Fairhaven Golf Club is situated a mile or two away from Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club. It’s less heroic than Lytham, but nevertheless, the golf is still very good indeed.
“The new course of the Fairhaven Club, an inland course in a pretty park with something attractively secret about it,” wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of Great Britain. “We walk through a wood and suddenly and surprisingly find ourselves in a big tract of country, very peaceful and remote, which gives the impression of being a hidden valley. The soil is good too, and the holes interesting.”
Fairhaven was originally founded in 1895 and the course was sited on what is now Fairhaven Boating Lake. The club moved to its present site in the early 1920s and James Albert (Jack) Steer, the professional at Blackpool South Shore club from 1908 until its closure in 1940, designed the new course with advice and guidance from the great James Braid.
In a Muirfield style, each nine at Fairhaven is routed in two loops and this classical design ensures that the wind causes all kind of problems. Measuring more than 7,000 yards from the back tees, Fairhaven is certainly not a short course but the par 73 includes five par fives, two of which appear in the last four holes. Its length is therefore not its greatest challenge. Staying above ground and out of Braid’s many distinctive bunkers is the main issue.
If you can master Fairhaven’s renowned fast and slick greens, then you may be in for a good score. The course formerly hosted Open Qualifying when the Open Championship was held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Justin Leonard – one of the world’s best putters – posted a course record 64 in Final Qualifying for the 1996 Open and was granted honorary membership as a direct consequence.
There are so many fine courses on Lancashire’s “Golf Coast” and Fairhaven might not be a natural choice for those seeking out the big names. But you really will be missing something, something really special if you overlook Fairhaven. It’s a delightful course and one of the area’s real gems.
Fairhaven was very pleasant. Greens in good condition, everywhere neat and tidy, nice clubhouse, easy to book, 10 minute tee intervals and nice pace of play. Can't think of a flatter course.
Fairways were very hard and running (surprisingly for September) and the course therefore seemed to play shorter than its yardage of 6764; par of 73 with five par 5's seemed generous. Would love for someone to explain to me how the slope rating here can be higher than Saunton.
Not sure how to define the course. Front nine seemed to be link's style, back nine was more heathland (but no heather) whilst holes 13 and 14 seemed to be a couple of infill parkland holes. Biggest feature was the fairway bunkering which was superb and seemed to line nearly every hole, sometimes with 'blind' bunkers hidden from view off the tee; miss those and there is a score to be made. Best stretch of holes was I thought 4 to 9, but I did think after 9 the course just didn't move through the gears to anything better.
Pleased to have played Fairhaven, worth playing and a nice place for a day out … just not sure how long it can hold on to it's top 100 ranking.
“Well, they say life’s a beach…” That bit of good old-fashioned northern humour accompanied yet another full-bloodied shot of mine which appeared to be on target only to be snaffled by a bunker.
Fairhaven might be gentler than its Lancashire near-neighbour Royal Lytham and St Anne’s but its sand is damned difficult to avoid.
We had been warned – the starter for our mixed open had predicted that recent lack of rainfall meant the course was dry and bounces could be unpredictable.
His prophecy took precisely one shot to be borne out when he and my playing partners murmured their approval over my opening tee shot only to see it wander into a trap from which I was unable to extricate myself.
Fortunately, my bunker play improved thereafter - just as well considering how many I found myself in.
Fairhaven is a challenger for the friendliest club of my travels so far. Everyone had a smile - from the team handling our registration to the staff in the clubhouse, folk in the pro’s shop and the jovial starter.
The recently refurbished clubhouse is also worthy of mention – its traditional façade fronting one of the most modern interiors I have seen. Honestly, the toilets are worth a visit even if you don’t need to.
In all honesty, the course doesn’t quite match the stellar facilities (Fairhaven also has an impressive practice area).
Sure, it is well manicured with tight fairways and the greens are very true but I have to admit that I found the holes a little samey – many are flat, straight and tight – and there is a lack of a wow-factor picture hole.
Some might put an argument for the 9th – a par-four which meanders through bunkers and hillocks with trees to the left. With the clubhouse in the background, this is pretty and tricky.
The second nine appealed to me more – beginning with the par-three tenth which is tight but a very generous stroke index six.
The dogleg 11th bucks the trend of straight holes and demands strategic placement from the tee to avoid out-of-bounds on the right.
The final three holes will stick in memory the longest.
The 16th is a very long par-four which most will play as a five – narrow with bunkers lying in wait to gather opening shots and trees lining the fairway, seeding further doubt.
The green of the par-three 17th is surrounded by traps but I can testify that even if they are avoided, success is not guaranteed because of a slick putting surface which slopes back to front.
The hares (or were they rabbits?) were on the move on the 18th, a fine finishing hole with two bunkers on either side to capture errant (or, in my case, good) drives.
Meanwhile, the target is guarded by more sand, bushes and out-of-bounds with the clubhouse behind.
On the plus side, Fairhaven was an interesting venue for a mixed open with the seven par-fives for women.
This and the fact that stroke indexes are very different meant the competition allowed all players the chance of significant contribution rather than being dominated by long-driving men.
Always a pleasure to play this magnificent course, and even better in glorious sunshine last week. For those who have yet to play the course, it is challenging when played from the tips but at the same time very scorable, with 5 par 5s, in the par 73 course total. The fairways were running really hard and quick, greens putted magnificently, I even managed to avoid all but 1 of the bunkers. A good day to be had here at a very traditional welcoming championship course.
Having had the chance to play Fairhaven half a dozen times in the last few years means I've seen it differently, from bone dry and running forever to the latest time, after an unseasonably wet period. Still, the course enthrals.
The recent excellent club house refurb has brought the locker rooms into the modern era, alongside the downstairs spike bar. Upstairs, things are more traditional offering great views of the course.
Fans of James Braid designs will love Fairhaven. The bunkering especially tests ones metal. Reachable fairway bunkers are (mostly) exceedingly penal. You can get out, but the high lips mean advancing the ball any distance is a real challenge. Greenside bunkers gather anything wayward, testing your short game if you are going to get par.
The course loses 1/2 a point for me with the 13th and 14th holes, later additions to the course and on very different soil bases. These two (albeit good) parkland holes just don't sit well against the other 16 sand based links holes, sticking out like sore thumbs.
Once those two are out of the way though, what a finish? Index 1, a tight par 5 followed by index 3 and (unreachable) par 4, both with OB all the way down the right hand side. The 17th is a delightful short par 3 surrounded by small but deep bunkers, and the par 5 finish with a slight dogleg left and a fairway 10 yards across at its narrowest, just in driving distance for the longer hitters.
The greens weren't as quick as they sometimes are on this visit, but subtle borrows ensure you need to be able to read them well. I am led to believe a change of head greenkeeper is imminent, so it will be interesting to see what a new set of eyes, and a new bunch of ideas can be brought to bear on an already very good course.
Our group played Fairhaven in the morning as we could only get on Royal Lytham at 14h00 and we needed a nearby course for those of us who also wanted a game in the morning. Not knowing the course or anyone who had played it, I am forever grateful to Top100 for helping us find it.
Fairhaven is a true heathland experience which I personally would rate a bit higher (in that category) as it requires all shots in the bag to hit its small(ish) greens. In fact, because of the surrounding trees the course feels a lot tighter than it actually plays.
Fairhaven is a fun course that’s often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors on England’s golf coast. But the neighbors are famous for a reason. The dogleg right 12th is a perfect example of strategy gone awry. The greenside bunker is on the right, meaning the best angle is from the left. So there’s less of an advantage taking on the fairway bunker to shorten the hole.
Whilst in the area it would be tempting to do nothing but play the seaside classics, but that would mean missing out on a great layout in Fairhaven.
Excellent conditioning, a very inland links feel with some punitive rough thrown in, and nice variety of holes and challenges.
Friendly club house with lovely terrace to watch others coming home, potentially like me marshalling suddenly scarce golf ball reserves.
Recommended, and if you find 2 pairs of golf shoes on top of a locker left by sun-dappled golfers who were running late to get home please drop me a line !
Returning to Fairhaven 10 years after my previous visit was a very pleasant surprise. I had remembered the course being flat, tree lined and heavily bunkered but not much else to be honest. All of those things are true but there is so much more going on in terms of good presentation, excellent greens and interesting design, not to mention the stiff challenge provided to all standards of golfer. Fairhaven is certainly unusual. How many other courses can you think of that play over perfect links turf (except for two holes) with magnificent revetted links-style bunkering and yet have some tree lined fairways and some of the biggest rhododendron bushes you will ever see? I can't think of any. There are a few heathland layouts that come close but nothing quite like this.
Will there be some links purists who would like to see a much more open aspect to the course? Will there be agronomists queuing up to advise the removal of all vegetation? Absolutely on both counts, but if the course management can continue to maintain such high standards, I for one would leave it just the way it is. Brian W