Royal Birkdale Golf Club - Review

Running through some of the finest dunes in the country, Royal Birkdale Golf Club is the jewel in the crown of English golf

Royal Birkdale 18th hole and clubhouse
(Image credit: Getty Images)

ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB - Review

Since the Golf Monthly top 100 golf course rankings were launched in 2004, no English course has ever held a higher position than the classic and extremely fair links at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

Originally designed in the late 1890s by George Lowe, the course was elevated to championship quality and status in the 1920s by FG Hawtree and JH Taylor. They had the philosophy of running holes though the dunes rather than over them, the result being a much more honest and equitable test.

The club was granted royal status in 1951, and then selected to host its first Open Championship in 1954. It has now staged the tournament ten times, most recently resulting in Jordan Spieth’s epic victory in 2017.

Although the holes play along reasonably level ground between the sand, the course is blessed with some of the most impressive, towering dunes in the country, making it not only one of the best golf courses in England but also one of the best links courses in the UK. The dunes frame the holes beautifully for the golfer, and at times of important championships serve as perfect viewing points for spectators.

As if to announce its intent, this outstanding links opens with one of the most challenging par 4s on the Open roster. Following this, you constantly twist and turn with few consecutive holes playing in the same direction. With wind a key defence, this means a rethink on just about every tee.

The four short holes are all strong and interesting with perhaps the standout being the 12th which is played to a steep-fronted green set in an amphitheatre of dunes.

The closing hole plays back towards the iconic, white art deco clubhouse. It is a manageable par 5 when played from the regular tees, but a substantially tougher par 4 when played from the slightly longer championship tees. This is undoubtedly a very worthy closing hole for those in contention for the Claret Jug.

Such dunes are one of Birkdale’s greatest assets, for not only do they give the holes and greens great definition and character, but they also provide excellent vantage points, making this one of the best courses for watching The Open.

A note related to the par on the closing hole is that while there is a very demanding par of 70 from the back tees, it is a more generous 72 from the yellows. This means that despite its rich Open heritage and pedigree, it is playable and enjoyable by all.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PLAY ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB?

Prices start at £185 for visitors in the week during the low season, which is from October to March. Summer green fees between April and September cost £295 per round during the week and £320 on Sundays, which puts Royal Birkdale Golf Club up there with some of the most expensive green fees in the UK and Ireland.

CAN I PLAY ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB?

Royal Birkdale Golf Club welcomes visitors, just like all Open Championship venues. Visitors are welcome subject to availability with prior booking essential. Visitors are allowed to play during the week in off season and midweek and during weekends in the peak season. Reservations to play Royal Birkdale can be made by telephone +44 (0)1704 552020 or email to the Secretary's Office (opens in new tab), or directly online (opens in new tab).

To see full visitor information visit the Royal Birkdale website (opens in new tab).

HOW HARD IS ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB?

Royal Birkdale can be an extremely difficult golf course, especially when played from the back tees, with thick rough, deep bunkers and fast, sloping greens. Padraig Harrington won the 2008 Open Championship in difficult conditions at Royal Birkdale at three-over-par, whilst Jordan Spieth's winning score in 2017 was 12-under-par. The Royal Birkdale slope rating is 138 (the maximum is 155) from the white tees, which would be considered very difficult. An 18 handicapper would receive 22 shots off those tees. The course rating is 74.4 from the white tees but that does go down when playing from the yellow, green and red tees, which are all much more playable.

  • White tees: 7,156 yards, par 70
  • Yellow tees: 6,318 yards, par 72
  • Red tees: 5,793 yards, par 75

Note: there are also Green tee markers between the Yellow and Red markers.

ROYAL BIRKDALE SLOPE RATING AND COURSE RATING

  • White tees: Slope rating 138, Course Rating 74.4
  • Yellow tees: Slope rating 132, Course Rating 72.1
  • Green tees: Slope Rating 131, Course Rating 71.3
  • Green tees (alternate): Slope Rating 131, Course Rating 70.8
  • Red tees (men): Slope Rating 128, Course Rating 69.1
  • Red tees (ladies): Slope Rating 138, Course Rating 74.9 

ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB TOP 100 RANKING UK&I

  • 2021/22 - 7
  • 2019/20 - 6
  • 2017/18 - 6
  • 2015/16 - 5
  • 2013/14 - 5
  • 2011/12 - 5
  • 2009/10 - 5

ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB ASSESSOR FEEDBACK

I don’t think I would ever tire of playing here. No matter how much it beats you up, the course is one that will always entice you back with its brilliance. The north-west coast has some tremendous courses with Royal Birkdale the jewel in the crown.