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.
The opening two and last five holes are played around a very imposing clubhouse over some wonderfully undulating terrain and the remaining holes are laid out across Fleetwood Road on flatter ground.
I was surprised to find water in play at holes 5, 8 and 9 which really added interest to the round.
The club have just constructed new putting surfaces at the 3rd and 12th holes under the supervision of the Hawtree design company as part of an upgrading programme and they look absolutely wonderful – with formidable greenside bunkering and little, links-like moundings adding great definition.
Holes 10 to 13 were out of play due to recent heavy rainfall so drainage is an obvious issue on this area of flat land so close to the sea. Incidentally, I have never seen so many different types of bird on the fairways between holes 6 and 8 – a real ornithologist’s paradise!
Overall, Hesketh is a great diversion for those on the Open venue trail between Lytham and Hoylake who don’t want to suffer championship course fatigue by playing too many top tracks at the one time – just don’t expect too much respite playing here as Hesketh is a very good test.
Hesketh is a tough test but there are better courses to play in this neck of the woods. It's a shame that the property doesn't have more of the brilliant tumbling links land which seven holes use on the clubhouse side of the road. The eleven holes on the opposing side of the road are pleasant enough but they are not links holes and rather flat and dull (in my humble view). Certainly Hesketh would be a good course if only it had more sandy land. The par 3 16th is indeed a corker and the greens are fast and true.