Hesketh Golf Club is completely overshadowed by Royal Lytham & St Annes to the north and Royal Birkdale to the south but Hesketh pre-dates them both. Southport Golf Club, as Hesketh was originally known, was founded in 1885 and the original course was designed by James Ogilvy Fairlie Morris, son of Old Tom Morris and the little brother of Young Tom, and it soon developed a reputation for excellent greens and a stern test of golf.
After three moves and an amalgamation with the Southport Golf Club, Hesketh Golf Club finally settled down just off Cockle Dick’s Lane on the site of the original course, flanked by the Victorian villas of Hesketh Park, Southport's premier residential area.
It was the landowner of many names, first Charles Hesketh Bibby, then Charles Hesketh Bibby-Hesketh and finally Charles Hesketh Fleetwood-Hesketh who, in 1902, reintroduced the original 1895 course with more than a little help from George Lowe, the professional at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.
The Bentley brothers – Harry and Arnold – were perhaps the most illustrious pair of brothers in the history of amateur golf and they were a firm feature at Hesketh Golf Club for decades and undoubtedly the club’s most famous members.
The roadway up to the clubhouse passes a par three of some repute, a short hole that Henry Cotton described as the best in Lancashire. The 16th measures 187 yards from the back tees and it is ringed with six pot bunkers, which laugh in the face of par. The green is framed by dunes and raised on a plateau with a nasty steep run off to the right. If you miss the green slightly to the right, your ball will be flung across the road leaving you with a treacherous chip back up to the green.
Henry Cotton was a regular visitor to Hesketh and he competed here in the famous Dunlop Southport tournament and won. Hesketh Golf Club regularly hosts Open Championship Qualifying when the Open comes to Royal Birkdale and we have no doubt that even on a calm day it’s a tough test of golf.
A round at Hesketh is very much a game of two halves. Well almost.
Whilst there is no doubting this is a true links golf course seven of the holes are certainly more 'linksy' than the others. What makes this difference perhaps even more apparent is the need to cross the busy Fleetwood Road which dissects the two varying parts of the course.
The first time you drive into Hesketh Golf Club you are treated to a glimpse of its highlights. The par three 16th runs parallel to the private road leading into the car park and is a magnificent hole with a green set amongst dunes and framed by fiendish pot bunkers. You then get to see the 18th green, the climax of another fine hole which tightens the closer you get to the green. And then the opening tee-shot and the whole of the first comes into view, a straight hole with a green once more sheltered by huge dunes. If the course lived up to this early teaser it would rival many of the notable courses in the Southport area. Sadly it doesn't.
That's not to say it isn't a good course but after playing the first, followed by an excellent par three to a plateau green, everything then goes a little bit flat for a while, eleven holes to be precise. That's perhaps a bit unfair because the next five holes are arguably very solid holes but there's no doubt that the atmosphere has now changed.
Hesketh has three truly excellent golf holes and these make it worth a visit alone. It also has a handful of other very good holes but in my opinion holes eight through 13 offer very little. Fortunately, these come in the middle of the round and the last five holes try their damnedest to make up for it and always leave you with the feeling that you will return to sample the finest parts of Hesketh once again.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Hesketh starts so promisingly. The view down the fairway through the dunes on the 1st tee is fantastic but is definitely the high point of the course. The holes on the club house side (1,2,14-18) are all proper links (maybe 17 being an exception) but holes 3-13 on the other side are on flat, lush ground that are not links holes. Unsure what the authors of "True Links" were thinking - maybe they just did a drive by, saw the first and 18th and that was enough to include. Ponds, not a sand dune in sight, lush fairways etc all suggest parkland golf to me. This is not to say it is a bad course, just a bit flat and boring for my liking and is a strong 3 baller. They have made attempts to tart it up with a set of moguls on the 12th I think but they are unnatural. The clubhouse holes are played over undulating land with dunes all around. Some excellent holes not out of place on its' more seemed neighbours but not enough to get it into 4 ball territory. Warren from Australia.