In a year when spectacular new courses will make their debuts in St. Andrews and Machrihanish (“Scotland’s Two New Beauties,” January/February 2008), it may seem like an afterthought to highlight other golf-related projects in the British Isles. But there is much to celebrate. The booming Irish economy has fueled the development of a new Ritz-Carlton resort in the lush woodlands of suburban Dublin. Wales is making the most of its upcoming role as Ryder Cup host, unveiling the proudly named Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort. And a few venerable clubs, such as England’s Royal Birkdale, site of this year’s British Open, have thoughtfully updated their fabled links.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club Southport, Merseyside
The huge sand dunes and hunkered-down fairways at this links on the Lancashire coast will again decide who becomes the “champion golfer of the year.” This year the British Open returns to Royal Birkdale—the club’s ninth time as host—and the R&A has quietly overseen some changes to the course. Martin Hawtree, who was brought in after the 1991 Open, has once again been tweaking the holes. This is a family tradition: In the 1930s his grandfather Fred Hawtree helped redesign George Low’s original layout. Most notable of the latest alterations is a new green at the par-five seventeenth; the putting surface now has two tiers and has been pushed back thirty yards.
Green Fees: $235–$325. Tee Times: 011-44/1704-552-030, royalbirkdale.com.
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club Deal, Kent
They say in the fashion industry that if you hang around long enough the vintage styles always come back in vogue. The same is true in golf, and the unadorned sand hills of Royal Cinque Ports on England’s southern coast are a case in point. Architect Martin Ebert is overseeing a renovation of the tees and the revetted bunkers, but what’s been preserved is the majesty of the course, which hosted the 1909 and 1920 British Opens: a scruffy look of the sort that’s once again inspiring golf architects worldwide. Those who have never played amid these dunes overlooking the English Channel will quickly appreciate a quiet classic that hasn’t faded.
Green Fees: $160–$200. Tee Times: 011-44/1304-374-007, royalcinqueports.com.
Royal Dublin Golf Club North Bull Island Nature Reserve, Dollymount
Seeking a sensitive renovation of its links, a 1920 Harry Colt design on a sandy island in Dublin Bay, this historic club turned to Martin Hawtree. The architect’s work here has included lifting, reshaping and recontouring twelve of the greens. At the par-five fourteenth, he set back the putting surface fifty yards into a half ring of gorse bushes and pot bunkers. The “tidied” closing holes are still as tough as ever: Only the gods may match the eagle-birdie-eagle finish of Royal Dublin’s beloved club professional, Christy O’Connor Sr., to win the 1966 edition of what would become the Irish Open.
Green Fee: $250. Tee Times: 011-353/1833-6346, theroyaldublingolfclub.com.