Revered by many as one of the toughest courses on the Open rota, Royal St George’s Golf Club or Sandwich as it is known by many provides a stern test for all who are fortunate enough to walk on its fast running fairways.
Although The Open is no longer taking place this week and has been moved to 2021, the fantastic condition of the course was put to good use, hosting the first ever Ladies Professional tournament at Royal St George’s – the Rose Ladies Series.
The venue has held The Open Championship on 14 previous occasions and so we take a look at the course and where we think the Open will be won and lost.
Those seeking to make their score at Royal St George’s should do so in the opening 12 holes with the best chance of birdies coming at holes 2, 7 and 12. While this can change very quickly with the wind, the par-4 2nd hole measures 426 yards and plays slightly uphill. Many professionals will take a 3-wood for position in the right hand side of the fairway to give the perfect angle to the elevated green. Those achieving a pin-high shot will be rewarded with a relatively straight putt and a good opportunity to get their round under par.
The par-5 7th hole now measures 564 yards, courtesy of an extended tee. The hole however generally benefits from the prevailing wind for the second shot, provided the drive is kept on the correct line across the dog-leg. Ideally the green should be approached from the left hand side for the best chance of getting close to this green.
Following the longest par-3 on the course (11th hole – 242 yards) the par-4 12th offers views across the English Channel and a great opportunity to pick up a shot on par. With bunkers stretching diagonally across the right hand side of the fairway, the hole is more of a visual dog-leg. There’s plenty of room on the left of the fairway, a 3-wood or long iron will leave a short iron into the well-bunkered green. The control gained from the fairway means we will see a lot of birdies here on the shortest par-4 on the course.
The closing stretch of holes from 13 – 18 provide little respite for those attempting to claim the Claret Jug. While the par-3 16th hole measures just 161 yards, as we saw so spectacularly in 2003 with Thomas Bjorn’s bunker strife this is a hole not to be taken lightly.
The 14th hole is an intimidating par-5 requiring a strong tee-shot down the left half of the fairway. With out-of-bounds just right of the fairway and the wind generally pushing drives towards this penalty, this par-5 isn’t the obvious birdie opportunity that many expect. With fast-running fairways being reported at Sandwich, the Suez Canal which runs across the fairway at 330+ yards will come into play for the longer drivers in the field.
The 15th hole, is in my opinion, the toughest hole on the course. With numerous bunkers in play off the tee combined with a small elevated target which is generally being hit with a long iron make the score of par on this hole something many will crave on Sunday afternoon.
Unsurprisingly Royal St George’s provides a stern test for in the 18th hole. The par-4 measures more than 450 yards and requires accuracy and length off the tee to bring the green into play. With the fairway littered with cross bunkers those trying to shorten their approach will find their route blocked. With the green framed by large grandstands and a large greenside bunker on the right, this intimidating approach will be sure to test the best and find a very worthy Open Champion.
Tips from YGT Tom
Royal St George’s member for over 20 years
One hole I reckon is seriously underestimated is the 10th. On paper it’s only 415 yds, the tee shot is certainly one of the easier on the course in that you can see everything ahead of you. But, the approach to the long and narrow upturned saucer green is incredibly hard to judge, as there is no good miss.
In 1985 Tom Kite had a good game of ping pong missing the green from side to side before settling for a triple bogey 7, and thus fluffing his chance of lifting the Claret Jug that year. Below is an image showing the severity of the slope to the left of the green, with 7 ft deep bunkers guarding the green.
Don’t miss right off the tee on the first
Tiger Woods lost his opening tee shot in the 2003 Open, made a triple bogey 7, and ended up T4th 2 shots behind eventual champion Ben Curtis!
4th tee tip
Straight over the middle of the Himalaya bunker (so long as there isn’t a 20mph wind in your face!)
Aside from the really obvious slopes on the greens of which there are many, whenever you have a relatively flat looking putt, most people overborrow, there are less hidden borrows in the greens than one might think!