The Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Merseyside was founded in 1869 on what was then the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club – making it the second second-oldest seaside links golf course in England.
Despite it’s title, Royal Liverpool is not actually in Liverpool but in Hoylake, a small town at the northwest corner of the Wirral Peninsula, which is separated from Liverpool by the River Mersey.
Its Royal designation was received in 1871 due to the patronage of the Duke of Connaught of the day, one of Queen Victoria’s younger sons.
The course was originally designed by Robert Chambers and George Morris, the younger brother of Old Tom Morris, who is considered one of the pioneers of the professional game.
It was then redesigned by Harry Colt in the early 20th century, since which it has only undergone periodic tweaks to keep up with the modernisation of equipment.
This is the 12th time that Royal Liverpool hosts the Open Championship, the first dating back to 1897.
The course has a number of firsts to its name. It hosted the inaugural men’s amateur championship in 1885, which became The Amateur Championship. It was host to the first ever international match between Scotland and England in 1902. It also hosted the first Home International matches, and the first transatlantic contest between Great Britain & Ireland and the USA in 1921, an event which subsequently became known as the Walker Cup.
As an interesting aside, the Beatles’ John Lennon used to walk across the course to visit one of his first girlfriends, Cynthia Powell, who lived in Hoylake.
Royal Liverpool has a fearsome reputation as a particularly challenging links, helped in no small part by strong winds that often blow and make life tricky for even the best in the world.
The last time it hosted the Open Championship in 2006, Tiger Woods carved out a strategic victory by using his driver only once throughout. Even though the wind was largely absent that year, dry conditions had baked out the course, causing it play very fast. The terrain is mostly level, but the holes nearest the coast run through sandhills.
Woods’ tactical approach eight years ago gives a good idea of just how different a challenge Royal Liverpool poses to most courses the pros have to contend with.
Measuring 7,350 yards and playing as a par 72, the course boasts four par fives, and players will look to make most of their gains there. If the weather plays up, however, even the long holes offer little in the way of guarantees.
Hole 1: Royal
Leading away from the Clubhouse, this hole is named after the Royal Hotel which housed the first Clubhouse at Hoylake in 1869. It’s a par-4 measuring 457 yards with a long, narrow green that can be a real challenge to find in two. The putting surface is also one of the trickier ones, so players will be happy to take two putts here and move on.
Hole 2: Stand
Bunkers flank either side of this 456-yard par-4, placing a premium on an accurate tee shot. More bunkers surround an undulating green, and tournament organisers will have lots of fun tucking the flag positions behind them. Get too greedy and your ball will roll off the green, leaving a tough recovery shot.
Hole 3: Course
A par-4 measuring 429 yards, this is one of the toughest holes on the course. A narrow dogleg-right fairway is flanked by out of bounds on one side and the Clubhouse on the other, placing a premium on an accurate tee shot. A small circle green is protected by a swale on the safer left side away from the out of bounds close on the right.
Hole 4: Road
A fairly straight par-4 measuring just 372 yards, though three new bunkers at driving length are waiting to accept any off-target tee shots. The green is protected by more bunkers at the front and falls away from front to back.
Hole 5: Long
The first par-5 arrives, measuring 535 yards, and requires players to thread their tee shot between the gorse to the left and the strategically positioned bunkers on the right. A good tee shot sets up a possible birdie opportunity or better, but find the wrong part of the green and two putts will be a challenge.
Hole 6: New
The green of this 202-yard par-3 is surrounded by deep bunkers. Players will aim for the right side of the green, making sure to avoid the cavernous bunker that guards it, allowing the natural slope of the green to guide the ball towards the hole.
Hole 7: Telegraph
This 483-yard par-4 demands a lot of from the tee. There are bunkers left and right of a narrow fairway, with extensive gorse further protecting the right side. The westerly wind tends to push tee shots towards this area, but players will still try to thread the needle, as the best line from the tee requires a drive close to the right hand side of the fairway.
Hole 8: Briars
This 433-yard par-4 offers a bit of relief. A solid tee shot should find a good-sized fairway, setting up a middle iron to, hopefully, the center of the green. As with any good links test, however, there are no guarantees if the wind is blowing.
Hole 9: Dowie
A tough par-3 measuring 198 yards which requires a pinpoint tee shot to a narrow green protected by bunkers left and right and complex swales all around. The wind at this hole often comes from right to left.
Hole 10: Far
A 534-yard par-5 situated at the furthest part of the course away from the clubhouse, the hole offers a realistic birdie chance, yet also has a reputation of seeing many come to grief. Players will want to stay away from the deep bunker which protects the front right hand side of the green at all costs.
Hole 11: Punch Bowl
The Welsh hills and Dee estuary provide a scenic backdrop to this 393-yard par-4, the first of four holes which run along the shore. A straight fairway ends in a sloping green guarded by two front bunkers.
Hole 12: Dee
A demanding 448-yard par-4 with a dog-leg to the left, the 12th hole requires an accurate tee shot in order to avoid three bunkers on the right and the new broken ground in the rough on the left.
Hole 13: Alps
Best not to get distracted by the beautiful scenery around Hilbre Island when playing this 198-yard par-3. Players must make sure they have enough club to carry the mounds which guard the front left hand side of the green.
Hole 14: Hilbre
A 456-yard par-4 with a dog-leg to the left, Hilbre might just be Royal Liverpool’s finest hole. Players feeling brave might try and carry the bunkers protecting the corner of the hole and attack the green head-on, but this is a dangerous proposition at the best of times.
Hole 15: Rushes
A very short par-3 at just 161 yards, it nevertheless offers an interesting challenge. The tee is elevated and set into the sand dunes with great views of the Dee Estuary. A wayward shot will leave an extremely tricky chip or bunker shot.
Hole 16: Field
The start of Royal Liverpool’s brutal closing stretch, this mammoth 576-yard par-5 requires a big drive towards the fairway bunkers on the left side and then a full wood to stand a chance of reaching the green.
Hole 17: Lake
Easily one of the most difficult holes on the course, this 459-yard par-4 requires a long, straight drive to avoid the bunkers at driving distance and to have any chance of hitting the tow-tier green. Miss the green short left, and players face the challenge of both thick rough and tricky bunkers.
Hole 18: Dun
This 560-yard par-5 is played around the out of bounds line of the practise ground. The fairway dog-legs to the right and it’s best to aim your tee shot at that dog-leg. From there you can either play safely to the left or skirt the out of bounds line, which will reward you with an easier third shot to a long green. The green is protected to the front by bunkers to the left and right.
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