Royal Birkdale will host the 2008 Open Championship. It will represent the ninth time that golf's oldest major will have graced the wonderful links at Southport. In 1965, when Peter Thomson rounded off his collection of Open wins with a triumph that he described as his “greatest win,” he added that Birkdale was "man-sized, but not a monster."
Alterations are currently being put in place to maintain that description, while posing new challenges for the world's greatest golfers. The course alterations have been agreed upon between Royal Birkdale Golf Club and The R&A, and the drawings have been completed by Martin Hawtree, golf course architect, who was involved in previous modifications at Royal Birkdale. The Hawtree family has been involved at Royal Birkdale since the 1930's through a connection established with Martin's grandfather and later his father, both of whom were named Fred.
Hawtree’s plan involves tightening up the course without resorting to an excessive increase in length. The redesign has resulted in a new green at the 17th, 20 new hazards – 16 of which are fairway bunkers, and six new tees. Royal Birkdale’s total length is now 7,122 yards, an increase of 154 yards. The work is being done by SOL Golf Construction Ltd, an Ireland-based company, and it will be completed well in advance of the 2008 Open.
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A said, "Royal Birkdale has always been a strong Open venue and we feel that by introducing these changes, that challenge can be maintained. We have paid particular attention to the introduction of tee shots that give players a number of strategic options and, through tighter bunkering and the re-contouring of green surrounds, intend to make players execute more imaginative recovery shots around the greens."
Speaking on behalf of Royal Birkdale, Captain John Henthorn commented, "The Club is delighted and excited to be introducing these changes which will toughen up the course, providing a greater challenge not only for the world's top players but also for our members and visitors alike."