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.
I've played a number of links courses with one good links nine and one lesser more parkland nine (Pyle & Kenfig, Porthmadog, Pwhelli etc) and Hesketh is similar albeit there are probably only seven links holes. As you drive into the clubhouse at Hesketh expectations are high as you can see the good links holes on approach, and it is not until you cross the road and play holes 3 to 13 that much of the course is actually quite flat and bland and not what you were expecting. The links holes are very good with for me holes 14 to 16 the pick, especially 14. Just about enough good holes to make it worth playing but obviously lots of competition in the area.
This was actually the first course I ever played in England as I was en route to an Open in Scotland. Pleasantly surprised with the rustic atmosphere and slightly scruffy conditions. My very first tee shot went straight as a die but disappeared into the rough somewhere. Welcome to links golf in the UK. I felt the course had many memorable moments even on the much maligned middle nine. Perhaps it was the occasion. But certainly as you return from the over-the-road holes it does get interesting. I had never seen such mounds before hiding the greens from view. But somehow we navigated the last few holes and finished quite satisfied. Thank you to all at Cockle Dick's Lane - a great introduction.
Hesketh could be your only option if you are looking for links golf on a week-end morning in the Southport area. Do you get out of bed or not?
Having read reviews on this site, my expectations were quite low. The weather on the day was not great either. However, I was very positively surprised. The course has a bunch of very good holes, not only on the clubhouse side (holes 1-2 and 14-18).
In fact, many of the holes across the road (3-13) are very cleverly planned, with obstacles and narrowing fairways exactly where you would land your tee-shot. As a result, I played 3-wood or hybrid off the tee on several occasions and probably would do on a couple more on my next visit.
Not in the class of Birkdale, Hillside, S&A, Formby or West Lancs but not as far behind as I thought beforehand.
Definitely worth playing on an extra day in the area and to play twice (or with a member of similar ability who knows the course well) if you have not played it before.
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.
Hesketh today was bathed in sunshine with barely a breath of wind. Given the recent rain it was remarkably dry and the greens were very good for the time of year. It is a course which has seen much improvement gradually within the last ten years. New greens have been constructed, former marshland drained creating ponds and bunkers moved/changed. The holes around the clubhouse are completely different in character to those on the other side of the road and the pick are 14 & 15 which are played when you cross the road back to the clubhouse side to play the final 5. Holes 3 to 14 are played on the much flatter seaward side and it shouldn’t be forgotten that the raised public footpath which runs to the left of holes 6 & 7 is the former sea wall. The pick of these holes are 3 & 9 which both require good drives to set up the approach shot to the green. Hesketh is the ugly duckling of the four Southport courses (including S&A, Hillside and Royal Birkdale) and I do think £60 is a little steep to play there with £40 is nearer the ‘value for money’ marker, we played on a 50% green fee deal and undoubtedly this was good value.