Royal St. George's Golf Club

01
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Touring the British Open Course and Its History

The par 4, 1st hole at Royal St George's Golf Club
Looking up the fairway toward the green at Hole No. 1 at Royal St. George's. David Cannon/Getty Images

Royal St. George's Golf Club is one of the golf courses in the Open rota (the courses that rotate as locations for the British Open tournament). That fact alone makes Royal St. George's one of the most famous courses in Britain.

Royal St. George's is a links course situated amidst dunes in Sandwich, Kent, England, next door to two other courses (Princes Golf Club and Royal Cinque Ports) that were Open Championship venues in the past.

Click through the photos over the following pages to read more about Royal St. George's, the course, and some historical tidbits about its Open Championship history.

The view above of the first hole at Royal St. George's Golf Club provides a good indication of what golfers are in for around the course: The fairway is bumpy, there are few flat lies available, the ball can bound in just about any direction. (The first hole is a 442-yard par-4.)

Royal St. George's is famous - perhaps "infamous" is the better term - for oddball bounces. There are also plenty of blind or semi-blind shots, deep bunkers, huge and difficult greens. That doesn't mean the pros can't shoot good scores there, as we'll see in historical notes on some of the following pages. But it is definitely a course that creates some bad breaks for players. (Royal St. George's has actually been "softened" some over the years, particularly during renovations in the 1970s.)

02
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Royal St. George's Hole 3

Royal St. George's Hole 3
A view of the third hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

Royal St. George's Golf Club was founded in 1887 by Dr. Laidlaw Purves, who also designed the original links. It was founded as St. George's; the "Royal" was added by King Edward in 1902.

Royal St. George's first hosted the Open Championship in 1894, which was also the first Open played outside of Scotland.

Photo: The third hole at Royal St. George's is the first par-3 on the links, and it's a tough one: 239 yards from the back tees to a green tucked into the dunes. The Royal St. George's website notes that this is the only par-3 hole on any of the Open rota golf courses that does not have a bunker.

03
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Royal St. George's Famous Bunker

Royal St. George's Hole 4 Bunker
This massive bunker is on the fourth hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

Here's a look at the famous bunker on the fourth hole at Royal St. George's. Hmmm, wonder why it's famous ... maybe because it's so huge! This bunker is more than 40 feet deep and it sits off the right side of the fairway on No. 4. It's only 235 yards from the tee, so in decent weather it doesn't catch that many pros (in bad weather, all bets are off), but woe to those who do find it. Golfers must carry the bunker by 30 or so yards to reach the fairway. The fourth hole is a 496-yard par-4.

04
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Hole 6

Royal St. George's Hole 6
The sixth hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

Royal St. George's Golf Club is private, but like most courses in Britain non-members can play it - you can even apply for a tee time on the club's website. Green fees run around $240 for the high season (that figure changes over time according to club policy and exchange rates). Royal St. George's is walking-only, unless the golfer has medical need of a riding cart.

Visitors to Royal St. George's need to be well-dressed and well-behaved. You won't get into the dining room without a jacket and tie; show up in jeans and you can't even get into the clubhouse (or on the course). Cellphones are barred from the clubhouse and course.

Also note that you must have a handicap of 18 or less to play Royal St. George's.

Photo: The sixth hole at Royal St. George's is the second par-3 on the front nine. It tips out at 176 yards.

05
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Royal St. George's Hole 9

Royal St. George's Hole 9
Power plant towers loom in the background of the ninth hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

Royal St. George's Golf Club was lengthened prior to the 2011 British Open, and for that tournament played to 7,211 yards and a par of 70. For regular play, the yardages are 6,630 and 6,340 yards, with pars of 70.

Women are not allowed to become members of Royal St. George's, but are allowed to play the course. However, there aren't any women's tees. And women must have a handicap of 18 or less to play Royal St. George's (same applies to men).

Photo: The front side wraps up at Royal St. George's with this 410-yard par-4 hole. Backdrops at Royal St. George's include the English Channel on some holes, along with the towers visible in the photo above. What are they? They are the cooling towers of the Richborough Power Station, a power plant that is no longer in use.

06
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Hole 10

Royal St. George's Hole 10
The tenth hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

As noted earlier in this gallery, Royal St. George's was the site of the first British Open played outside Scotland, in 1894. Some other important firsts occurred here, too, at the 1904 British Open.

That year, in the third round, James Braid became the first golfer to break 70 in the Open, shooting 69. Alas, he didn't win. Jack White did, with a 296 total - the first sub-300 score in Open history.

Another first at Royal St. George's: At the 1922 British Open, Walter Hagen became the first player born in the United States to win the Open.

Photo: The back nine at Royal St. George's Golf Clubs begins with this par-4 of 412 yards that plays to an elevated greens whose guardian bunkers (both left and right side) are almost a dozen feet below the putting surface.

07
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Hole 13

Royal St. George's Hole 13
Fairway pot bunkers dot the left side of the 13th hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

At the 1934 British Open, Henry Cotton won the first of his three Open titles. And Royal St. George's was once again the site of a significant score.

Cotton opened with a 67, then in the second round carded a then-record 65. The score was considered so remarkable for its time and place that one of the most famous golf balls of the 20th century was named in its honor: the Dunlop 65.

Photo: The 13th hole at Royal St. George's starts with a blind tee shot and ends with a green that has out-of-bounds very close behind. The hole is a par-4, 457 yards at its longest.

08
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Hole 14

Royal St. George's Hole 14
A view from the tee of Hole 14 at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 14th hole at Royal St. George's boasts the feature known as the "Suez Canal," a water hazard crossing the fairway around 325 yards off the back tees.

The hole is best-known, however, for those white stakes you see in the photo above. They denote out-of-bounds, and they run up the entire right side of the hole, barely off the fairway, all the way to the green.

And at the green, out-of-bounds is less than 10 yards at one point from the right side of the green. That's close! On the other side of those OB markers? A whole other golf course - Princes Golf Club.

09
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Royal St. George's Hole 17

Royal St. George's Hole 17
The 17th hole at Royal St. George's. David Cannon / Getty Images

The 17th hole at Royal St. George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, England.

A couple more historical notes about Opens at Royal St. George's as we wrap up our gallery:

  • At the 1949 British Open, Bobby Locke won the first of his four titles. In second round Harry Bradshaw - who ultimately lost to Locke in a playoff - might have cost himself the tourney when he failed to take a free drop after his ball settled into the bottom of a broken beer bottle off the fifth fairway. He blasted it out instead, sending glass flying.
  • Bill Rogers won the 1981 British Open at Royal St. George's, while Jack Nicklaus opened with an 83. But Nicklaus recovered with a second-round 66 and still made the cut.
  • The winner of the 2003 British Open at Royal St. George's was Ben Curtis, who entered the event ranked No. 396. That's the lowest ranking of any player to win a major in the era of the World Golf Rankings.

Photo: The green on the 17th hole at Royal St. George's has something of a false front - balls left short will wind up rolling back down the fairway. The hole is a 424-yard par-4 that plays longer than its yardage because it's into the prevailing wind.