More often than not, when golfers think of travel to the British Isles, they focus on Scotland…closely followed by Ireland. In reality, one of the greatest stretches of coastline, which serves as home to a superior grouping of links courses, is the Lancashire coast of England. Situated northwest of Manchester and facing Dublin across the Irish Sea, the Lancashire coast is home to some classic links…
Royal Birkdale is one of the best courses on the planet and is consistently ranked in the top 30 courses in the world. It has hosted the Open Championship on 7 occasions, most recently in 2008 when Padraig Harrington was victorious.
During a recent familiarization visit to England’s Golf Coast (North West England), my colleague and I were very kindly given courtesy of the course by the club committee. Even though we were a week into December, the course was still playable and the greens, though slow, were very true. Royal Birkdale have winter tees which come into play between the end of September and the beginning of April – with the course measuring around 6,200 yards with these in play. This was more than enough golf course to keep my colleague and I occupied during our round as there was also a steady 25mph wind to contend with. One thing I noticed about the course was the amount of subtle breaks on the greens; this coupled with the wind made putting very difficult. I don’t claim to be a good putter, but putting on true greens in the middle of December was a joy and I have to say I holed my fair share of putts en-route to a 4 and 2 victory. Sorry Keith.
I found the course to be quite demanding from the tees, not from a distance point of view, but from an accuracy perspective. Onus is definitely placed on precise tee-shots to allow for easier approach shots to the heavily guarded greens. Some of which don’t have many bunkers but have defense in the form of severe run-offs. I also suspect that it would be a rarity to play the course on a calm day which adds to the importance of accuracy. Even from the softer winter tees we were given the opportunity to appreciate the course as most of the tees are positioned in line with the summer tees. We also took the chance to have a look at some of the championship tees which were pretty daunting to say the least.
My favorite hole on the course has to be the par 5 17th. This is the hole where Harrington hit a 5 wood to about 5 feet in the Open Championship last year, undoubtedly one of the best approach shots to a par 5 I have ever seen in my life. Unfortunately I couldn’t emulate Harrington’s magic and had to make do with a bogey 6, but this didn’t take away from the fact that the hole is an absolute cracker.
A must play course for anyone staying in the North West of England. This is usually number 1 on the list of courses but there are many other great courses in the area and a week long stay can be filled with 7 or 8 top class links courses.
By Gary Sheppard. Gary has worked for PerryGolf for over 3 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.