The 149th Open: Royal St. George's Most Challenging Holes

By Evan Chronis September 12, 2019

Royal St. George's is the most famous English venue for The Open Championship, yet it often gets lost in the shuffle when discussing courses that offer golfers the biggest challenge. 

While it doesn't hold the mystique that a course like Carnoustie holds when it comes to difficulty, Royal St. George's is a course that no golfer can take lightly if they hope to leave with the Claret Jug. 

As golf's oldest Major returns to the course in Sandwich, England for The 149th Open, we're breaking down the toughest holes throughout the entire 18 and where you'll see the top prize in golf won and lost. 



Par 4

496 Yards to Hole

The most iconic structure in the entirety of Royal St. George's sits at No.4. It's the bunker coined as "Himalaya," resting right before the start to the fairway. While visually intimidating, this bunker typically doesn't affect players unless wind conditions are blowing towards those at the tee, which is a possibility at Royal St. George's. It's considered the highest bunker in England and the right (or in this case, wrong) wind conditions could direct balls to a collision with its unforgiving surface. Given its almost-500 yard distance, this hole has shifted throughout the years as both a Par 4 and 5. In 2020, it will remain a 4-shot par and prove to be one of the most challenging holes in the entire 18. 


Par 4

457 Yards to Hole

With wind blowing against the flow of play, this 457-yard Par 4 is as much a test of strength as it is of precision. The fairway is cut off right at the 326-yard mark, leaving a large section of rough to trap golfers as they make their approach. But those looking to hold back their shot in hopes of avoiding overshooting the fairway are also in for trouble as two bunkers are tucked into the right side of the fairway at the 300-yard mark. But it doesn't end there — shots onto the green are at risk of falling into either of the traps that pinch the green on each side. 


Par 4

379 Yards to Hole

For a Par 4, the 379-yard distance of No.12 isn't that intimidating upon first glance. But once you see the hole's layout, you'll understand why several golfers may find their first Back 9 struggles here. The fairway is defined by two strips of imperfections that dominate most of the surface, providing an uneven landing spot for even some of the best shots off tee. Golfers will have to place their first shot perfectly between the two ridges to be confident that the surface won't guide their ball off track. The approach shot is also a dangerous one, as five bunkers await right before the green, leaving any short shot due for a date in the sand. 


Par 5

545 Yards to Hole

This hole requires 545 yards of perfect placement with little-to-no room for error. The out of bounds marker hugs the right perimeter of the fairway, dooming any shot that hooks right of falls prey to the elements. This marker also forces several players to push their shot too far to the left, which is extra dangerous as they approach the two bunkers, albeit small, that lay on the left border of the fairway. If that wasn't enough, the strip of water dividing the course at the 330-yard mark, trademarked the "Suez Canal," is another treacherous trap that awaits any shot that is not perfectly placed on this Par 5. 


Par 3

161 Yards to Hole

A Par 3 as one of the most challenging holes at The Open Championship? Well, just ask Thomas Bjørn. Whether you believe in superstition of not, there's something spooky that happened to Bjørn in 2003. With a two-stroke lead with three holes remaining, his shot off the tee bounced onto the green and slowly rolled to the bunker off to the right. It took Bjørn a whopping three tries to get out of the bunker, double bogeying the hole and losing his clasp on the Claret Jug. 

But this anecdote isn't just a one-off. The hole on No.16 sits on a difficult slope, making an approach shot or putt an inch away from disaster. 

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