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The Secrets Of Royal Birkdale’s Course Manager

James, 17th October 2016

Royal Birkdale


Located in Southport on the North West coast of England, Royal Birkdale Golf Club is considered to be one of the top golf courses in the world. This ruggedly beautiful links golf course has hosted the Men’s Open nine times, the Women’s Open six times and the Ryder Cup twice. Royal Birkdale Golf Club will host the Men’s Open for the 10th time in 2017.

Originally opening in 1889, the course moved five years later to its current location in Birkdale (sand) Hills. Over the years, the course has been redesigned and altered by three generations of the Howtree family. Martin Howtree, who now heads the family firm of golf architects, made the latest major modifications in 1993 and is currently working on Trump International Golf Links in Scotland.

The current custodian of Royal Birkdale’s famous links is Chris Whittle, Royal Birkdale’s course manager who has worked at the course since 1994 and previously supervised the famous Muirfield. We talked to Whittle about what it’s like to prepare for The Open, getting the tricky feed to water ratio right and dealing with the unpredictable UK weather.

What does a course manager actually do?

I am responsible for the upkeep and presentation of the golf course.

Take us through a typical day of a course manager

I discuss, plan and allocate work for the staff with my deputy. The rest of the day varies depending on the plans.

What does it take to keep Royal Birkdale’s links in tip top condition? 

Attention to detail, which includes calculating the correct water and fertiliser input and accurately setting up equipment.

How do you deal with all the sand and wind?

We rely on the weather forecast to work around windy weather when necessary.

What changes if you’re getting ready for The Open?

There is more frequent and intensive maintenance required in the run-up to tournaments. On the day, the main issue is being able to prepare and mow the course prior to golf starting at 6.30am; this means 4.00am starts for the staff.

What are your top tips for keeping a green looking so good?

Do not over apply feed and water; too much is just as harmful as too little.

Whether you’re a member of a club that on The Open rota or at your local municipal golf course, accidents can always happen. Make sure you and your equipment are covered with golf insurance. Get an instant quote today!

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