- October 13, 2020 // The Consummate Pro
Our second fam trip of the year took us to Lancashire in England, home to some of the most historic & renowned golf courses on The Open Championship rota including Royal Birkdale. This was a great opportunity to not only refresh ourselves with these stunning properties but also be reminded why England’s Golf Coast is such a popular golf vacation destination for our clients.
The Southport & Liverpool area (Southport is 45-minutes due north of Liverpool City Centre), is blessed with three iconic Open venues within a 90-minute drive of one another, each course boasting their own fabulous history and unique golfing challenge. Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham St Annes & Royal Liverpool have each been the scene of some of the most famous Open Championships in living memory. Some of the greatest golfers in history, including Rory McIlroy (2014 Royal Liverpool), Ernie Els (2012 Royal Lytham & St. Annes), Tiger Woods (2006 Royal Liverpool), Seve Ballesteros (1979 & 1988 Royal Lytham & St. Annes), Tom Watson (1983 Royal Birkdale) and Gary Player (1974 Royal Lytham & St. Annes), have all triumphed over these revered links. With the sporting crazed cities of both Liverpool & Manchester right on their doorstep, England’s Golf Coast attracts some of the most energetic crowds of all the Open venues, creating a unique atmosphere during championship week.
In addition to these three great courses we also took the opportunity to play at Hillside and Formby golf clubs. Slightly lesser known internationally, both Hillside and Formby are superb additions to any week-long visit to the region. Hillside sits adjacent to Royal Birkdale and has often fulfilled the role of Open Qualifying, and has hosted a multitude of championships in its own right including the British Masters on the European Tour, hosted by Tommy Fleetwood in 2019. The back nine at Hillside Golf Club has been re-worked since our last visit a number of years ago so it was great to experience the changes first hand. There is no doubt they have improved the golf course significantly.
Formby Golf Club was a course we hadn’t played before and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It similarly has a strong pedigree having hosted The Amateur Championships on multiple occasions, British Seniors Open as well as The Curtis Cup in 2004. Formby is a unique links with a significant number of tall pines edging the golf course as well as a proliferation of low heathers lining many of the rough areas giving the course great character. The undulating fairways and deep pot bunkers add significantly to the challenge at Formby. It offers the visitor a thoroughly enjoyable mix of holes. A number of elevated tee boxes give fabulous panoramic views across the links, particularly at the 7th, 9th and 13th holes. The welcome we received at Formby Golf Club was incredibly warm and I wouldn’t hesitate to send visitors to experience this great links golf course.
Regrettably we didn’t have the time to visit Southport & Ainsdale, Hesketh, Wallasey or West Lancs. on this visit, but we hope to be able to do so in the near future. As you can see however there is lots of great golf on offer in the Southport and Liverpool area for visitors to take advantage of. We would highly recommend to anyone planning a visit to the area to give yourself plenty of time to explore the history of these great clubs. Each clubhouse is adorned with a multitude of portraits and golfing memorabilia that line the walls. They are simply living golf museums.
Each of the three rota courses offer the golfer a different challenge. All three are overflowing with Open history and tradition, and you cannot help but absorb that unique aura from the front gate to the 18th green. Every visitor will leave the destination with an experience they’ll never forget. Let’s take a closer look at the three Royal’s in a little more detail.
Open Championship Golf Courses:
One of the toughest yet fairest links you are ever likely to play, Royal Birkdale is a great example of what a classic links golf experience should be. Frederick G. Hawtree and champion golfer J.H. Taylor are the two architect’s most responsible for the current routing, and this was their vision for the links.
The holes snake their way through a series of magnificent dunes. The fairways are generous, however strategically placed bunkers are waiting to collect any tee shots or approach shot that lacks accuracy. In fact, Royal Birkdale is probably one of the best golf courses we have ever experienced in terms of its bunkering. One aspect of Birkdale that we particularly enjoyed were the elevated tees. Found on a variety of holes, they give the visitor a spectacular view across the links & glimpses of the holes that await you later in the round. Visitors don’t have the luxury of a gentle introduction. The 434-yard, par 4, first hole is recognised as one of the hardest opening holes on The Open rota. Furthermore, the par 3 holes at Birkdale are some of the toughest that you will likely encounter anywhere.
Founded in July 1889 by nine eminent local gentlemen, it was one of the first clubs of its kind to inaugurate ladies into the club, in December that year and in fact, held its first ladies British Open Matchplay in 1909. No stranger to prestigious tournaments, Royal Birkdale has also played host to The Curtis Cup, The Walker Cup and 2 Ryder Cups in 1965 & 1969. The 18th green was the scene of perhaps one of the biggest displays of professional sportsmanship in the history of golf. During the final match of the final day of the heated 1969 Ryder Cup, Jack Nicklaus conceded a two-foot putt to opponent Tony Jacklin to halve the match and create the first tie in Ryder Cup history. (US would retain Ryder Cup.)
We really can’t imagine any golfer making their way down the 18th hole having not enjoyed their experience on this historic links. The iconic art deco clubhouse overlooking the 18th green provides a fantastic backdrop to close out what we are sure will be considered one of your best links golf experiences.
Royal Lytham St Annes.
One of iconic golf architect Harry Colt’s finest designs, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, host of 11 Open Championships provided us with arguably the toughest test of the week. An easy hour’s drive north from Southport, this was a journey we were very much looking forward to making. Home to one of the most iconic clubhouses in the world, walking the corridors of this famous building was like stepping through some of our best golfing memories.
Royal Lytham & St. Annes is also host to perhaps one of the most stunning Dormy Houses in the country. The property has 16 beautifully refurbished modern en-suite bedrooms, each one named after a previous champion. We love Dormy Houses. There is something just so unique about being able to wake-up overlooking the practice putting green and 18thhole of one of the best links golf courses in the world. The short stroll across to the clubhouse for breakfast, 18 magnificent holes of links golf and back for libations. Then round the day off with a dinner in the oak panelled dining room. Could there be a more enjoyable experience? A stay in the Dormy House at Royal Lytham & St. Annes will only whet the appetite of each guest for the round that lies ahead.
The challenge of the golf course only added to the overall experience. Unusually, the course opens with a 198 par 3, protected by 9 bunkers that lie right, left and short of the green. It is the only course on the Open rota to start in such a way. Trees on the right shield guests from the prevailing wind, making club selection increasingly difficult. This is also your first experience of the train line, that provides an out-of-bounds adjacent the first nine holes of the course. ‘Walk the Path of Legends’ was the quote that greeted us on our stroke-savers. This was entirely relevant, as you couldn’t help but be reminded of the golfing legends who had walked this famous links through the years.
For us, it’s was the strategic positioning of the 206 fairway and greenside bunkers that create the need for every guest to select each club carefully. The bunkers are so well positioned that they come into play regardless of what tee box you play from, club selection you make or the weather conditions you experience. A good caddy here is well advised. The perfect example of this, can be found on the final hole where no less that 17 bunkers lie between you and the cup, just waiting for any shots lacking perfect accuracy and complete conviction. A true links golf challenge from the first tee to the eighteenth green, with plenty of golfing nostalgia in-between, a day at Royal Lytham & St. Annes is an absolute must while visiting this part of England’s Golf Coast.
Royal Liverpool (Hoylake).
A short 30-minute drive west from central Liverpool will bring you to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, one of the oldest clubs in England, founded in 1869. History and tradition pour out of every brick at Hoylake, and in fact it was club member, John Ball who became the first player to win The Open Championship and The Amateur Championship in the same year.
Royal Liverpool offers a significantly different challenge to both Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham. A large portion of the links is designed on the former horse-racing track owned by the Royal Liverpool Hunt making it one of the flattest courses on The Open rota, but don’t let that fool you.
When playing Hoylake, it is virtually impossible not to feel exposed to the elements. The layout of the golf course, designed in a series of loops, means that you never have the luxury of any shelter or the comfort of playing a consistent wind direction. On the day that we played Royal Liverpool, the 40 mph winds meant that we were in for a real ‘Open’ challenge, with nowhere to hide. There are no blind shots on the golf course, putting less importance on course guides, and allowing the golfer to ‘play it how you see it’, something we really enjoyed. Although there may have been a lack of large dramatic dunes, this is a golf course that requires a lot of thought and concentration as errant shots will be easily swallowed up by the strategically placed pot bunkers and thick rough.
Robert Chambers and George Morris (younger brother of Old Tom Morris) designed the original layout which was extended to 18 holes in 1871. Harry Colt, one of the world’s leading golf course architects subsequently redesigned the course early in the 20th century.
Hoylake has benefitted from some significant changes over the years due to the evolvement of golf equipment, with perhaps the most ambitious work being on the recently completed par 3, 15th hole. Waste areas short of the green create a visually stunning tee shot making it one of the most memorable holes on the golf course. The work has led to the route of the course being modified, with the new hole playing in the opposite direction of its predecessor, a great example of the evolution of the course and club itself who are ready to add to an already illustrious history in years to come.
If you judge a golf course by the pedigree of their successful champion golfers, you have Tiger Woods & Rory McIlroy as successful Open Champions within the last 15 years, it really doesn’t get much better than that!
During this most recent trip we stayed in three different hotel properties; two in Liverpool City Centre (The Hard Day’s Night and Malmaison) and one in Southport (The Vincent). Your choice of hotel location ultimately comes down to personal preference and/or the dynamics of your group. The travel time to any of the aforementioned golf courses from either Liverpool City Centre or Southport is no more than 1.5hrs for any combination. Therefore, depending on whether your group would prefer some city nightlife. Of which Liverpool has plenty, or whether they would prefer a slightly more sedate Southport, or perhaps a blend of the two, we think the properties below tick the appropriate boxes.
The Hard Day’s Night Hotel, Liverpool City Centre.
Centrally located, the Hard Days Night Hotel, a ‘Beatles’ themed property is ideal for the golfing visitor who is keen on experiencing the vibrant nightlife of Liverpool. Adjacent to the iconic ‘Cavern Club’ made famous by The Beatles, this is a perfect hotel for visitors looking to be in the heart of the action. One of the most popular hotels in Liverpool the property itself is modern, and comfortable with spacious bedrooms, with its own unique twist. There are many superb bars and restaurants within a short walk from the property but guests shouldn’t venture far before visiting ‘Bar 4’ in the hotel which offers a fabulous array of cocktails.
The Vincent, Southport
Only a 7-minute drive from Royal Birkdale Golf Club, and with Hillside, Formby and Southport & Ainsdale within a 20-minute drive, The Vincent Hotel in Southport is an ideal location for those visiting England’s golf coast. Situated on the spaciously elegant Lord Street, the hotel has a fresh, stylish and contemporary interior. We particularly enjoyed the comfortable and modern bedrooms. The ‘Vincent Bar’, located on the 3rd floor, provides a perfect spot to unwind after a full day on the links. The subdued décor, leather seating and ambient lighting all combine to create a very convivial space in which to review the days scorecards. We dined in the 2 AA Rosette Vincent Café & Restaurant on the ground floor while we were there and the food was not only superb, but very reasonably priced. The service was excellent, and we couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Overall, it would be very hard to look past The Vincent when looking for a golfing base in this area.
The Malmaison Liverpool.
With stunning views of the Royal Albert Dock and only a short walk to Liverpool City Centre, The Malmaison is perfectly situated for golfers looking to base themselves in the city for their golf trip. With all three Open venues being within a 90-minute drive of the hotel, visitors can enjoy a modern city centre hotel experience with easy access to three of England’s most iconic golfing properties. The Mal puts it’s only quirky design spin on each of their properties, and we found the modern bedrooms, restaurant and bar all very welcoming and comfortable.
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all of the properties for taking such great care of us throughout the week. The stunning quality of each golf course, clubhouse, bar, restaurant and hotel was only further matched by the great hospitality we received from each and every place we had the pleasure of visiting. Our trip just re-confirmed what a fabulous destination England’s Golf Coast is for our clients and we would encourage you all to add it to your bucket list for a golf trip in the very near future, when of course The Consummate Pro will be delighted to co-ordinate it for you.