The West Lancashire Golf Club, 14th September
This is links golf in the raw. And a club of great distinction even if it is less well known to the golfing tourist than those I had played earlier in the week. It was however the pioneer of the links courses built along this coastline. The pro shop was helpful both lightning our wallets and weighing down our bags with storm gear and guides to tackle the course.
It is pretty flat but where there is an opportunity to use the slopes and hollows the designers took advantage of them. There are pretty generous bounds of where you can play but if you stray there is deep rough and tangles of brambles to shred your trousers and card. The par 4 fourth stands out here. Hollows of briar down the right, a tight neck 50 yards short of the green and all manner of sorcery required around the green if you do not hold it. I got it back on the 5th which is a fairly straight forward par 5. The sixth, like the 3rd, is a par 3 with high banking on one side and plenty of trouble if you miss that hazard. Difficult to judge as the wind is so influential but lovely holes. 'Folly' the seventh, so called I imagine, because loons like me try to take on the corner too much and get themselves into more trouble than necessary. A great teaser and lovely design.
Eight is a classic dog left left; draw it round the tiger line and 440 yards becomes a drive and a nine iron. Exactly what I did. It doesn't get better than that. Unfortunately the rain was such that I could hardly see the ball run up the green and thought it had run through the back when it disappeared. Better than a hole in one, and cheaper! I note that the longest hole in one recorded was on the seventh here, 393 yards but I imagine he cut the corner.
With glory at my back I studied the Pro's tip in the Strokesaver at 9 and took a line over the dunes just right of the flagpole. And struck another belter which, I was promised, would run another 70 yards. Imagine my surprise when cresting the brow of the mounds to see briar, wildness and water. I must have been a hundred yards off line. I have to apologise to my playing partner for the chunterring that followed the remainder of the round. It was not delicate.
I was still chunterring at the Pro shop ' just right of the flagpole'!!! He hawed and hmmd but I was still chunterring to the car when a member hearing my unhappiness came up to me and explained that there had been a flagpole, right of the clubhouse as well as to the left. But now there was only one; to the left. And I needed to be aiming over a hundred yards right of the line I was taking.
it was then explained to me that the modern Strokesaver also prints a view of the horizon under the graphics for the green with a useful red pointer as to where you should set your drive. The horizon was so flat that I hadn't noticed it wasn't a jolly illustration!
10 and 11 run along the railway line, in true links fashion before turning up hill to a testing par 3 followed by a great driving hole to seaward. No need for bunkers to protect this green just short of the shoreline, neither wind nor the swales are your friend here; bump and run. The next has no greenside bunkers either so aim for the church steeple off the tee. Having made sure you are in the right parish. The flagpole delinquent might have toppled another landmark. In this corner there are the only trees on the course and so it feels, if not plays, as if better protected from the scurrying wind.
16, 17 & 18 par 5, 3 and 4 give a great finish. 16 is makeable but it is a very small green as well as being an upturned saucer. The 17th green is no easier with 3 putts a definite possibility, unless you don't count second putts from off the green as putts. 18 is long and straight. Not necessarily what you need after 4 days of tiring golf.
I loved it. 8 shots over my handicap which I put down to tough winds, a minor, ok major, meltdown on the ninth tee and four consecutive rounds in the breeze. But then I did get a two which should have helped my card rather more than it showed. Would it be uncouth to link this track with Birkdale as my favourite two of the week. I can't wait to come back and tie in the other courses around Liverpool.