British Open Week: Royal St. George's

Nasty bunkers on the fourth hole at Royal St. George's.

I’m still in Ottawa for the 100th anniversay celebrations of the Canadian PGA (read about Day One and Two here), but I’ve had the chance to write a column for Sympatico on Royal St. George’s, the course I played while doing a tour of English golf by train a few years back. Apparently there’s not a lot of love for Sandwich, but I can’t really understand why that is. I found it a fascinating links.

You can read my review of Sandwich here.

My Sympatico column went live today:

Royal St. George’s is a special course.

That was readily apparent when I first set my eyes on the sprawling links on England’s east coast three years ago. I’d just arrived by train from London, a remarkably comfortable journey from the busiest part of the country. A fair bit of the trip involved staring out a window as the train emerged alongside the sea. We rolled into Sandwich and a short ride later, I was dropped in front of the clubhouse at Royal St. George’s.

This week the world will watch St. George’s, the first English course to hold the British Open, as the venerable championship returns to its tumbling fairways.

When I arrived on the first tee, I was immediately struck by how subtle it seemed. None of the massive dunes that typify the great Irish links of Ballybunion and Lahinch were immediately present. Nor did it have the charm of the small dunes one finds at Royal Birkdale, nor the breathtaking ocean scenery of Turnberry.

But it didn’t take long – three holes to be exact – for St. George’s to demonstrate its remarkable character. The fourth hole – playing a massive 495 yards for the British Open this week – caught my attention. A huge bunker – called Himalayas and arguably one of the deepest to be found anywhere – was cut into a dune on the right side of the fairway. To get the optimal playing position in the fairway, one had to flirt with this sandy abyss. Thankfully from the tees I played it didn’t take a massive drive to carry the hazard; the pros will have to smash a driver 265 yards to be sure to miss it and if they play it safe, another bunker will shallow balls hit to the left.

That hole commenced a splendid run of golf that is as good as I’ve experienced.

The column is continued here.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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