Sunday, 26 December 2010

Royal Birkdale

The apporoach to the 2nd at Royal Birkdale

The original plan was to walk Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) in the morning. When we realized how much extra time it was going take to make this happen before a noon round, we choose instead to go directly Royal Birkdale, so we could “enjoy the day.” In retrospective this was definitely a smart move.

Royal Birkdale is considered by most to be one of the greatest links courses in the World. I can understand their perspective. The golf course has no weak holes, plays through very large dunes that frame every hole, feature beautifully positioned green sites, the course is sprinkled with lots of beautiful and well placed bunkers, features many elevated tee shots down into the dunes, and features one of the best threes in golf.

The par three 12th at Royal Birkdale

My only issue with the golf course lies in the consistency of what you have. Every hole is routed between the dunes. Every hole is well framed by the dunes. The dunes are not part of the playing experience, unless you get wayward along the way, they make the setting rather than influence play. After playing so many courses up and down Wales where the undulation of the land and surrounds were the key feature, I was quite stunned at how little the dunes played a part in the play at the Birkdale.

The landing areas are all remarkably flat, with the exception of the 9th and 10th, which were far more fun because you had to deal with some rumpled land for a change. I found myself enjoying the architecture of every hole and I could find little fault with the design, but because each hole was in such a similar setting I began to find “sameness” in the overall presentation. I found the sum to be less than the parts, which is one of the few times I have ever felt that way about a course.

The wild and completely out of character Hawtree green on the 17th at Royal Birkdale

What Birkdale lacks is variety. Yes the green sites are different and the detailing of bunkers and green contours offers the variety, but at all time the dunes are the surrounding frame when I would have liked them to become part of the links itself. It’s still a great course, but after playing so many links where the raw undulations makes the game so much fun, I wished they had left more of the contour in the landings and more of the variety of situations and stances that creates.

I’m glad we didn’t rush around in the morning and it was probably a big factor in why I played very well. I got to enjoy the day a lot more because I spent time looking at the history in the clubhouse, I warmed up at my own pace, and I enjoyed the fact that I felt fresh and ready to play. I think some of my next trips might need to have fewer 36 hole days and more 18 hole days.

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