Author: Callum Taylor, Managing Director, Golf Concierge Scotland Ltd, Edinburgh.
As 2020 draws to a close it was welcome news last week to hear that the 2023 and 2024 Open Championships will be held at Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon. After a year of hiatus the momentum is starting to build in the lead up to the 2021 Open at Royal St. George’s and the highly anticipated 150th Championship at St Andrews in 2022.
The popularity of this historic tournament continues to grow each year and perhaps one of the best competitions took place at Royal Portrush in 2019, when Irishman Shane Lowry was inspired by the home crowds and lifted The Claret Jug. All of these famous courses have one thing in common; feature holes which test the professional and determine whether the championship will be won or lost.
What makes a strong Open Championship golf hole?
Risk v Reward
The most exciting holes to watch usually require the golfer to make an important decision. Whether to take on a green, a tight Sunday pin position or risk taking on a fairway hazard. At these holes you can expect the professionals to make an eagle or birdie just as easily as a double bogey.
The holes we remember are generally forged in our brains after watching the legends of the game hit incredible shots. Whether it was Constantino Rocca holing out from the Valley of Sin at the 18th on The Old Course or Ernie Els ace at Royal Troon’s Postage stamp.
Whether it’s a blind tee shot, a severely sloped green or brutal hazard, it’s the hole’s key design feature which tests the mettle of the golfer and makes an exciting golf hole.
One of the things I love about golf in Great Britain & Ireland is that the majority of courses are open to the public. By simply paying a green fee even an average golfer can have a go at being Seve for the day and recreate some of the iconic golfing moments that we know and love. Here are some of Golf Concierge Scotland’s favourite holes in The Open.
The 8th Hole - The Postage Stamp, Royal Troon
The shortest hole in Open Championship golf at only 123 yards with an extremely narrow green set into the side of a large sandhill. The Postage Stamp has a raised teeing area and the coffin bunker and other greenside traps make it a really nasty one. But with the Isle of Arran on the horizon it is beautiful too and reinforces that the best Par 3’s are generally well under 200 yards.
The 17th Hole – The Road Hole, St Andrews
One of the most iconic holes in championship golf, it’s difficult to think of a tougher Par 4 when the pressure is on. In fact, it’s really a Par 5 for the average player. Even after cutting off the dog leg over The Old Course Hotel, golfers are faced with an approach with a long iron or wood to a narrow green guarded by the dreaded Road Hole bunker. Just ask those that have come unstuck late in the weekend at The Open. The bunker earned the nickname “The Sands of Nakajima” after Tommy Nakajima shot 9 on this devilish hole in the 1978 Open and David Duval only managed 1 shot better in the year 2000.
The 4th Hole – Royal St. George’s, Sandwich
A very intimidating tee shot made famous by the monstrous Himalaya bunker. The approach shot asks further questions, a green with swales and slopes means a Par will feel like you’ve gained a shot on the field.
The 9th Hole – Bruce’s Castle - Turnberry
The remains of Robert the Bruce’s Castle, The King of Scots, can be seen from the 9th hole at Turnberry. Stunning scenery awaits with views of the famous Turnberry lighthouse and Ailsa Craig. Make sure you have enough club to carry you over the rocky shoreline as it is all about the tee shot on this Par 3.
The 17th Hole – Muirfield, East Lothian
A superb example of strategic bunkering with five well placed bunkers on the corner of the dogleg and a narrow entrance to a green set back into dunes. Muirfield’s 17th is a Par 5 that comes at a time in the round where the championship is decided. Lee Trevino’s cheeky chip in derailed Tony Jacklin during the 1972 Open. Whilst Phil Mickelon’s two 3-wood shots secured an important birdie in 2013 and Gary Evans lost his ball in 2002 and then saved a Par 5 with his provisional to remain in championship contention.
The 11th Hole, The Railway – Royal Troon
Jack Nicklaus said The Railway was the hardest hole in championship golf. A long and dangerous Par 4. The Railway and Out of Bounds run parallel to the right for the hole’s entire length. It is not much easier on the left with thick gorse creating a narrow chute of fairway.
The 5th Hole, White Rocks - Royal Portrush
A risk reward driveable Par 4 with an elevated tee shot plays to an infinity style green, which is perched on a cliff top with Out of Bounds just over the back. This one offers the elusive eagle or birdie chance but even the top players can fall victim to a double bogey here; as Sergio Garcia found out in the final round of the 148th Open in 2019.
For golfers interested in playing some of The Open's most famous holes we have designed a sample Open Experience Package which can be tailored entirely for your requirements.