The British Open 2021: Royal St. George's course guide for the fourth golf major of the year

Robert McIntyre at Royal St George's for the 2021 British Open
Photo of Ian Wilkerson

Ian Wilkerson

Golf

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Journalist since 1994, having previously working at BBC Sport before joining the Racing Post in 2006. A specialist in football and golf betting. A keen runner who presents the top-10 weekly running podcast, The Long Run.

Royal St. George’s is hosting the British Open golf tournament for the 15th time this week. The English venue in Sandwich, Kent, was last used for the Open a decade ago, when Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke finished three shots ahead of American stars Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

Four more Americans made the top ten — Chad Campbell, Anthony Kim, and Rickie Fowler split fifth place and Davis Love III was in a three-way tie for ninth.

Ben Curtis was a shock 500/1 winner of the previous Open at Royal St. George’s in 2003, beating Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn, with Davis Love III and Tiger Woods sharing fourth place.

Greg Norman (1993), Sandy Lyle (1985), and Bill Rogers (1981) also lifted the Claret Jug at this venue.

There are only two par-five holes on the course, which was first laid out in 1887. Two of the four par-three holes are very long at 239 yards (third) and 238 yards (11th).

St. George’s is an undulating course with plenty of dunes and nasty bunkers — approaches that just miss the green can spell big trouble.

Don’t miss our picks and best bets for the 2021 British Open

Let’s take a look at each hole on the course:

Hole 1

445 yards, Par 4

Average score in 2011 – 4.216 (8th hardest)

This is a challenging opening hole. Bunkers lie in wait for wayward approaches and the green slopes from front to back.

Hole 2

421 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.06 (16th hardest)

The Hogsback doglegs from right to left with two bunkers lurking on the inside corner. A straightforward approach awaits but finding the front of the green is preferable as it leads to an uphill putt.

Hole 3

239 yards, Par 3

2011 – 3.247 (6th hardest)

The right side of the two-tiered putting surface has to be found on the first of the four par-three holes. There are no bunkers and the tree on the right side of the green is the only one on the course.

Hole 4

491 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.521 (hardest hole)

The first priority is to avoid the huge Himalayan bunker, but the problems are not all over if players can find the flat area of the fairway. Club selection will be crucial as overshooting the green brings the risk of going out of bounds on one of the course’s most difficult tests.

Hole 5

422 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.11 (joint-12th hardest)

Players will face the choice of which side of the split fairway to attack, but most of the trouble can be negotiated by a hefty drive of more than 300 yards. However, an iron down the right could prove to be the more sensible approach from which to attack the unexposed green. 

Hole 6

174 yards, Par 3

2011 – 3.214 (9th hardest)

Four bunkers surround the green with a dune on the left a prominent feature on the second par-three hole. Tom Watson recorded a hole-in-one here during his second round ten years ago.

Hole 7

566 yards, Par 5

2011 – 4.563 (18th hardest)

Players face a blind tee shot on the first of the course’s two par fives. Three steep greenside bunkers can gobble up any errant approaches but plenty of birdies and even eagles will be anticipated.

Hole 8

450 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.369 (2nd hardest)

Players must go left from the tee to avoid two bunkers, and approaches will have to be accurate to avoid some nasty rough. The contoured green is protected by two bunkers at the front and a par is always a decent score.

Hole 9

412 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.241 (7th hardest)

The second shot is key as anything that heads too far left risks finding one of two bunkers. It’s an undulating putting surface, so the right level will have to be found depending on the pin position.

Brooks Koepka

CREDIT – Sandra Mailer (USA TODAY)

Hole 10

415 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.188 (11th hardest)

Again the emphasis will be on the quality of the approach as the elevated green slopes from all sides. The green has been brought forward over the years but precision with the second shot will be of primary importance.

Hole 11

238 yards, Par 3

2011 – 3.252 (5th hardest)

This long par-three hole can cause problems, particularly if the wind picks up. There are five bunkers around the green but the three on the left are more likely to come into play as the green slopes in that direction.

Hole 12

379 yards, Par 4

2011 – 3.998 (17th hardest)

There are a few issues here with five bunkers at the front of the green and a ridge running across the fairway, but this is the shortest par four on the course which means top players can use an iron off the tee and still have a lofted club for their approach. It should prove relatively trouble-free.

Hole 13

456 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.11 (joint-12th hardest)

An accurate drive will be essential to avoid one of four dangerous bunkers. A ridge runs down the length of the putting surface, so being the correct side of that will be the key consideration when approaching the green.

Hole 14

547 yards, Par 5

2011 – 5.066 (15th hardest)

The second and final par five is not the typical birdie opportunity players may anticipate, mainly because the wind can prove a huge factor. There is out-of-bounds running from tee to green down the right, and most of the trouble is in that direction. Avoid that and the most pressing concern could be the ditch 330 yards from the back tee.

Hole 15

496 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.269 (4th hardest)

Plenty of sand has to be avoided, with five bunkers in play off the tee and three more around the green on this long par four. A challenging pitch awaits those who miss the green to the left.

Hole 16

162 yards, Par 3

2011 – 3.071 (14th hardest)

The green is surrounded by pot bunkers, which have to be avoided at all costs. Even if you get out, there is a chance that the ball can come rolling back into the trap, so finding the green initially is vital.

Hole 17

426 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.199 (10th hardest)

The fairway has plenty of humps but the approach is the most important element of the gentle dogleg. The false-fronted green lies in wait for anything a bit short while players who go long face a difficult up-and-down. Bunkers await errant second shots on both sides.

Hole 18

450 yards, Par 4

2011 – 4.325 (3rd hardest)

This is a tough one to close the round. The approach is never easy with a shallow ditch to the left of the green, from which an up and down is not guaranteed. And that’s after players have had to negotiate two tricky fairway bunkers. Expect some dramatic last-hole changes to the scoreboard.

Check out our best British Open picks for your daily fantasy contest!

Pickswise is the home of free expert Golf Picks and Predictions. Our outright PGA expert picks go live every Tuesday, so be sure check out our golf picks, best bets, and analysis for the British Open when they are published. We will also have our 2021 British Open 3-ball picks and our best golf prop bets for each round of the 2021 British Open.

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