Royal Links – Hole 1
368 yard, Par 4
This hole is inspired by #10 at Royal Lytham Golf Club, a short but challenging par 4.
Despite this hole’s tight dogleg-right, smallish elevated green, and deep bunkers, Bobby Locke’s biggest challenge was simply making it to the course for the final round of the 1952 Open Championship. His car and clubs were locked in the garage next to the Blackpool Hotel where Locke was staying and the South African nearly missed his tee time.
Luckily for Locke, the village milkman was making his rounds at the time. The milkman knew where the owner of the garage lived and offered to give him a ride to the man’s house.
Once there, Locke did a quick bit of explaining, got the keys from the owner and returned to the garage with the milkman. He retrieved his clubs and made it to the tee with barely enough time to change his shoes.
Yet, Bobby Locke had enough composure to hole a birdie putt on the first green, and eventually won the Championship. It was his third Open title in four years.
Royal Links – Hole 2
372 yard, Par 4
Royal Links second hole was inspired by #7 at Royal Troon Golf Club. However, as challenging as its elevated tee and fairway bunkers may be, they pale in difficulties facing early players at Troon. In those long-ago days, Royal Troon was used by local sheep, cattle, and farmers.
There was also interference from villagers who thought the finely groomed greens an ideal spot for a Picnic.
Despite the problems at this new club, it was a good time to be a member. Members at Troon who were residents of nearby Glasgow received telegrams from the Club on Saturday mornings to inform them of weather conditions down the coast.
Upon their arrival on the Glasgow train, a horse drawn bus was provided to take them directly to the course; moreover, whiskey in the Club was 5 pence a glass.
Royal Links – Hole 3
170 yard, Par 3
Inspired by #2 at Prestwick, this hole is a tribute to the course that gave birth to the Open Championship. The first Open was played at Prestwick on October 7, 1860.
The members of Prestwick invited each of the leading clubs to send two entrants, with the stipulation that “the players should be known and respectable caddies.” Although this may sound strange today, it is important to note that “caddies” were the first golf professionals. The elite among them were exceptional players who divided their time between carrying bags for wealthy patrons and playing on their behalf in big money matches.
Willie Park won the first Open Championship by two shots over Old Tom Morris, Prestwick’s greenkeeper and club maker
Royal Links – Hole 4
621 yard, Par 5
This massive par 5 was inspired by #8 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake. But despite how intimidating this monster may appear, guests can take comfort in knowing that amateur players have always fared well at Royal Liverpool.
In fact, each of the three amateur winners of the Open Championship has a direct connection to Hoylake.
The first non-professional to claim the Open title was John Ball. Ball was a prominent member of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, and he won the Open at Prestwick in 1890.
The second amateur to win the title was Harold Hilton, also a member of Royal Liverpool. Hilton won the Open at Muirfield in 1892 and again in 1897, the first time the Open was held at Royal Liverpool.
The last player to win as an amateur was the legendary Bobby Jones. Jones claimed the title three times – in 1926, 1927, and his Grand Slam year of 1930 when the Championship was held at Royal Liverpool.
Royal Links – Hole 5
322 yard, Par 4
Reminiscent of #12 on the Old Course, St. Anderws. The Old Course was originally twenty-two holes. Eleven outward and eleven inward. After completing a hole, a player teed his ball up within two club lengths of the previous hole with a hand full of sand to form a tee.
In 1764, the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, later to become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, combined some of the shorter holes. This reduced the number of holes to eighteen and thus became the standard round throughout the world.
As the game became more popular, players would find themselves playing to the same hole from opposite directions. T alleviate this situation, two flags were put on each green. The outward nine with a white flag and the inward nine with a red flag.
The Old Course can be played in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. The accepted practice of today is counter-clockwise. At times, the clockwise rotation is put into play allowing worn areas to repair.
Royal Links – Hole 6
416 yard, Par 4
Inspired by #10 at Royal Birkdale. The members of Royal Birkdale had a difficult time in trying to build their first clubhouse.
After years of renting room at the Portland Hotel for a clubhouse, the members were finally in a position to erect their own. It was a substantial building with 300 lockers, main lounge and committee rooms.
However in 1902, they discovered they had built the building outside the boundaries of the land they had rented. They had no choice but to tear it down and start over again.
Despite the trauma the club underwent, the members happily turned their attention to their caddies. In 1908, they formed the Birkdale Golf Club Caddie Boys’ Association. They provided clothing for ill-clad boys who faced inclement weather for hours. They alco provided entertainment and instruction for the caddies in their clubhouse nearby.
Royal Links – Hole 7
471 yard, Par 4
Inspired by #13 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, the first golf course outside of Scotland to host the Open Championship.
Legend has it that Royal St. George’s Golf Club was founded by Scottish doctor Laidlaw Purves. Purves wanted to develop a links course within easy reach of London, and allegedly, he walked more than two hundred miles along the rocky, irregular coastline before climbing the tower of Sandwich Church and spying a vast expanse of sandy dunes near the English Chanel.
Purves quickly leased the 320 acres of land from the Earl of Gilford and began developing the golf course that would become Royal St. George’s.
The Golf Club was founded on May 23, 1887 and seven years later hosted its first Open Championship.
Today it is still one of only eight classic courses to host the world’s oldest championship.
Royal Links – Hole 8
153 yard, Par 3
This challenging hole was inspired by Royal Troon Golf Club’s famed “Postage Stamp”, perhaps the most storied par-3 in all of golf.
Willie Park described the hole as having “a pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp”, a description that gave the hole a name which it still bears today.
At 71 years old, Gene Sarazen returned to Royal Troon on a sentimental journey and described his visit during the 102nd Open Championship.
“For many years, the Postage Stamp hole had haunted me; I feared it, so when I walked on to the tee and faced the wind, I must admit I was somewhat nervous. I selected my 5-iron and I was determined not to be short. When the crowd roared and I realized the ball was in the hole. I felt there was no better way to close the books on my tournament play than to make a hole-in-one on the Postage Stamp and call it quits.”
Royal Links – Hole 9
567 yard, Par 5
Inspired by #5 at Muirfield Golf Club, Royal Links represents the best opportunity most players will ever have to experience thrills similar to those at the legendary club.
Muirfield’s history officially dates back to March 7, 1744, when the club was established as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
The club was the first to establish rules of play and a highly formalized club atmosphere, similar to that of many clubs today.
The Edinburgh Golfers played on the courses that were not their private domain as these courses were open to all comers.
The opportunity arose in 1891 for them to secure a piece of land at Muirfield, eighteen miles East of Edinburgh. Nine months later Muirfield hosted it’s first Open Championship.
Royal Links – Hole 10
466 yard, Par 4
The famous “Road Hole” of St. Andrews served as the inspiration for this fascinating and destructive par 4. Just like in Scotland, players must clear a section of the old wall with their tee shots, avoid a menacing bunker protecting the front left of the tiny green and steer clear of the road that cuts diagonally across its back.
At the end of the third round of the 1984 Open Championship, Seve Ballesteros trailed Tom Watson by two strokes, yet, he was confident in his ability – as long as the Road Hole cooperated. Ballesteros remarked, “If I par the Road Hole tomorrow, I will win the Open.”
This prediction held true. By the time Ballesteros reached the 17th hole, he and Watson were tied. Seve made a par (for the first time that week) after hitting a dramatic 200-yard six-iron to the green out of the left rough.
Watson, playing in a group behind the Spaniard, chose a two-iron for his second shot and overshot the green, leaving his ball next to the stone wall. The Championship was effectively won and lost on the “RoadHole.”
Royal Links – Hole 11
324 yard, Par 4
The arduous elevation changes and severe dogleg right of Royal Links’ 11th hole was inspired by #5 Royal Cinque Port Golf Club.
More commonly known as Deal, Royal Cinque Port Golf Club has only hosted the British Open twice. The first time was in 1909 when John Taylor bested James Braid in the wind and rain to claim the title.
The second time Royal Cinque Port hosted the Open was in 1920. The winner that year was George Duncan, whose victory was remarkable in that he won despite scoring 80 on his first two rounds. At the halfway point, Duncan was 13 strokes off the pace set by Abe Mitchell.
Upset after the second round, Duncan walked over to the exhibition tent where he picked up a driver that seemed to have a nice feel to it. He bought the club on the spot and used it the following day. The new club seemed to breathe life back into Duncan’s game. He finished the third round with a 71 and scored a 72 on the final day. Duncan forged himself into the lead, overcoming the largest second round deficit in history, to win the Open.
Royal Links – Hole 12
471 yard, Par 4
The longest par 4 at Royal Links features many of the same characteristics a Royal Birkdale Golf Club’s sixth. There are perhaps more varying opinions about this hole at Royal Birkdale than any other on the Open Championship rotation. Some players love it. Some dread it. But, it has always had the ability to make or break a round.
Part of its charm – or challenge- is that there are dozens of ways to attack it, yet none are guaranteed to bring success. A huge fairway bunker dominates off the tee. Typically, players either try to pass around the bunker on the left or drive over it. Another option is to lay up short and then hit a blind shot over a mass of dunes to and elevated green more than 200 yards away.
In fact, over two days of one Open competition, only four birdies were recorded on the hole while 177 over-par scores were carded.
Royal Links – Hole 13
348 yard, Par 4
Hole #15 of the Prestwick Golf Club, which was the inspiration for this hole, is not only famous for hosing the first twelve Open Championships but for the legacy of Old Tom and Young Tom Morris.
In 1852, Colonel J.O. Fairlie, one of the founding members of Prestwick and Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, persuaded Tom Morris to leave the Home of Golf and take the position of greenkeeper, ball and clubmaker at Prestwick.
Old Tom, who laid out the original twelve-hole course, went on to win the Open Championship four times at Prestwick.
His son, Young Tom, played in his first open at age 14. Three years later in 1868, he won his first of four consecutive Opens by defeating his father by three strokes.
Royal Links – Hole 14
193 yard, Par 3
The steep slopes to the right of this green and the pot bunker guarding its front were inspired by #15 at Turnberry Golf Club.
For its part, Turnberry is notable for the important role it played in protecting Great Britain during the First and Second World Wars.
In particular, during World War II, Turnberry made huge sacrifices to the Allied cause, as the golf course became and active airbase.
Britain’s Air Ministry ordered troops to tear out the fairways and pour millions of tons of concrete to create modern runways and service areas for the war effort.
This caused so much damage that many feared golf would never again be played at Turnberry. And, this likely would have been the case had it not been for one man, railway company chairman Frank Hole.
Hold pursued government deportments seeking compensation with such zeal that the British government finally relented.
The Ailsa Course, designed by famed architect Mackenzie Ross opened for play in 1951.
Royal Links – Hole 15
571 yard, Par 5
Turnberry Golf Club inspired Royal Links’ 15th hole, which is similar to the storied Scottish course’s fifth.
Playing this hole, players can imagine what it must have been like for Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus as the battled it out during the 1977 British Open, the first Open Championship ever held at Turnberry.
The pair posted identical scores on the Championships first three days, 68, 70, and 65 respectively. Then, on the final round, Nicklaus opened a three stroke lead after four holes. Watson countered by scoring three birdies on the next four holes, evening the mark again. The match continued see-sawing back and forth until the 17th hole when Watson took the lead by making a birdie as Nicklaus bogeyed.
On the 18th hole Nicklaus knocked his tee shot deep into the whin bushes on the right side of the fairway. Watson sealed the victory by hitting a one-iron off the tee and then a seven-iron within two feet of the cup.
Royal Links – Hole 16
454 yard, Par 4
This hole is long, narrow and peppered with bunkers and was inspired by #15 at Carnoustie Golf Links.
Carnoustie is the Scottish course where the legendary Ben Hogan capped his triumphant 1953 return to the game of golf after spending a year recuperating from a near fatal auto accident.
When Hogan arrived at Carnoustie, he already was the reigning US Open and Masters Champion, and was instantly favored to win the Championship. However, the greens at Carnoustie that year were uncharacteristically slow. Hogan described them as being “like putty” and they certainly affected his game.
Though Hogan was deadly accurate from tee to green, he consistently left his putts short. Like a true champion though, Hogan adjusted his game to the conditions, and his scores consistently improved as the Championship progressed.
By the final day, Hogan finished first, four shots ahead of the pack. Only Tiger Woods has matched Hogan’s record of three major championship victories in the same year.
Royal Links – Hole 17
227 yard, Par 3
Inspired by #17 at Royal Troon Golf Club, this hole may be the toughest on the golf course. Like its Scottish counterpart, this golf hole demands both distance and accuracy. The winds in the Vegas valley can have an effect similar to those along the Scottish coast.
Yet, despite the similarities, there is one danger players won’t face at royal Links that arises from time to time a Troon—unexploded munitions left over from WWII.
Like many other British golf courses, Royal Troon did its part for the war effort. The area along the beach was used as a training ground for tank pilots and part of the golf course itself was converted to a practice area for G.I.s learning to use explosives.
Even today, players at the golf course occasionally will unearth a forgotten hand grenade or other piece of military equipment from that long-ago conflict.
Royal Links – Hole 18
515 yard, Par 5
It is only fitting that the final hole is inspired by #14, The Old Course, St. Andrews: The “Home of Golf”.
In his first round at the Old Course in 1921, Bobby Jones never made it to the 14th hole. Confounded and confused, he tore up his card and stormed off the course from the 11th green, a decision he would bitterly regret.
In 1927, he returned to win the Open Championship by six shots and in 1930 he won the Amateur Championship at St. Andrews in his Grand Slam Year. Jones would later say,
“The more I studied the Old Course the move I loved it, and the more I loved it, the more I studied it. I cam to feel that it was for me the most favorable meeting ground possible for an important contest.”
Pat Ward-Thomas described the Old Course perfectly.
“In the beginning The Old Course knew no architect but nature, it came into being by evolution rather than design and on no other course is the hand less evident. St. Andrews is timeless.”