Considering how thoroughly Jiyai Singh won the 2012 Women’s British Open, it’s easy to forget that she didn’t lead from start to finish. But her win at Royal Liverpool, the English club known simply as Hoylake, remains one of the most dignified performances in the history of the tournament.
Her message to the world’s top men’s golfers as they tackle the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool from Thursday can be summed up in two words. “Be careful”.
“Royal Liverpool has a lot of small greens and small deep bunkers,” Shin, who also won the 2008 Sunningdale Open, wrote in Korean in response to an emailed question.
“There’s also the wind,” Singh warned. Singh still plays in the LPGA on the Japan Tour, and she tied for second at the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this month. “You have to endure the toil of the constant wind.”
The wind may not be the only threat for a club with a record of weather-challenged appearances in recent games. In 2006, when Tiger Woods won the race, signs were installed to warn of fire hazards. Eight years later, before Rory McIlroy won the event, forecasted thunderstorms caused the British Open to start on two tees for the first time in history. And when Singh played there in 2012, the third and fourth rounds were condensed into one day due to bad weather. At the time, she said Hoylake offered “the worst terms I’ve ever played on.”
Problems may arise in the next few days.
“Right now my concern is what the forecast for Saturday and Sunday will be. There is uncertainty as to which way it will go,” Martin Slumbers, chief executive of tournament organizer The R&A, said Wednesday. “But it will be wet, or very wet. Let’s see.”
Despite the weather, the course has an outstanding history. With the exception of Royal North Devon, no club on the English coast is older than Royal Liverpool. Royal Liverpool was founded in his 1869 and he hosted the Open Championship for the first time in 1897, won by amateur Harold Hilton. Bobby Jones and Peter Thomson later became men’s open champions.
The 151st British Open “will be the beginning of a new history,” Singh predicted.
1st place: Royal
Par 4, 459 yards
The first hole at Royal Liverpool is often windy, so there are fairway bunkers on either side of the hole, just close enough that many of this week’s players will be able to hit their tee shots.
Welcome to the British Open.
“It’s a dogleg hole that curves slightly to the left, and the green isn’t wide enough, so it’s difficult to land your second shot on the green,” Shin said. “When playing this hole, it is advantageous to aim slightly to the right to keep the flow to the next shot.”
There are 3 bunkers near the green and not the smoothest putting surface in the UK. However, trouble number one does not necessarily determine the player’s fate. Singh he hit a triple bogey there during the first round.
Par 4, 481 yards
Want to hit the fairway? Hit your tee shot from at least 250 yards in obviously harsh winds. You may soon find yourself among the gorse found throughout Royal Liverpool. However, a successful tee shot puts the player in position for a second shot onto the green, where two bunkers to the left hide him.
Green has been injected with more tricks since Sinn and McIlroy won, but Sinn suggested the wind was a bigger challenge than Green.
“It was difficult to match the distance from the second shot to the pin due to the headwind,” he recalled. “High winds had the most impact on the first bounce.”
No. 13: Alps
Par 3, 194 yards
Few holes are as beloved among members of Royal Liverpool as the 13th. A mound hides the green from the tee box, suggesting that there is not much green on the left.
But that’s not true, there’s actually more green on the left than on the right.
Singh advises against expecting too much bounce from the green, which runs diagonally from left to right, and remembers “aiming a little harder behind the pin than in front of it.”
And watch out for the bunker on the right.
“Club members seem to know a little bit about golf, especially if they like this difficult hole,” Singh said.
No.17: Little Eye
Par 3, 136 yards
The Open has never been held in Wales before, but the new 17th hole just across the Dee estuary will bring the competition very close. After bunkers and other hazards spread out, the elevated green awaits the player, leaving little room for error on the tee shot. There aren’t many spots that favor balls rolling off the green, and the R&A hopes the hole will create some drama as the tournament concludes on Sunday.
This year will probably be a par 3 year. Last month, the Los Angeles Country Club included five par-3 holes on its course for the first time since 1947 and for the first time at the U.S. Open.
“Personally, I think the par 3s make the game more exciting,” Singh said. “I think it’s going to be a great hole with a lot of new variables.”
Par 5, 609 yards
Singh arrived at the 18th tee box, a final round with little chance of losing. In reality, the only question was whether she would win by double digits.
“When I walked into the hall with the view of the stands surrounding the green, I felt that this was my stage and it was an honor to be there,” she said.
It stands to reason that there may not be such a dominant winner at this year’s British Open — the most recent player to come close to Singh’s record in 2012 was Woods in 2000, who won by eight strokes at St Andrews — so No. And it definitely gets longer and narrower after adding a new tee. The R&A itself warns that the fairway can appear “just a few yards wide” depending on where you are from your tee shot.
The 16th hole for members and where open players have frequently used long irons in the past, this hole will veer to the right with a broadly extended out-of-bounds area for the second shot. If a player can get around his 5 bunkers, including his 3 on the left side of the green perimeter, there is an eagle potential.
“The hole flows from the front to the back of the green, so you can aim for your next shot without worrying about crossing the green,” says Shin.
On Sunday, weather permitting, someone will be standing on the green holding up a claret jug freshly engraved with his name.