British Open Hole by Hole Breakdown
The world's best — sans Tiger — are descending upon Sandwich, England, for the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges, a charming, quirky layout that features several blind shots and tricky crosswinds. It's where Ben Curtis pulled a shocking win in his first major appearance in 2003, and the layout is just unpredictable enough to produce another stunning result in 2011.
Photos courtesy of Eric Hepworth, hepworthgolfphotography.com
Right out of the gate, players must stay out of “The Kitchen,” a valley cutting the fairway roughly 250 yards off the tee. The approach needs to fly three cross bunkers in front of a green that falls away on the right.
Do You Remember?
Tiger Woods’ bid to win the 2003 Open was essentially derailed by his first tee shot, a miss 30 yards right that was lost, leading to a triple bogey 7.
Although it was lengthened for the 2003 Open, this par 4 can still provide a birdie opportunity, if players can carry their drive 260 yards over the two fairway bunkers guarding the left side. The green rises above the fairway, tilting from back to front and falling off on either side.
A new tee adds length to the only par 3 on the Open rotation without a bunker. Sand dunes surround a narrow green, dissected by a ridge. It was the third hardest hole in relation to par in 2003.
Hitting the S-shaped fairway is difficult with a ferocious set of bunkers staring back at players along the right side of the fairway. A 270-yard carry over them is the ideal line. Anything left of that could find the bunker farther up the left side. Menacing slopes make putting a challenge. Anything long of the green is out of bounds.
Normally, this dogleg left requires a conservative play off the tee, laying up short of the trouble that cuts the fairway and steering clear of the five pot bunkers on the left. But if a tailwind picks up, like it did in 2003, some players will bomb it over a sandy ridge. There is out of bounds to contend with up the right side from 170 yards and in.
Did You Know?
During the second round of the 1949 Open, Harry Bradshaw hit his ball into a broken beer bottle just off the fairway. Without a rules official nearby and fearing disqualification, he played the ball as it lay, smashing the bottle but advancing the ball 30 yards. Unsettled, it took him two more shots to hit the green. He ultimately lost to Bobby Locke in a playoff.
Pros can take advantage of this short hole. Four bunkers ring a two-tiered green. A towering hill known as “The Maiden” sits behind the green.
Despite being the longest hole on the course, it’s also the easiest, provided the pros execute a blind drive well enough from a new championship tee to miss the lone fairway bunker. Almost every player will have a green light to go for it in two. Six bunkers farther along are the only defenses against par.
An intimidating uphill tee shot must skirt two bunkers up the right side. The hole swings to the right over an 80-yard-long patch of troublesome rough to a skinny undulating green protected by two greenside bunkers.
The right-hand fairway bunker, once called “The Corsets,” isn’t the only concern off the new championship tee. Unfortunate bounces are a fact of life on rippling fairways like this one. Two cross bunkers at 70 yards shouldn’t be in play, unless a chop out of the dunes is necessary. The four greenside hazards are a factor. An erratic green falls off radically on the right.
The fairway bunker left shouldn’t be in play much. It’s the approach to a green perched way above the fairway that will cause fits. Finding the four greenside bunkers is better than any miss over the green. Long is dead.
Do You Remember?
Leading the 1985 Open Championship at the time, Tom Kite went from bunker to bunker for a double bogey six, derailing his chances.
Finding a green sandwiched by five bunkers is tough, but finding the hole is harder still. The green’s breaks are so baffling, new members are told never to concede even the shortest of putts.
Although the shortest par 4 on the course, this dogleg right is peppered with nine bunkers created to cause concern from every angle. Cutting too much of the corner brings the five cross bunkers short of the green into play as well as some nasty lies from untidy land.
A hidden fairway narrows considerably at the 260-yard mark, choked by two fairway bunkers on either side. The approach to a narrow green 42 yards long can change dramatically depending on the pin. Out-of-bounds markers lie beyond the green.
“Suez” is the signature test of the layout, named after the canal cutting across the fairway roughly 320 yards off the tee. More dangerous than the water are the out-of-bounds markers running the entire length of the right side. Four bunkers litter the zone where most players lay up their second shot.
Do You Remember?
Bernhard Langer made a 7, one of 22 double bogeys or worse during the 1993 Open. The blunder left him three behind champion Greg Norman. In 2003, Davis Love hit one of the white stakes, which kept his ball in bounds, propelling him to a lead after two rounds.
A new championship tee brings the three bunkers left and two right more into play, constricting the landing zone. Three greenside bunkers are chain-linked together in front, blocking any traditional links shot trying to bounce in. Steep drop-offs characterize the green.
Although the shortest hole on the course, a sloppy shot could alter the tournament, like it did for Thomas Bjorn in 2003. Leading the championship in the final round, he found one of the seven bunkers surrounding the green, eventually carding a double-bogey five.
The two fairway bunkers are innocent bystanders compared to the mischievous swales farther down the fairway. Two bunkers flank a plateau green on either side. Missed shots that fall short trickle down the slope.
Do You Remember?
Ben Curtis bogeyed this hole, one of three back-nine bogeys in the final round of the 2003 Open, but his up-and-down for par on the final hole would prove to be enough to capture his only major championship.
Finding an awkwardly shaped fairway, while avoiding two fairways bunkers and two cross bunkers farther up, is paramount. Misguided approach shots tend to collect in “Duncan’s Hollow” left of the green. The depression is named after George Duncan, who failed to get up and down for par at the 1922 Open, handing the title to Walter Hagen.