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The 5 toughest holes at Royal Birkdale

Published on 20 July 2017
With The Open Championship kicking off, we look at the 5 toughest holes the players will face at host venue, Royal Birkdale.
The 5 toughest holes at Royal Birkdale
Teeing off at the difficult sixth. Dave Thompson/PA Archive

While the historic Royal Birkdale course isn’t renowned for its toughness, this amazing links course can throw up a few challenges. And if you’re already nervous because you’re teeing off in front of millions of TV viewers with an Open Championship on the line, these holes can become perilous.

We take a look at the 5 hardest holes on this famous course facing the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

1. The sixth
Distance: 499 yards
Par 4
Early on, golfers will have to face one of the hardest holes in Championship golf. This long par 4 is actually a par 5 when played by members. And with the tee moved back, anyone looking to score well here will have to drive at least 280 yards while also avoiding the bunkers that line the fairway – not an easy task. And if you do manage to land it sweetly, you’re still faced with a second shot onto an elevated green that sits at an odd angle. The large green is also protected by more bunkers to the front and surrounded on the other sides by dunes.

2. The first
Distance: 448 yards
Par 4
As opening shots go, this is a tough one. It’ll sort the wheat from the chaff early on in this competition. While it’s shorter than the tough sixth hole, it’s almost as difficult. It’s all about accuracy on the drive, with the out of bounds area on the right of the fairway worryingly close. The hole doglegs to the left, sometimes hiding the flag and the small green from view. If you manage to stay on course, getting onto the green can also be tough with three bunkers to negotiate. 

Stuck in the rough on the first. Richard Sellers/PA Wire.
Stuck in the rough on the first. Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

3. The eleventh
Distance: 436 yards
Par 4
As players reach the second half of this course, they’ll have tackled two of the toughest holes and will either be feeling confident or shaken. The eleventh will continue to test both their skill and nerve. Playing into the prevailing wind, the green has a ridge down the centre, making it a tough finish – expect some frustration to start showing itself here.

4. The tenth
Distance: 402 yards
Par 4
This hole forms a tough double header with the eleventh, thanks to its sharp dogleg left that requires a very accurate drive to avoid the bunkers in the landing area. For short drivers, there are three bunkers to watch for, while going longer will introduce another two bunkers and some deep rough to the left.

5. The sixteenth
Distance: 438 yards
Par 4
Towards the end of the round, players will be faced with this hole where an intermediate tee has been added in case the hole plays into the wind. It’s famous as the site from which Arnold Palmer made a memorable recovery shot from a bush in 1961. But it demands a long carry to avoid rough ground, while the elevated green is well protected by deep bunkers and hollows.