You might not be able to see the sea but there is enough sand here to keep most children occupied for the summer. But let's start at the Grand Hotel for a suitably grand breakfast with a view of the weather that is about to envelope you. Extras of the Morcilla black pudding were required for stability in the high winds and loading up was required to keep the fires burning on a wet day.
I love the vision of these original resort courses made possible and prosperous by the railways and the industrial output of the north west. The club building, the Dormy house and Pro shop are confident and solid buildings in their own right with plenty of architectural delights. It shows a self confidence missing from the rather more utilitarian buildings so often constructed nowadays. And the spaces they have created internally are made for entertainment, enjoyment and longevity of a proper members club. And they have a snooker table.
We had some rain but mainly we were subject to a wind that gusted up to 25 or 30 miles per hour. Opening with a par 3 and following the railway track down the first few holes you can never really relax. They say they have reduced the number or fierceness of some of the bunkers but I couldn't see how they could be much tougher. So as not to be a spoilsport I visited several and had the opportunity to perfect my technique; finishing with an up and down to a tight pin from the mid green bunker on 18. Very satisfying. My partner had to chip out sideways on at least two occasions and the green staff are probably still putting the sand back into the bunkers on the 9th.
It is very flat bar the undulations and small hills built up to and around the greens making accuracy critical to achieve par. It is a cunning course where even the most innocent looking holes from the tee unveil levels of trickery that keep you on your toes. I am afraid that there are no views only houses, also brought by the railway, which hem you in. You are neither aware of other players and holes nor feel like you are playing in an amphitheatre that some stadium courses create so it is open and natural and the space where stands arise for The Open are not blanks in the design.
The welcome in the club house is excellent and home to the best Gunners by far. Franklin's ginger beer the key! We had a jolly dinner served by kindly staff in the baronial hall and a less than brilliant exhibition of snooker before collapsing in the Dormy House.
But there is a lingering question. Is this really a links course? It is laid out link a links, it has bunkers, grasses, the weather and all the design style of a links but it is so well seeded and tended that it lacks the raw appeal of what I would call a true links. Birkdale, Formby and West Lancs follow and two of those, I would declare, are certainly my idea of a links course.