Royal Liverpool — or Hoylake, as it is usually known — is the second-oldest seaside links golf course in England, and was the first course in North-West England to host The Open. Built on the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club, it retained a dual role as horse racing venue and golf course for the first few years of its life.
“Blown upon by mighty winds, breeder of mighty champions,” is how Bernard Darwin described Royal Liverpool, and looking at the list of Hoylake Open winners it’s hard to disagree. Harold Hilton, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Peter Thomson and Roberto De Vicenzo have all lifted the Claret Jug on the Wirral Links, and Tiger Woods earned his third Open title when the Championship returned to Hoylake in 2006 after a 39 year absence.
In preparation for the 2014 Open Championship, Royal Liverpool has undergone a number of changes to strengthen the challenge for the world’s leading players. The course will measure 7,312 yards and play to a par of 72, 54 yards longer than in 2006. A number of bunkers have been removed, leaving 82 in total across the course. Five holes have new swales around the greens to punish errant shots with more varied hazards, while broken ground has been created in the rough on a number of holes to create tougher escape shots.
Just as at the 2006 Open, the 2014 Open will start on the member's 17th hole 'Royal' and finish on the 16th hole 'Dun.' The par-4 first hole has been reshaped and rebunkered and the green has tricky run-off areas on either side. R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson has called it “the hardest opening hole on the Open rota.”
Royal Liverpool continues to be one of the greatest tests in golf and will present a stiff challenge to the world’s best players once again when The Open returns to the Merseyside links in July.