- Paul Graham-Fielding
Royal St George. The Open course review
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
One of the great things about our sport is that you get to play upon the hallowed grounds that icons have walked. They too have stood - albeit with thousands of eyes focused on their every move - on the same greens and fairways and performed great feats that we mere mortals can only dream of.
This doesn't happen in sports like football or tennis, you can't simply pay to play at Wembley or on Centre Court at Wimbledon. It should be the aim of every amateur and social golfer, to at least once in their life walk in the footsteps of golf's greats on the fairways of our sport's great courses. The Open Championship, for many, is the finest of all golf Major's and Royal St.George's spot on its roster is deserved. It's one that is a truly beautiful test of any golfer's game.
In the build-up to The Open you may hear of the pros 'concerns' about the course due to its humps and bumps that are likely to throw a drive or approach offline on occasion, don’t listen to them. This is arguably the best blend of interest, uniqueness and variety all rolled into a championship test!
Located on the sea southeast of London, Royal St. George's has long been in the discussion of the best courses in England and certainly in the greater London area. When visitors arrive, the first thing they will see is a quaint clubhouse that oozes quintessential British aristocracy. Sandwich, as the locals call it, is steeped in history so be sure to arrive with enough time in hand to soak it all in. Grab a coffee in the idyllic grand smoking room, its bookshelf lined walls overlook a small courtyard garden, and when the fireplace is stoked it's easy to imagine (for a split second) giving up the idea of a round if the wind is howling, and the fire is stoked nearby!
That thought of passing up this wonderful test of golf will soon be banished from your mind, when you remember that one of the strongest features at Sandwich is the variety of holes throughout the course and the distinct feeling they each have.
The 2nd is a dog left and a joy to play if you get your approach into the green just right
From the go, players will face a stern test at the first; with mild (mild by Sandwich terms!) undulations in the landing area, and two bunkers centre-fairway awaiting drives that run just a little bit too far – it is a fine opening hole. The green sets the tone for the round with spectacular movement and a front-to-back tilt that must be devilish to hold in the heat of the summer.
The 2nd is a dog left and a joy to play if you get your approach into the green just right, The green is magnificent, settled on higher ground after a wild swale protects the front of the putting surface which has fall off's on both sides.
The way the dunes are integrated with the undulated fairways provides a beautiful and natural blend to the property that is perfect for links golf. The stretch of holes from #4 - #8 is undeniably brilliant and affords the best views of the sea which will stick in the golfer's mind for many years as they look back upon their round at Sandwich. With a loose figure eight routing, the course enjoys a variety of shapes and directions of holes which proves to provide lasting appeal for members and visitors alike. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more demanding test considering the overall length, undulated fairway and greens, and frequent winds that test players mentally as much as physically.
In this collection of holes is the signature mark for the course, the 6th, a176 Yard Par 3 . 'The Maiden' is the second par three on the front nine and it is simply a gem. Surrounded by dunes, the green rests in a wonderfully natural setting with four bunkers complimenting the large dunes and two-tiered green.
As you move on to the back nine a humpy, bumpy fairway on the 10th leads players up the hill on this short-ish par 4 to one of the best skyline greens in the UK. This is one of the highest points of the course, and the green is very exposed, making knockdowns and punch-shots the preferred method for approaching.
The 15th is a hole that you can attack, thanks to some of the flattest terrain at Royal St. George's
This is where all your shots are tested, the 12th. This is a short-ish par-4 that has some of the best movements on a fairway that you will find on a links course. If players successfully find the short grass, they must then fly up and over imposing cross-bunkers that protect the front portion of the green. No running shots here – and it is this variety that sets Sandwich apart.
The 15th is a hole that you can attack, thanks to some of the flattest terrain at Royal St. Georges. At 545 Yards the hole isn't short for the shorter driver but the flat fairway will yield a great lie and can encourage players to try and reach the green in two.
Players that keep it up the left side on their approach to avoid the o.b. could be faced with a testing chip over the left bunkers to a sloping putting surface that will require some backspin to get it close to the hole. You need to be smart in how you attack this hole, but if get your driver in play and your long iron is on point you can walk onto the green with a smile.
The 18th is a lovely hole to finish off what will be a rollercoaster round. The 18th is a championship-worthy par-4 ending that demands an accurate drive and excellent second. The final fairway walk is of flatter terrain but like the rest of the course, it still offers variety within it and is a fine example of how to finish a course.
William Laidlaw Purves designed this course in 1887 and it has stood the test of time. Sandwich invigorates the mind, and soothes the soul. When the sun is out in the summer, and with the waves gently rolling in along the coast, I could think of few better places to retreat to for a day than at Royal St George’s.
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