The BWD Major Tournament Hole of the Day: The 17th at Royal Birkdale, Home of The Open Championship

Tournament: The Open Championship – Royal Birkdale, Southport, England
Hole: 17th – Par 5, 572 Yards
Architect(s): Frederick G. Hawtree and J.H. Taylor- 1931

Architectural Summary:

The longest hole on the golf course at 572 yards, the 17th hole at Royal Birkdale will offer a prime scoring opportunity towards the end of the round. The par 5 is a slight dogleg left and typically plays downwind. From the tee, competitors will be able to use the tailwind to their advantage as they look to play a left-to-right shaped shot between the two large dunes flanking the fairway. Avoiding the two pot bunkers protecting the right side of first landing area, from 317-331 yards from the tournament tee, is an absolute must if attempting to reach the green in two. Additionally, players must find the 26-yard-wide fairway to best ensure a chance to reach the green in two as good lies in the primary rough will be hard to come by. The approach will emphasize precision and distance control as the green is one of the more narrow and long putting surfaces on the course. Depending on wind conditions and fairway position, club selection on the second or third shots can vary greatly. Three greenside pot bunkers guard the two-tiered green measuring 40 yards deep by 14 yards wide and features small undulations throughout. Many of the extreme contours have been removed from the green, since the last Open, but competitors will still want to find the correct tier of the green to ensure a scoring opportunity.

Statistical Analysis:

When Royal Birkdale last hosted The Open in 2008, the 17th hole played to a scoring average of 4.74. The penultimate hole was the easiest hole on the course and the only hole to play under par during the last championship with a total of 201 scores in the red.

Fun Facts:

  • En route to his 2008 Open victory, Padraig Harrington hit a famous 5-wood from 272 yards to three-feet behind the flag stick which set up his eagle on the way to claiming a four-shot victory over Ian Poulter.
  • During the first round of the 1983 Open Championship, Bill Rogers holed a 1-iron approach for a rare albatross on the 17th hole.
  • The 17th is one of only two par 5 holes at Royal Birkdale. The other par 5 also coming on the back nine, the 542 yard 15th hole.
  • This year’s Open Championship winner will be paid in US dollars rather than pound sterling. The move to the dollar was due to the fall in the value of the pound as well as the fact that the dollar is “most widely adopted currency for prize money in golf” according to the R&A chief executive.