his year's 2003 British Openwill be held at the Royal StGeorge's Golf Club (www.royalstgeorges.com) in Sandwich,Kent, England. From July 17 to July20, golf's best players will gather tocompete for the title of national championand a $6.24-million dollar purse.The last 2 times the British Open washeld here was in 1993, when GregNorman triumphed, and in 1985,when Sandy Lyle was the victor.
Located on the coast of southeastEngland, Royal St George'sweather can best be described asbizarre—snow and 36 degree temperatureat 9 AM followed by sunshineand 65 degree temperature at3 PM. It will clearly play a very bigrole in this year's British Open.
PAR FOR THE COURSE
The Royal St George's course is anexercise in intimidation. Most golfers,professionals and amateurs alike, saythat it is not a course for the weekendgolfer, the high handicapper, or thegolfer looking to relax. Even the greatJack Nicklaus, despite winning the StGeorge's Challenge Trophy in 1959,was not a fan of the course (an opinionunlikely to have been changed byhis opening 83 in the 1981 Open).
Royal St George's uses every trickin the book to disorient the golfer,including blind and semiblind shots,large, deep bunkers, tight fairways,thick rough, and viciously undulatinggreens. Common wisdom at Royal StGeorge's is that you beat up the front9 and then hold on. The front 9 has anumber of semiblind or blind shots.Once the back 9 is reached, however,the course tends to lay everything outin front of the player a little more,rather than obscuring its dangers.
The challenging links course atRoyal St George's has been lengthenedby 246 yards for the 2003 OpenChampionship, and now measures7106 yards. This increase has beenachieved by the construction of 8 newtees and the creation of a new green atthe long 14th hole. On several holes,the new tees not only add length butalso change the line of play. Thedemanding fourth hole has had 29yards added, and now plays as a par 5,increasing the course par to 71.
HOLES TO REMEMBER
Following are some of the moredramatic holes you'll see golfers confrontin the Open this summer:
• Hole 4. Measured at 468 yardsand played into and across the prevailingwind, the 4th hole provides astern test for players early in theround. The immediate focus is a large,cavernous bunker positioned on theright side of the fairway at 240 yards.At least 10 inches deep, once in it, youmust simply take your medicine andget back to the fairway. You then stillhave a 200-plus-yard shot to thegreen. Played as a par 4, this hole willtest even the best players.
• Hole 14.The 14th hole is playeddirectly into the southwest prevailingwind. When Greg Norman won thetitle at St George's in 1993, it measured507 yards. It now measures 551yards. Nicknamed the "Suez Canal"because of a stream that runs acrossthe fairway at 330 yards from the tee,the entire length of the right side ofthis hole is out of bounds. How difficult is this hole? Jack Nicklaus hit hisball out of bounds here during hisopening round in 1985.
The slightly raised new green is 43yards further back and right so that itnow lies perilously close to the out-of-boundsfence. Two new pot bunkershave been added in the center of thefairway 70 yards short of the green.The 14th hole played a significantpart in Sandy Lyle's victory in 1985."I drove into heavy rough on the left,"he recalls, "came out 80 yards withthe sand wedge, then hit a 2-iron to 45feet and holed the putt for a birdiethat set me up to win."
• Hole 18. St. George's 18th holeis considered one of the best finishingholes in all of championship golf—atleast for spectators. It's a par-4, 468-yard hole that plays into the wind.Players must hit a solid drive to a narrowfairway, with wild, deep, openrough. After the drive, and dependingon the wind, players will face a 200- to230-yard second shot (a shot thatrequires a long iron or fairway wood).
It's made even more complicatedby a steep slope on the left-handside of the narrow fairway. Thisslope sometimes forces golfers toplay the ball position 6 to 7 inchesabove their feet. If the pin is on theright-hand side of the green, thesuperb, front-right bunker willguard the flag. Therefore, a fadedsecond shot is required, which isalways difficult from an uphill lie.
Adrian Daviesis a former European
Tour player and European
director of golf for David
Leadbetter. He has been a PGA
Class A professional for 19 years
and is affiliated with the Links in
Shirley, Long Island. He welcomes questions
or comments at email@example.com.