to give it any views and I don't think it has any truly distinctive holes. The course has hosted many Open Championships because the R & A likes the flat routing surrounded by dunes because it makes for good TV viewing. But don't mistake good TV viewing for a good golf course. They are not one in the same.

And what's up with that clubhouse? At first I thought it was just bad c1970s architecture. The clubhouse was actually built in 1935 and is art deco, having the look of a ship. But it just doesn't work. There is no sense of purpose or tradition to it. The interior spaces don't work either. White is a terrible color for the outside as it is too stark a contrast to the links terrain and it does not fit in with the landscape.

For a club formed in 1889 you would think you could get a better sense of history or tradition walking around the clubhouse. But the place is flat. Walking around the other English courses your spine tingles with excitement and history. The Bobby Jones perfect card at Sunningdale, the grandeur of Royal St. George's, the museum like quality of Hoylake, the traditions of Royal Lytham. Walking through the Birkdale clubhouse felt like walking through a hospital corridor. They have hosted two Ryder cups and eight open championships but they don't use it to their advantage.

Sorry boys, but Birkdale is missing that certain je ne sais quoi.


Anonymous said...

I totally disagree.....and by all accounts so do most professional golfers and magazines in the world.

Anonymous said...

The only weak holes on the course are 14, 15 and 16. The rest are visually enticing to the eye of a golfer and force the golfer to think over the shot. The green complexes are the most interesting of any course on the Open rota. Its current world ranking is well-earned.

Anonymous said...

Good golfers will acknowledge that RBGC is the best course on the Open circuit. The opening hole is said to be the hardest opening hole in Open Championship golf. No other than Nick Faldo made this comment and suggested a 3 iron draw followed by a 4 iron fade should just about get you somewhere near the green. The fairways may be on the flat side but they reward good shots and the fairway bunkering swallows poor shots. There can be no fairer test. If you want to see the sea, go to the beach, if you want to play golf then this is it in the purist form. Royal Liverpool does not even come close to this beauty.

Micky said...

Of the top 100 courses I have also played, I agree with most of your writeups but you obviously got out of the wrong side of your bed the day you played Birkdale.

OK the clubhouse is a bit querky but hey this is "Playing the top 100 courses" not the top 100 clubhouses. Nevertheless the view of the 18th from the RBGC lounge is arguably better than at Muirfield - a clubhouse which you rate highly (if not the course). Lytham St Annes and Hoylake are great courses but how you can rate them ahead of RBGC is beyond me. You yourself admit Wentworth is not a great course (to which I agree - and why it's no longer in the top 100)but rating it ahead of RBGC is (as the Irish would say) "taking the Micky".

Bobby LaPorta said...

Having had he pleasure of playing 25% of the cliubs on your list, I must say that Royal Birkdale is one of my favorites, probably in the top 10 in difficulty. When I played it with an expert local caddie, I was informed after having a difficult time finding the member tee box, and seeing where the fairway was, that the pro's play from the next tee behind me, which I could not even see over the tall grass, unbelivably challenging, so I to disagree with your analysis. I played St. Andrews, and Sunningdale, so I can say they equal in many ways, but in no way Is RB an easy or boring course.

Unknown said...

I love your articles, but I'd have to disagree with this one. Royal Liverpool is a stern test from my experience and I have a 2 handicap. Sunning dale old just doesn't play to the length of a championship course. And that doesn't mean it's not great but in my opinion can't be held above the championship courses in england. Wentworth is a players course and european pros love it. It's tournament worthy. Much like the pga players love Quail Hollow. Woodhall Spa isn't close to any of the great english open courses. Royal St Georges has an argument to be the top ranked course in england, but it just doesn't play like Birkdale. Lytham and St Annes isn't as good in terms of shot making or the on course experience. Idc about a museum. I care about courses pushing me to make good shots. I've been meaning to ask what course ranking you are using? I'd love to see it. I've been trying to play the world's 100, but I can't find the perfect list.

Tom Dean said...

Whilst you've played the 100 top courses in the world, I'm sure you'll agree that there are some courses that you didn't quite appreciate until you ventured onto the course for the second time. Royal Birkdale is an absolute beauty; tough and strategic with dunes that frame the greens perfectly. I agree with Micky above, you must have got out of the wrong side of the bed that day. If you're back in England, play the course again. I'm sure you'll change your mind.