SOUTHPORT, England – Remember when Kevin Na sounded off on the fescue at Erin Hills during the U.S. Open? Well, Na has a more concise – and far less critical – warning for Royal Birkdale, site of the 2017 British Open.
“STAY AWAY FROM THE BUNKERS,” Na said via Instagram, along with this video:
James Hahn tried a different approach at the pot bunker – and failed:
Yes, Royal Birkdale’s bunkers are penal, which is why it’s a good idea to avoid them. Of course, players will ultimately weigh the risk/reward of challenging Birkdale’s bunkers.
“Really well-placed bunkers, ones where on some holes if you want to fly the short ones, instead of hitting iron off the tee, it’s going to be very difficult for you to fly them but leave them short of the next set of bunkers,” Jordan Spieth said. “A lot of risk/reward options off the tee out here, and if you choose for the risky, and you still hit a good shot, it really will reward you.”
Here are some dangerous sandy situations of note, via Brad Klein’s hole-by-hole course preview:
No. 3, par 4
Three bunkers at 307 to 327 yards out mark the point at which the fairway funnels down into a narrow landing zone. Many players will use less than driver off the tee and hope to reach or run through this gauntlet on the ground rather than risk flying a drive into one of the hazards. Four more pot bunkers frame the opening to the green to narrow the ideal approach line.
No. 4, par 3
The main challenge comes from four deep, revetted bunkers that squeeze the green, with the one on the right creating one of the few tucked hole locations at Birkdale thanks to a corner of putting surface wrapping behind it. The tough idea on the tee shot is to start an approach over the bunkers on the left and let the ball ride the wind to the green. Not surprisingly, many shots end up long and right.
No. 5, par 4
Seven bunkers block virtually the entire approach line. It’s “only” 291 yards to a front cross bunker, though 40-yard sand shots are not ideal for anyone, especially when laying back and hitting a lob wedge would provide so much more control. If the wind lies down, players will have a go for it with a big left-to-right drive over trees to a landing area they can’t see around the bend.
No. 6, par 4
There’s a crucial bunker 274 yards out on the right; carrying it against the back of the hill and fighting the wind requires hitting a landing area no more than 5 yards wide.
Henrik Stenson: “It hasn’t got any easier. I guess for the members it’s a par 5, and we play it as a par 4. … You’ve got two options off the tee, basically, you can either layup on this big bunker there straight down the fairway off the tee, and that’s going to put you even further back and a bit of a blind shot for your second. And I would guess it’s probably 3-wood, 3-iron, something like that, if you go that way. Or you can go left and challenge that bunker and potentially another fairway bunker down the left-hand side and hit it a bit further off the tee, and that might leave you maybe a 4- or 5-iron second shot. So it’s just a long hole and you’ve got to hit two good shots to get it in position.”
Said Spieth: “As long as you’re not in those first two pot bunkers, you can make a four.”
No. 7, par 3
By now a golfer would be excused for wondering if all the bunkers at Birkdale look exactly alike. Well, here at the exposed, windswept seventh is at least one variant of sand in the form of a donut – along with six other bunkers of the same size and scale as all the others on the course.
No. 10, par 4
This hole heads out on a banana-hook, right-to-left curve into the prevailing wind with a notoriously well-bunkered fairway that’s hard to find. Bunkers are tucked on the inside of the sharp dogleg at 230 and 242 yards straight into the prevailing wind. Another bunker waits on the right at 240, with two more at 280 and 296 yards out.
No. 15, par 5
The fairway landing areas for the first and second shots are heavily peppered with steep-faced bunkers that effectively serve as half-shot penalties.
No. 17, par 5
Players need to avoid two bunkers on the right side of the fairway that are 312 and 325 yards out. From there, the key obstacle is a semi-cross bunker 40 yards short of the green that cuts into the approach line to the narrowest, deepest green on the course.
No. 18, par 4
Staggered fairway bunkering constricts the landing zone at 275 yards on the right, 306 on the left and 349 yards in the left center, making for a tight driving zone. The green, tightly bunkered at the entrance, is notoriously hard to hold with an approach.
– Brad Klein contributed