Having made its Open Championship debut in 1954, and as it prepares this month for its 10th staging of the world’s oldest ‘Major,’ Royal Birkdale on the West Coast of England has the reputation for serving up intriguing and interesting as opposed to epic championships and this year’s 146th staging of the event is no different.
In terms of history, Royal Birkdale is right up there: its first manifestation was a nine-hole layout, which opened 128 years ago. The course in its present form, 18 holes and 6,817-yards, Par-72 opened in September 1894 and has since hosted all the great events in golf, including the 1965 and 1969 Ryder Cup and this, a 10th Open Championship.
Accorded the ‘Royal’ prefix in 1951 by King George VI, three years later, the Lancashire course was hosting none other than the Open Championship, its iconic art deco clubhouse welcoming some of the finest players in the world.
The legendary Australian Peter Thomson won the inaugural event at Birkdale, the first of three Claret Jugs in-a-row, a fourth following in 1958 at nearby Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Thomson returned to Birkdale to take the title again in 1965, two of his five, ‘Majors’, won over the same seaside course.