Royal Links Golf Club brings Muirfield and the 2013 British Open to Las Vegas golfers
Short of actually walking the galleries at Muirfield, there may be no better way to experience the 2013 British Open than by playing Royal Links Golf Club in Las Vegas by day and following the highlights from Scotland in a sports book by night. Each hole at Royal Links pays homage to an Open Championship layout, including no. 9, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the fifth hole at Muirfield. Englishman Clive Agran has more on Royal Links' greatest hits.
Chilly memories of 2002 -- when lashing rain and temperatures lower than the loft on most drivers -- will be revived when the British Open returns to Muirfield on July 18, the birthday of one of only two men to have won there twice, Sir Nick Faldo.
So bad was the weather last time that one Japanese visitor asked why they didn't hold the Open Championship in summer. An equally improbable solution might be to move it to a course where warm sunshine is guaranteed.
Royal Links' British Open highlights
Royal Links Golf Club in Las Vegas could stake a claim on the basis that their ninth hole bears a remarkable resemblance to the fifth at Muirfield. In fact, all 18 are inspired by British Open championship holes.
All the courses on the present Open Rota are represented at Royal Links, as are two that have fallen off: Prestwick and Royal Cinque Ports.
Prestwick -- which of course was the venue of the inaugural British Open -- still retains its place as the second-most-used venue despite the fact that it last hosted the championship in 1925. It is far too short to provide a serious test for today's huge hitters and will therefore not host it again. Although you won't ever see the British Open played at Prestwick, you can nevertheless sample the flavor of the second and 15th, which are, respectively, the third and 13th at Royal Links.
Unlike Prestwick, Royal Cinque Ports -- which is just along the coast from Royal St George's -- still harbors dreams of returning to the Open Rota despite the fact that it hasn't been used since 1920. However, it is a genuinely challenging links, hosted the British Amateur Championship this year and will be an Open qualifying course next year. The 11th at Royal Links closely resembles the fifth, but it's a lot further from the sea.
Certainly the most famous British Open venue is the Old Course at St Andrews. Having witnessed 28 Open Championships, it's also the one that has been most frequently used. Nowadays it's the venue twice every decade in years that end in five or zero. Two holes from the "Old Lady" are featured at Royal Links: the 12th and 17th, which are, respectively, five and 18.
The 17th at St. Andrews is the road hole, which is arguably the most famous par 4 in golf. A classic risk-reward challenge, the more of the famous Old Course Hotel you bite off with your tee shot, the less frightening the approach. Nevertheless, you're still required to avoid both the road on the right and the deep bunker on the left, which is sometimes referred to as "the Sands of Nakajima," after Japanese golfer Tommy Nakajima. Nakajima was in contention at the 1978 British Open until he hit into it and required four swings to get back out again.
The wall on the other side of the green behind the road has also seen some extraordinary shots. None more remarkable than the one played by Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2010 when, with his ball sitting right up against the wall, he smacked it against the wall and was delighted to watch it rebound high into the air and land softly on the green not all that far from the pin.
From the most famous par 4 to the most famous par 3 on the British Open circuit, the delightful-but-scary Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, which at 123 yards is the shortest par 3 on the British Open Rota. It's also one of only two holes at Royal Links that retains its rightful number -- in this case, eight.
Gene Sarazen admitted the Postage Stamp terrified him and so it was wonderfully fitting that, when making his farewell British Open appearance in 1973, he should ace it in his opening round. As if that wasn't enough by way of revenge, the very next day, and with TV cameras as witnesses, he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the very same hole and was thus 3 under par on the Postage Stamp for the only two rounds he played.
Another one of Royal Troon's par-3 holes -- the 17th -- is the other hole at the Royal Links to be in its rightful place. In 2004, it was the one that finally separated Ernie Els and Todd Hamilton in their four-hole playoff. Hamilton shot par while Els could only manage a bogey to finish one shot behind one of the most unexpected winners of the British Open.
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