A hole-by-hole look at Royal Portrush, site of the 148th British Open, to be played July 18-21:
No. 1, 421 yards, par 4 (Hughies): Avoid two bunkers off the tee, and then the real challenge begins. The second shot is to an elevated, two-tier green with a false front. The front two pin positions are the most demanding because any shot that comes up short will fall back off the front and run down the approach or into the cavernous bunkers.
No. 2, 574 yards, par 5 (Giant’s Grave): A new tee makes the tee shot even more challenging as players will have to avoid three bunkers down the right side. A new bunker on the left side also comes into play. A good tee shot allows the player to decide whether to lay up short of the cross bunkers or go for the contoured green.
No. 3, 177 yards, par 3 (Islay): The first of the par 3s is one of the high points on the golf course, with a view over most of the links and out to the Scottish island of Islay. The green falls away on all sides and requires a very accurate tee shot to hold the putting surface. Anything that misses will be a difficult par save from all sides.
No. 4, 482 yards, par 4 (Fred Daly’s): One of the signature holes is named after Portrush local Fred Daly, the 1947 champion golfer. The out-of-bounds runs all the way down the right. The tee shot needs to thread the left fairway bunkers and the out-of-bounds. The green is surrounded by sand hills, making it difficult to hit. The flag typically is partially hidden from view.
No. 5, 374 yards, par 4 (White Rocks): The green teeters on the edge of the cliffs, providing a gorgeous backdrop. Two new bunkers have added some definition to the tee shot, but most players will take on the green. Out-of-bounds is just over the back of the green, and there is a ridge in the green that makes it challenging to hit. Players will be disappointed to walk away without making birdie.
No. 6, 194 yards, par 3 (Harry Colt’s): With no bunkers around the green, this par 3 is defended by the natural undulations of its surroundings. The elevated green has a false front that will punish any shot that comes up short.
No. 7, 592 yards, par 5 (Curran Point): The first of new holes for the British Open, this par 5 cuts through the dunes starting with a downhill tee shot. A replica of the “Big Nellie” bunker is on the right, but the bunker on the left figures to be more in play. The second shot is uphill through a narrow approach to a well-contoured green. The wind strength and direction will determine how many players can reach in two shots.
No. 8, 434 yards, par 4 (Dunluce): This is the second new hole for the Open, taken from a piece of land where golf has never been played. It is a slight dogleg to the left with a tee shot that starts out over a ravine and tempts players to take off as much of the steep dune bank as they can. Players will need to avoid the bunkers down the right side to leave a short, simple shot to the green. Any approach short and left will find some difficult spots well below the elevated green.
No. 9, 432 yards, par 4 (Tavern): This is typically the hardest hole for the members. The hole bends gently from right to left, and a new bunker on the right will cause problems for players who want to keep driver in the bag. Two cross bunkers from the approach make the green appear closer than it is. The green is protected by a bank to the right, leaving a tough up-and-down.
No. 10, 447 yards, par 4 (Himalayas): A strong tee shot is required to get to the corner of the short dogleg to have a clear view of the green. There are no bunkers on this hole. The defense is dramatic contours in play on the tee shot and approach. More contours have been added to the long, narrow green.
No. 11, 474 yards, par 4 (PG Stevenson’s): Padraig Harrington once said this tee shot was the most difficult in golf. It starts with a narrow shot through the mounds on either side of the fairway. A good tee shot to the corner brings the putting surface into view. The green is perched among sand dunes above fairway level with a false front that will repel anything short.
No. 12, 532 yards, par 5 (Dhu Varren): A new tee has been built to the left of the 11th green, which adds 50 yards to the hole and allows it to be played as a par 5. The fairway slopes from the left, bringing bunkers on the right into play. The green can be reached in two, but it is elevated with a false front. Any miss to the right could send shots toward a stream that lurks in the gully right of the green.
No. 13, 194 yards, par 3 (Feather Bed): One of the most photogenic par 3s, this hole has a dramatic elevation change from tee to green. The putting surface slopes toward the back and is surrounded by five bunkers. The toughest pin position is to the front and the left.
No. 14, 473 yards, par 4 (Causeway): A new tee has added 60 yards. The narrow tee shot should avoid the bunkers, including a new one down the left. The fairway slopes to the left, but the test is the second shot to an elevated green with a severe slope to the front and back, and a difficult bunker from which to get up-and-down on the left.
No. 15, 426 yards, par 4 (Skerries): The tee shot is uphill to a wide fairway that slopes against the route of the hole. A new fairway bunker to right will make players think twice before hitting drive, but laying too far back will leave the green out of view on the approach. The green is small and guarded by bunkers on the left and severe slope front and right.
No. 16, 236 yards, par 3 (Calamity Corner): No bunkers are required for “calamity” to strike. The tee shot is slightly uphill over an expansive ravine of rough. And a shot short and right is a tough par save from as much as 50 feet below the green. Bobby Locke decided to play to the left all four rounds in 1951, aiming to a hollow that now bears his name. He got up-and-down all four times.
No. 17, 408 yards, par 4 (Purgatory): A new tee requires a good tee shot to find the slope and take on the green. The severe slope means players might be tempted to go for the green, but a new bunker to the left might cause second thoughts. Playing safely to the top of the hill leaves a tricky, downhill pitch to a narrow greens protected by bunkers on the left and right.
No. 18, 474 yards, par 4 (Babington’s): A new tee should require driver to get the ball down the left portion of the fairway for the best view of the green on the second shot. The green sits slightly sideways with a drop-off to the left that will collect anything missing in that direction. Max Faulkner played a spectacular shot from against the out-of-bounds fence down the left when he won in 1951.