Course Rater Confidential: What makes Royal St. George’s a great Open Championship venue?

Royal st george's 18th hole

The 18th green at Royal St. George's.

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GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. The goal is not only to entertain you but also to give you a better understanding of how to understand and appreciate golf course architecture. You can see GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking here, and our Top 100 Courses in the U.S. here. Meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

What should golf fans know about 2021 Open Championship host Royal St. George’s? What are some of its defining traits? How does it stack up as an Open venue? Anything that sets it apart from other courses in the rota?

David McLay Kidd (panelist since 2004; has played 60-plus of the World Top 100): Well, it’s by far the closest to the biggest city in the UK, London, so it makes it the most difficult to get a ticket having been there twice! The land was under water only a few centuries ago so it truly fits the exact definition of links — land exhumed from the waves. The fairways are tough to stay on.

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Will Davenport (panelist since 2021; has played 40 of the World Top 100): Royal St. George’s is my favorite golf course in the Isles, and I think one of the finest in the world. The course has some of the most dramatic dunes and swales of any in the Open rota, which creates a number of amphitheater greens, blind shots and significant movement of the ball on the ground. Royal St. George’s manages to feel intimate in places (the spectacular and bunkerless par-3 3rd) and absolutely vast (the rolling par-4 10th) in others.

Tim Gallant (panelist since 2019; has played 67 of the World Top 100): I believe Royal St. George’s, or Sandwich, as it’s known locally, is the best golf course in England. While the pros might not like the odd bad bounce, for amateur golfers, it is almost the perfect balance of test, strategy and fun. It combines the best of a place like Birkdale, which is a fair and stern test, with the flair and fun of Prestwick. Humps and bumps married with strength and strategy. It’s a match made in heaven. There is also so much variety packed into that 18 that it’s tough not to love the place. And it likely has the second-best set of greens of any current Open rota course, after the Old Course.

Christian Faergemann (panelist since 2013; has played 70 of the World Top 100): Its massive dunes and very undulated rolling fairways. I also think that the general bunkering at RSG is superior. They seem to swallow any golf ball getting just a bit off line. In rough weather, it is one of the toughest tests on the Open rota. Being a Dane, I can’t shake the memory of Thomas Björn losing his firm grip on the Claret Jug in the right greenside bunker on the short par-3 16th back in 2003.

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