The Open 2023: New par-3 17th, decrease in par highlight Royal Liverpool changes
When Rory McIlroy arrives at Royal Liverpool this week to prepare for his Hoylake title defense at the 151st Open, the 2014 claret jug winner will be greeted by a slightly different layout.
Mainly, there is a hole that McIlroy and his fellow competitors have never seen before in competition.
Since golf holes were added by Robert Chambers and George Morris to the racecourse at Liverpool Hunt Club in 1869 and the property expanded by Morris’ son, Jack, to just 18 holes with no track two years later, Royal Liverpool, dubbed Hoylake, has undergone several redesigns. Among the architects to have put their fingerprints on the second oldest seaside links in England: H.S. Colt (1924), Fred Hawtree (1960s), Donald Steel (2001), Martin Ebert and Tom Mackenzie (2005), and Martin Hawtree (2010).
It was Ebert who also was put in charge of adding a new penultimate hole among other changes to Royal Liverpool in recent years. Nicknamed “Little Eye,” the 136-yard, par-3 17th hole replaces the par-3 15th hole from the 2014 Open, and it plays out toward the Irish Sea and Wales, looking onto the Dee Estuary. It features a small, raised green that is surrounded by bunkers, some as deep as 12 feet below the hole, and fall-off areas.
With the addition of the new No. 17, Nos. 16 and 17 from the 2014 Open now play as Nos. 15 and 16. (It’s also worth noting that the Open routing is slightly different than the members’ routing, starting on the members’ No. 17, wrapping around the course in order until finishing on the members’ 16th hole, a par-5. Little Eye is No. 15 for members. This routing was also done for the 2006 Open, but the 2019 Walker Cup used the members’ routing.
One additional difference for this year’s Open from previous editions is No. 10, which was a 532-yard par-5 in 2014, when McIlroy played four par-5s in 12 under for the week, and now plays as a 507-yard par-4. The par decreases from 72 to 71, though 71 yards of length have been added with the course now listing at 7,383 yards.
Here are some other course changes as part of the most recent Ebert work (info via Golf Channel research team):
• A fairway bunker has been added to the left of the first hole.
• The green on the fourth hole was reduced in size and was raised in the front to allow for more difficult front pin locations.
• The green on the seventh hole was moved to the left of its previous location, allowing for the construction of a new back tee complex at the eight hole.
• Sand areas have been introduced to the 13th, a new runoff area was created to the left of the green and the runoff on the right side was redeveloped.
• Sand areas have been introduced to the left of the 14th hole replacing bushes and thorns.
• The 15th hole (previously the 16th) has a new back tee, which was enabled by the removal of the previous par-3 15th hole. New bunkering has been added to the right of the fairway.
• A new fairway bunker has been added to the right of the 16th hole (previously No. 17) and a dune has been formed behind the green.
• The creation of the new 17th hole allowed for the construction of a new back championship tee on the 18th hole, which significantly extends the hole to as long as 609 yards. The new back tee is also further right and the out-of-bounds line down the right side has been moved 20 yards left, significantly altering the width of the fairway.