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The Open + England

The Open Championship - or simply, The Open - is the oldest of the four Majors.

The Courses

Royal Lytham & St Anne’s – #59 in 2013 Golf Magazine’s World Top 100

The golf club was founded in 1886 and the present course constructed in 1897. The clubhouse celebrated its centenary in 1998. It is one of the premier links in the world  and has been host to 10 Opens , two Ryder Cups and numerous other major tournaments including Women’s and Seniors Open championships .

The layout of Royal Lytham has remained faithful to the original, created by the club’s first professional, George Lowe, over a century ago. The only significant changes were made in 1919 when the club asked Harry Colt, the preeminent course designer of the time, to make recommendations for improvement. Over the next 4 years he repositioned some of the greens and tees, added numerous bunkers and lengthened the course. It is not a conventionally beautiful golf course surrounded as it is by suburban housing and flanked by a railway line , but it has a charm all its own . It is renowned as a course on which it is hard to scramble a good score – after all, there are 200 bunkers peppering the fairways and surrounding the greens. It may not be the longest of courses but it is one where careful thought and accurate shots are required.

Hillside

Hillside – a genuine “Hidden Gem”!  

Here’s Greg Gilson’s report on his 2009 visit to Hillside:
Hillside is separated from Birkdale by a footpath. Believe it or not, Birkdale got the rough end of the deal when it came to golfing terrain. The dunes at Hillside make those at Birkdale look like little grassy humps. In contrast to its big neighbour, the holes here also play over, not just between the dunes and provide the golfer with a thrilling journey. This is wonderful links country but you’ll also find a few things missing from most British links- including tall fir trees and a lake or 2.

The scoop on Hillside is that it’s the “best 9 hole course in the world”. Our own Greg Norman was sort of responsible for this back handed compliment when he touted that “the back 9 was the best in Britain”. Of course, that led everyone to believe that the front 9 was a letdown. Does the front 9 roll through the same exciting country as the back? No. However, there are good holes there (and no bad ones) as you prepare yourself for the fireworks that start at the turn. They maybe even peak straight away at the 11’th. This is a reachable par 5 that doglegs left away from the cathedral tee which overlooks the holes of Hillside and its 2 neighbours. I don’t know of any better golf view in England. Every hole to the house made me smile as I twisted my Strokesaver to the left and right to work out the best way through, over or around the mountainous dunes.”

Forby Golf Club

Formby- another “Hidden Gem”

Formby dates back to 1884 when the Club was founded with 9 holes. It was extended to 18 holes under the guidance of Willie Park at the turn of the 20th Century. Formby is unique in that there is a separate Ladies club established in 1896 on the estate. They have their own golf course and clubhouse. You will see the course in the middle of the men’s course and the clubhouse on your right as you pass to the 1st Tee.

The course is set amongst dune land, heath land and woodland in an estate of about 470 acres and is a site of special scientific interest. It is an area of great importance to nature conservationists. An ecology booklet was published in 2006 contained a hole by hole guide to its wildlife and conservation. In 1972, erosion of the shoreline required the creation of new holes at 7, 8 & 9 and a new 10th Tee playing to the existing 10th Green turning this into a short hole. These holes came into play in the early 80’s and were used for the 1984 Amateur. In recent years, to reflect the improvement in golfing equipment, there have been modifications to the course bringing back into play, for the low handicap golfer, most of the original drive-length bunkers.

Formby is recognised as a true amateurs’ course. It has held 4 Amateur Championships, numerous R & A Championships for Boys, Mid-Amateurs and Seniors and has hosted many EGU and County Championships. Formby is also a Local Final Qualifying course when the Open Championship is in the area.

Royal Birkdale – #31 in 2013 Golf Magazine’s World Top 100

Royal Birkdale is one of Britain's finest golf clubs and host to two Ryder Cups, the Walker and Curtis Cups, the Women’s' British Open and the Men’s' Open Championship on  9 occasions.  Of course it hosted the 2009 Open and provided the backdrop for the Shark’s amazing run.

The Birkdale Golf Club was formed in 1889 with a change of address resulting in a move to "Birkdale Hills" (the current location) in 1897. In the 1920's the design company of Hawtree and Taylor remodeled the new course in the valleys between the sand hills rather than over them. This enabled Birkdale to gain the reputation of being one of the fairest championship courses.

The grand white clubhouse also dates back to 1935 and stands like a majestic ship overlooking the 18’Th green. The views from the enormous bay window in the "Mixed Lounge" give an impressive view over the course - on "Open Sunday" it's a very exciting place to be! Among the Opens held here was Ian Baker-Finch's finest moment in July, 1991- he shot 64 on Saturday and then cruised around the front nine in 29 on the Sunday. Nobody got closer than two shots and he was chased home by Mike Harwood (!), Fred Couples and Mark O'Meara.

Royal Liverpool – #69 in 2013 Golf Magazine’s World Top 100 

“Hoylake, blown upon by mighty winds, breeder of mighty champions” (Bernard Darwin) .The Hoylake links can be beautiful, uplifting, awe inspiring and, on occasion, soul destroying. They were created to be a demanding test of golf and remain so – they lie at the very heart of the history and development of golf in Great Britain.

Built in 1869 on what was then the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt club, Hoylake is the oldest of all the English seaside courses with the exception of Westward Ho! in Devon. Robert Chambers and George Morris were commissioned to lay out the original Hoylake course which was extended to 18 holes in 1871. This was also the year in which the club was granted its Royal designation thanks to the patronage of His Royal Highness, The Duke of Connaught. Hoylake has been the venue for 11 Opens. In 1930 it hosted Bobby Jones’ win – a victory that would become the second leg of his Grand Slam. Peter Thompson won in 1956 as did Roberto de Vincenzo in 1967- the last Open played here before Tiger’s triumphant return in 2006.

Sunningdale – #39 in 2013 Golf Magazine’s World Top 100

The Old course, opened in 1901, was laid out by Willie Park Jr. It is pure enchantment that characterizes Sunningdale Old. Virtually every hole is played in splendid and beautiful isolation, and in harmony with nature. There is subtlety here, a measure of drama, and a wealth of that one indispensable ingredient, pleasurable excitement. No wonder it may be the most beloved inland course in the British Isles.

Sir Michael Bonallack commented: "All that one would hope to find in the ideal golf club is in abundance at Sunningdale. Two magnificently conditioned courses of superb design and so pleasing to the eye, a clubhouse which provides members and visitors with an unforgettable experience of pampered comfort, accompanied by exceptional food and wine, a staff that anticipates and provides for the members' wishes, no matter how eccentric they may be, a first class professional's shop and competent instruction on hand, the most knowledgeable caddies in the game and the finest halfway house I know".

The Berkshire– a true London Club!

The Berkshire Golf Club is a Private Members' Club which was founded in 1928 when both Courses were constructed by the Office of Crown Lands on estates once used by Queen Anne for her hunting parties in the 17th/18th century. The Club has hosted many Amateur events over the years, of note being The English Amateur Championships, The British Seniors Open Championships, the English Ladies' Close Amateur Championships, The English Senior Ladies' Match play Championships, the Women's Home Internationals and the Vagliano Trophy played between Great Britain and Ireland versus The Continent of Europe.

The Berkshire has the unique distinction of having a golf course which has six Par 3s, six Par 4s and six Par 5s. Sir Michael Bonallack has commented: “Any golfer who has not visited this marvelous club with its two magnificent courses, the Red and the Blue, has missed one of the great pleasures in golf.”

Walton Heath

Walton Heath - #80 in 2013 Golf Magazine’s World Top 100

Walton Heath Golf Club was founded in 1903 and the two championship courses were designed by Herbert Fowler, a leading amateur golfer and designer who worked both in the British Isles and overseas. It is a tribute to his genius that between 1902 and 1904, he created one of the finest examples of heathland golf from a jungle of heather, gorse and bracken.

Having hosted over 60 major championships in its illustrious history, Walton Heath has been graced by the 1981 Ryder Cup, 5 European Open Tournaments, 23 "News of the World" Match play Championships as well as such prestigious amateur events as the Senior Open, English Amateur, Brabazon Trophy and the British Ladies Amateur. Walton Heath also has the unique distinction of being the only club in England to have had a reigning monarch as its Captain, when the Prince of Wales became King Edward VIII during his 1935/6 Captaincy.