Extensive changes planned for Birkdale in run-up to 2008 Open


Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

Royal Birkdale is to undergo significant alterations in preparation for the 2008 Open, the ninth time the championship will have visited the Lancashire links.

The changes have been agreed between the club and the R&A, and are being carried out by architect Martin Hawtree, whose father and grandfather both carried out design work at Birkdale since first becoming involved with the course in the 1930s.

Hawtree's brief, according to the R&A, was to tighten up the course without resorting to an excessive increase in length.

One new green, at the seventeenth hole, is to be built, along with 20 new bunkers, mostly in fairways. Six new tees will add 154 yards to the course, giving a total length after the alterations of 7,122 yards. Irishbased SOL Golf Construction is carrying out the changes.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson says: "Royal Birkdale has always been a strong Open venue and we feel that by introducing these changes, that challenge can be maintained.We have paid particular attention to the introduction of tee shots that give players a number of strategic options and through tighter bunkering and the recontouring of green surrounds, intend to make players execute more imaginative recovery shots around the greens." Birkdale captain John Henthorn says: "The club is delighted and excited to be introducing these changes which will toughen up the course, providing a greater challenge not only for the world's top players but also for our members and visitors alike."

This article first appeared in issue 3 of Golf Course Architecture, published in January 2006.