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England’s Golf Coast boasts three Open venues in the form of Royal Liverpool, Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St Annes.
With such heritage, it is no surprise the area has produced some of the UK’s finest golfers. However, there is more than just those three from which to choose.
A total of 13 coastal venues are officially tied into England’s Golf Coast body, and as well as the three most famous courses, which are described as the ‘jewel in the crown’, there are plenty of other incredible courses too.
Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, Formby, and West Lancs all come highly regarded and would be standout venues if they were anywhere else in the country. Such is the quality on offer here, they perhaps don’t get the recognition they deserve.
It’s not just the big-name courses that you should be looking to tick off, however.
If you’re on a budget or fancy tackling some hidden gems, there are a few less-heralded courses which are a delight to play.
Take Morecambe Golf Club, for example. Designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie – he of Augusta National fame – the Lancashire seaside course has very much a parkland feel, and tee times start at a very reasonable £35. But Morecambe is just one of more than 300 courses in the whole of England’s famed north-west, so you’re spoiled for choice on your visit.
‘Go to’ venues
Par 72 Yards 6,542
Not far from Kendal in the county of Cumbria, Kirkby Lonsdale is a value-for-money option that offers terrific views on a well-kept layout. This is one of the more friendly options for golfers of all abilities, but penal rough and tricky sand traps won’t let you off the hook easily. Situated in the Lune Valley between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this is a stunning spot for a round of golf, although you might encounter the prevailing south-westerly breeze down the stretch.
Par 69 Yards 5,760
Located on Beacon Hill, Penrith is a long-established parkland course overlooking the Lake District Fells. It’s a club with an old-school feel, relishing its history as a course that dates back to 1890. Penrith won’t test you for distance, with five par-3s and only two par-5s, but the back nine is particularly modern. Traces of an old racetrack can still be found on several fairways, which were ploughed up for crop production because of World War I.
Par 73 Yards 7,018
The championship course at Portal Golf Club is a relatively new test, but that’s exactly what you’ll find. Its modern look will no doubt entice golfers of all abilities in, and from elevated tees to greens tucked behind a lake, you’ll find everything you need at Portal and more. The panoramic views of the Chesire plains are breathtaking, although you might want to take a buggy to get to the top of the course.
Par 71 Yards 6,359
Used as a Regional Open Qualifier, and it’s clear to see why. Prestbury is a top-class course, affording terrific views of the surrounding Cheshire countryside. Built in 1920, this traditional design underwent bunker renovation in 2023, to only bolster the appeal at one of England’s best parkland courses. If you’re anywhere near Macclesfield, Prestbury is a must to get an accessible Open experience, that will provide a delightful challenge.
Par 72 Yards 7,016
The oldest surviving golf club in Lancashire (although due to boundary changes, it’s now technically in Merseyside), West Lancs has been a fixture since 1873 and is regarded as one of the most natural links courses in the world. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Blackpool Tower to the north, while in the other direction, there are stunning views to Birkenhead and Liverpool Bay. Watch out for the wind, however, as the course can bare its teeth.
Par 72 Yards 7,349
The 2023 Open venue is one of the top links courses in the game. Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have all won here, and it’s one of the most popular stops on the Open rota. Hoylake is steeped in history and the golf has lasted the test of time, too. The original challenge it was designed to boast still exists, and you’ll experience the true test when the rough is deep and the wind gets up.
Another frequent venue on the Open rota, the Southport links is a two-time Ryder Cup venue and was the site of Jack Nicklaus’ famed concession to Tony Jacklin in 1969. More info
Royal Lytham & St Annes
The third of the coast’s Open venues, Royal Lytham & St Annes has hosted the major on 11 occasions and is unique on the rota for having a par-3 first hole. More info
If Hillside was anywhere else in England it would be world-famous. But don’t let this detract from just how good it is. Its back-nine is one of the best in the country, if not the world. More info
Approaching its 140th anniversary, Formby is one of the very best traditional links. The Willie Park Jr design, upgraded by James Braid, remains a must-play in these parts. More info
A little inland, Blackburn is a real hidden gem – and load of funs. From the fairways you can take in the views, which stretch from the Pennines across to the Fylde coast. A steal at just £36. More info
Hesketh is the oldest golf club in Southport and was a Regional Qualifying venue for the 151st Open. You’ll find a nice mix of links and parkland golf on offer here, and a stern but enjoyable test. More info
Perched on the tip of the Lancashire coast, Morecambe is known as the gateway to the Lake District. Its golf course is a gem too, but what else would you expect from an Alister MacKenzie layout? More info
Not one of the north-west’s best-known layouts, Heysham is a wonderfully enjoyable outing. It’s a thinker’s course, with plenty of blind shots, and is always in pristine condition. More info
Where to stay
You’ll want to stay in either Liverpool or Blackpool, depending on the courses you’re playing. Liverpool’s Titanic Hotel (titanichotelliverpool.com) is a great city-centre option, while the Dixie Dean Hotel (dixiedean-hotel.co.uk) is also worth a visit. Blackpool’s 1820 Hotel (1820hotel.com) is just off the promenade, and the Chatwal Boutique Hotel (thechatwalblackpool.com) is another fine choice with easy access to most of the golf coast’s courses.
Things to see and do
There’s plenty going on away from the golf course. If you’re in Blackpool, it goes without saying that you’ll need to head to the Pleasure Beach. However, there’s also Blackpool Tower which is well worth a visit. Liverpool has a bit more going on, and as you’d expect much of it is Beatles-themed. There are guided bus tours of the band’s old haunts and song inspirations, and you’ll no doubt recognise some of the place names from the works of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. If you’re into your football we’d suggest the Anfield stadium tour – Liverpool fan or not, it’s seriously impressive. If it’s nightlife you’re after, check out the world-famous Popworld.
Where to eat
Hauze (hauze.co.uk) in Blackpool is loved by locals and tourists alike and is regarded as one of the best places to eat in the north-west. If a curry is tickling your fancy, we’d recommend Zest of India (zestofindiablackpool.co.uk), a truly excellent spot for all tastes. Liverpool, as you’d expect from a city of its size, is also buzzing with great places to eat. There is almost too much to choose from, but we’d suggest Cowshed (cowshedliverpool.co.uk) or Sultan’s Palace (sultans-palace.co.uk).
The north-west is extremely well-connected by motorways, with the M6 slicing its way through the region, and the M55, M57 and M58 will take you to where you need to be. There’s also the West Coast Main Line if you’re going by train, with services from Glasgow (although you’ll need to change at Manchester), while Manchester and Liverpool are both well-served by flights from across the UK and elsewhere. Liverpool also has a ferry service to Dublin, while sailings operate between Birkenhead and Belfast.
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