We’ve taken two holes from each of the nine venues to have hosted Open Championships in recent years, barring Portrush, and created a superb, and extremely tough, Open composite course.
Eclectic Test: Open Composite Course
The links courses on The Open rota can boast some of the finest holes in world golf. It would be possible to make a huge number of fabulous composite courses picking holes from each venue.
Here we’ve had a go at selecting two of the best and toughest holes from each Open course that has hosted an Open in recent years, prior to 2019, to create a dream links.
We’ve gone for the classic one par 3 and one par 5 on each nine option and it should be noted, owing to clashes, not every course’s most famous holes could be included.
Yardages given are from the back pegs.
Have a look and see what you make of our Open composite course...
1st Royal Birkdale Par 4, 450 yards
A seriously tough start to our test – one of the most difficult holes on the course at Royal Birkdale. The drive must be long and, ideally, turning from right to left past the bunker on the left hand corner of the slight dog-leg. The green is protected by bunkers in front and getting back to the pin will require a strong second. Walk off with an opening par and you can feel very satisfied.
2nd Royal Liverpool Par 4, 454 yards
In general play this hole is the 18th at Hoylake, but in The Open of 2014 it played as the 2nd. It’s a brilliant driving hole with bunkers lurking left and right. The green is also well protected by bunkering as well as slopes that send the ball away from the putting surface. The green itself is undulating and a two-putt is by no means a given on this one.
3rd Royal Lytham Par 4, 477 yards
This long par 4 requires two superbly struck, accurate shots to reach in regulation. The railway lurks all down the right side, forcing the player left from the tee. But thick rough and mounding waits in that direction so only a long straight one will do. Eight bunkers dot the fairway and two more wait by the green. The trap long and left is particularly deep and should be avoided at all costs.
4th Royal St George’s Par 4, 496 yards
One of the most visually intimidating holes in Open golf, a towering bunker set into a sand dune faces the player from the tee. It forces the drive to go left, but too far left and more trouble awaits. The approach is a particularly difficult one and not just because you’ll likely be coming in from some distance. Anything drifting right will run off the edge, anything short will get caught in a swale and out-of-bounds waits just through the back… Not easy!
5th Turnberry Par 4, 479 yards
Recently extended to become a par-5 for general play, this hole was changed in the alterations in 2016. The green has been moved back into a valley behind the original green, creating an amazing amphitheatre.
6th Carnoustie Par 5, 578 yards
“Hogan’s Alley” is a perfect par 5. Bunkers wait right and out-of-bounds hugs the left side from the tee. The drive must be arrow straight to find the fairway – a feat Ben Hogan achieved four times en-route to winning the 1953 Open. A burn snakes across the hole further down and out-of-bounds continues to loom. The challenge continues on the undulating green, protected by bunkers.
7th Royal Liverpool Par 4, 480 yards
Usually the 5th at Hoylake, this is an incredibly tough driving hole with bunkers left and right. Gorse also waits on the right side but you want to try to find that right side of the fairway to afford the best angle of approach. The front left of the green is well protected by two bunkers and it’s crucial to get the second shot all the way to the middle of the putting surface.
8th Royal Troon Par 3, 123 yards
It may be the shortest hole on the Open rota but “The Postage Stamp” is no pushover. The sliver of green must be found from the tee as missing on any side leaves a devilish shot. Deep bunkers and run-offs mean those without a solid short game could be on this hole for some time.
9th Royal Birkdale Par 4, 410 yards
A really good mid-length par-4 sweeping from left to right. The tee shot is blind and finding the fairway is tough. The green is slightly raised and protected in front by two aesthetically pleasing bunkers. You need to clear those, but going through the back is not a clever idea as thick rough awaits.
And now for the back nine:
10th Muirfield Par 4, 472 yards
This is a very narrow fairway with the prevailing wind pushing tee shots right towards the three bunkers lining the edge of the fairway. Cross bunkers midway down the hole shouldn’t be in play but they obscure the view of the green. The putting surface may be relatively flat but it’s well protected by two bunkers in front and one behind.
11th St Andrews Par 3, 174 yards
One of the world’s greatest par 3 holes, this little beauty plays out towards the Eden Estuary and has ruined many scorecards over the years, including that of the great Bobby Jones in the first Open he contested at St Andrews. Strath bunker in front and Hill bunker to the left must be avoided. Anything short will roll back off the green, anything long will drop down a steep slope into the rough. A ball riding the wind from left to right could roll down the double green towards the 7th flag leaving a monstrous putt back up the hill.
12th Turnberry Par 4, 447 yards
This is just a supremely solid par-4 played back towards the monument on the hill above the green, commemorating the lost airmen stationed at Turnberry during the Second World War. It’s straightaway and asks for two good shots to avoid the well-placed bunkers and to find the testing green featuring run-offs left, right and back.
13th Royal Troon Par 3, 472 yards
The test posed by the natural layout of this hole is confirmed by the fact that there is no necessity for a bunker to act as protection. As you look out from the tee, the fairway seems non-existent but it is there and it requires a fine drive to find it. The green is elevated and generally it needs an extra club to find its heart.
14th Royal St George’s Par 5, 545 yards
With a helping wind, this hole provides a chance to pick up a shot. But trouble lurks and this par-5 has witnessed plenty of disasters over the years. Out of bounds runs down the entire right side and a stream crosses the fairway half way down the hole. The green is heavily undulating and balls tend to run towards another stream.
15th Muirfield Par 4, 447 yards
Sweeping from left to right, the smart play on this par-4 is to lay back of the bunkers protecting both sides of the fairway at about 250 yards out. But this leaves a long second to a testing green described by members as the “Camel’s back.” The putting surface is well protected by five tricky bunkers.
16th Royal Lytham Par 4, 358 yards
A great short par-4 that might be reachable with a favourable wind. But all sorts of trouble waits to catch an errant ball. There are bunkers everywhere and a lay up might be the prudent shot. This then leaves a tricky approach to the narrow green. This was the hole where Seve made a birdie in 1979 after firing his drive into a temporary car park.
17th St Andrews Par 4, 490 yards
There could be only one choice for the 17th. This is, arguably, the most famous par-4 in world golf: The Road Hole. Driving over the old railway sheds to a fairway set on an angle, the player must be bold (but not too bold) from the tee. The second must be precise and err on the right side of the infamous bunker guarding the front of the putting surface. An approach with too much power may topple over the back edge onto the path or the road itself.
18th Carnoustie Par 4, 499 yards
The hardest finishing hole in golf? Quite possibly. It’s long with out-of-bounds left and the Barry Burn snaking down the right side. The tee shot must avoid these hazards plus the fairway bunkers down the right. The approach must carry the Barry Burn which turns to cross the fairway short of the putting surface. A par on this hole is an achievement for any player.
Note: Original article from 2016 hence no Royal Portrush
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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