Thursday, March 12

The Best Golf Course in England

The 18th hole at Royal Birkdale with the distinctive clubhouse in the background. (
ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB, SITE OF nine Open Championships, six Women's British Opens and two Ryder Cups, is the best golf course in England, according to Golf Monthly magazine (as reported by a sponsored story in The Telegraph).

This does not surprise me. I'll get back to that in a moment.

Golf Monthly also ranked Royal Birkdale as the fifth best golf course in all of the United Kingdom and Ireland. That's impressive when you consider the many famed links courses in that part of the golf world.

There have been numerous great moments at Birkdale, but, according to the Telegraph story, one stands out.

"Perhaps the most famous single golfing moment on an English course took place at Royal Birkdale in Southport in 1969. Britain's Tony Jacklin had a putt of a little more than two feet on the 18th green which, if he'd missed, would have given the Americans victory in the Ryder Cup. Jack Nicklaus, his opponent and the greatest player of all time, never gave him the chance. In one of the most generous and fair-minded gestures in any sport, Nicklaus conceded the putt and the pair halved their match and the Cup."

Of course, that famous moment along with the entire 1969 Ryder Cup staged at Royal Birkdale is the subject of my recent book, DRAW IN THE DUNES, for which Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin graciously contributed their memories in sit-down interviews. They also contributed a foreword for the book.

I also talked to their 1969 teammates, and two in particular sang the praises of Royal Birkdale.

Great Britain's Brian Huggett said, "Royal Birkdale is the best tournament venue in our country. Along with having a magnificent links course, playing between the avenues of sand dunes was very special."

"Royal Birkdale was a great golf course to play on," affirmed Hall of Famer Billy Casper, who died on February 7.

In addition to the massive dunes and proximity to the Irish Sea, Royal Birkdale is known for its white, art-deco-style clubhouse that was built in the 1930s. The Open Championship will return there in 2017.

Can you imagine playing Royal Birkdale?

Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who has tread the same fairways as greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thomson, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods.

If someday you do play Royal Birkdale, perhaps you can reprise that famous 1969 concession on the 18th green. It was only a 2-foot putt, after all. And yet players on both sides told me it was missable under the circumstances. After 31 matches over three days, the entire Ryder Cup hung in the balance.

They didn't have to convince me it was missable. I've flubbed many 2-footers under the most benign circumstances. Maybe you have too.

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