Hillside - Lancashire - England

Hillside Golf Club,
Hastings Road,
Hillside,
Southport,
Merseyside,
PR8 2LU,
England


  • +44 (0) 1704 567169


There are eight top-notch seaside courses between St Annes and Liverpool and many people believe that this is the best stretch of linksland in the British Isles. It is certainly England’s links golfing Mecca and Hillside Golf Club is perhaps the best of the non-royal commoners.

Hillside is an underappreciated gem, separated only by a footpath, but hiding in the shadow of its regal next-door neighbour, Royal Birkdale. The railway line separates Hillside from Southport and Ainsdale, another quality but relatively unknown links.

Today’s layout is very different to the original Hillside that was founded in 1911. The club acquired some new land in the 1960s and Fred W. Hawtree extensively remodelled the course, making major changes to the back nine. The front nine has always been highly regarded and plays over relatively flat ground, but it’s the homeward nine that is really special and is frequently bracketed alongside Ballybunion because the holes ripple and undulate through the giant dunes.

There are many strong and individual holes but it’s the 11th that has everything going for it, a reachable par five of just over 500 yards that doglegs left; the elevated tee provides a panoramic view of the hole in play and many other holes too, not only at Hillside but also at Royal Birkdale and Southport & Ainsdale. A well-struck drive to the dune-flanked fairway will tempt the big hitters to go for the raised green in two, but watch out for that cavernous bunker lurking on the right.

Although Birkdale is a regular Open host, Hillside has staged numerous big events, both amateur and professional. In the 1982 PGA Championship, Tony Jacklin tied with Bernhard Langer. Jacklin went on to win at the first play-off hole; this was to be his last professional title and Hillside’s most significant event until 2019 when the club hosted the British Masters.

Mackenzie & Ebert were commissioned to carry out course improvements in early 2020. Modifications included significant dune reconstruction on the front nine and the introduction of sand scrapes and new dunes on the 18th hole.

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Reviews for Hillside

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Description: Hillside Golf Club is an underrated gem, separated only by a footpath, but hiding in the shadow of its noble next-door neighbour, Royal Birkdale. Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Reviews: 60
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Andrew Lilley

I was very fortunate to be invited to play at Hillside recently. I usually try to go into playing big courses with no expectations and let them show me what they are all about. However, given Greg Norman’s quote about the course having the best back 9 in Britain it was a bit difficult but Hillside certainly didn’t disappoint me on any level.

The front 9 doesn’t get the rave reviews of the back 9 probably because of the flatter land it sits on but it is still a cracking set of holes. The flat, straight first looks straight forward but dangers lurks with out of bounds all down the left and well placed bunkers pinching the fairway and waiting to swallow up errant tee all shots. There are quite a few dog leg holes but they pose different challenges and are superb risk reward holes with well placed hazards and plenty of trouble in play if your off your game.

I will be honest and say the back 9 didn’t live up to Norman’s quote for me. I would say St Andrews and Birkdale are better but that’s not to say the back 9 isn’t truly spectacular.

It starts off with arguably the two signature holes, the par 3 10th, played uphill to a beautifully framed green with deep bunkers all around and 11 which is a superb dogleg par 5, running downhill through the dunes to a green protected by a deep swale and more savage bunkers. The rest of the back 9 weaves it way wonderfully through some of the biggest dunes I’ve seen to finish in front of the club house.

I’m a sucker for a good par 3 and Hillside’s quartet are excellent, different lengths, uphill, downhill, all posing a different question. The course was in tremendous condition as it prepares to host the Cazoo Classic in a couple of weeks, fairways nice and firm, consistent bunkers, greens running true and a tricky combination of wispy rough and some deep stuff you don’t want to find!!

Mackenzie and Ebert have undertaken some recent work to tweak some of the holes with new tee boxes, grass paths and sand scrapes which have made a world of difference, 4 and 7 being the stand outs. I believe they have more work planned so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hillside climb the rankings even higher than it is now.

A fantastic golf course and a great club, one you could play every day and definitely not to be missed if you’re in the North West.

July 29, 2022
7 / 10
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James Bloomer

Still massively underrated, for me. The renovation work done in the last 2-3 years to the front nine is as extensive and successful as any I have recently seen, and back nine has always been outstanding. It is sacrilege to say it, but the back nine is better (for my money) than the back nine at Birkdale, and the course overall gets closer and closer.

The difference made to the first and ninth, previously visually nondescript, by the building of artificial dunes (I promise you would never know that they were artificial) is striking immediately. The fourth is transformed by the renovation into a really exacting test, but one that can be met in a number of different ways. The wetland area introduced at the fifth has been rightly praised for the visual drama it brings too, but this is a fantastic risk reward hole too for most. Do you take on the right hand trap and risk making six to be able to reach in two? If you have pulled this off, can you trust yourself enough with a long club over the corner of the dune, with disaster awaiting if you miss either side?

As for the back nine, there is not a bad hole on it, and every single one uses hugely dramatic dunes beautifully, but without repetition.

The tenth might be my favourite uphill par three (a breed I usually dislike) anywhere, the eleventh is worth all the plaudits below, and without waxing lyrical about every hole thereafter (as many could and do), the last 3 holes are as dramatic and exacting as any championship links. I particularly liked the counterpoint of the huge drama of the green set in the dunes at the 17th, with the subtler test of the suction bunkers in the right half of the fairway at the 18th, and the punishing swale cutting into the left half of the green and drawing balls away.

When I was there, the greens were terribly slow as plainly being saved for next week's Tour event, but the rest of the course was in top nick. Will be fascinated to see how the pros handle it.

If you get a chance, just go. You won't regret it. Misses 5 balls by a whisker, only because of the competition in the region.

July 18, 2022
7 / 10
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Neil White

“If you look in that direction, you can see the Three Graces and Liverpool Football Club and the other way, there are Blackpool Tower and the Big One.”

The 11th tee at Hillside must offer one of the finest views in the North-West and, on a sunny May evening, my compadre and I could literally see for miles out to the Irish Sea and towards the Lake District as well as spotting the famous attractions.

The land upon which we were standing lures people from all over the world too.

Hillside will be hosting some of golf’s greats in the DP World Tour next month as it emerges as a top venue from the shadow of its very near neighbour, Royal Birkdale.

When we played at the latter last year, one of my pals reckoned that Hillside was better and I was eager to find out if he was correct after an invitation from a fellow golf traveller.

My verdict is that they are both superb but surprisingly different. Indeed, it wasn’t until I was looking down on the 17th did I see a hole which I could have mistaken for one from next door.

The green surrounds were the biggest shock because they often have cloying rough rather than the steep and smooth run-offs I had witnessed at Royal Birkdale and West Lancs. Meanwhile, the sand scrapes are more of a feature.

I can testify that errant approaches will not be forgiven and I’m told the pros can expect the rough to be even tougher.

But, while it can be punishing on the wayward, it will yield good scores to those who stay straight and have a better short game than me.

The opening hole reflects this. A straight hole with trees and the railway line to the left and a bunker to the right, an accurate drive and pinpoint approach will be rewarded. However, I thinned my shot into the green and found myself tucked up in tangly stuff.

The third left a big impression – a dogleg par-four with an approach over a brook and pond to the right of a sloping green. The heinous start to my round saw the ball inevitably slide into the water.

Man-made dunes in the front nine and along the right of the 18th have added a new dimension at Hillside.

The fourth has been remodelled and the heightened drama unfolds at the par-five fifth on which excavated sand for the new dunes has left a unique wetland area where wildlife is thriving like never before. From the white tee, the view has a particular wow factor.

Natural sand scrapes are a common hazard at Hillside – nowhere more evident than at the short seventh where there is akin to a beach alongside the links’ original clubhouse. Fortunately, my game had begun to re-emerge by this point and I was chipper to nail a three.

The plaudits for Hillside’s back nine from Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman hang proudly in its halfway house and the holes certainly match the anticipation.

The tenth sets the bar– an uphill par-three between towering trees and bunkers. I can vouch that more club is needed than initially appears.

The photo opportunity comes on the 11th and no surprise this features among the famous 1,001 golf holes which must be played before you die.

Once the vista has been enjoyed, there is the serious business of a par-five dogleg through bunkers. I was wide with my approach to well-protected green and thrilled with an up and down for par.

“Danger deep water,” warns the sign on the newly established water feature on the 12th which is another handsome hole requiring keen placement.

The hits keep coming thereafter with the 13th a belter between grassed dunes to a high plateaued green and the 14th an even more thrilling par-four through the natural landscape with the East Lancashire fells in the background.

The 16th is a superb par-three amid the grassy mounds while the 17th is a dazzling par-five from an elevated tee and a fairway woven between bunkers, bushes and dunes.

More sand scrapes pop up again on the curving 18th, a classic long home hole. Oh, how I would have loved it had my par putt not run around the edge of the cup.

Hillside prides itself on its welcome and I was very lucky in having a brilliant guide who espoused its history and plans with great gusto as he led me around the course.

He ensured first experience of Hillside was terrific – and the cherry on top came in the impressive clubhouse when we witnessed former Match of The Day pundit Alan Hansen and his wife being awarded a prize for an earlier competition.

On a Monday night it was packed and supported the notion that, despite its growing reputation, Hillside remains a community club.

Long may its standing, internationally and locally, continue.

May 24, 2022
8 / 10
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Alex Frolish

A tale of two halves; a possibly lazy and yet accurate phrase to describe the wonderful links at Hillside. That statement isn’t meant to be derogatory about either half of the course, rather, it is an attempt to describe the story the course tells as you play it. This stretch of wider golfing land is arguably some of the finest in England, with Hillside sandwiched between the two other links gems of Royal Birkdale and the lesser heralded Southport & Ainsdale.

Starting at the beginning, only at Alwoodley have I seen a similarly intimate and intimidating 1st tee box position. It’s location, so close to the clubhouse window and balcony, points to a club with a vibrant social scene. Even on our visit in the early spring on a cold morning, the club was alive with merriment and smiles aplenty. It is not just the position that makes the tee shot difficult though; the fairway is framed by the railway track on the left and a pinching trio of bunkers on the right side. I’ve seen plenty of easier opening tee shots, with less eyes on you at such close quarters.

The character of the two nines is markedly different but linked by the quality conditioning and firm links turf that characterises this stretch of coastal ground. The front nine is played on the flatter land furthest away from the shore, and is undergoing the vast majority of the current (early 2022) ongoing works under the direction of Mackenzie & Ebert. The work is still bedding in but the results are already there for all to see and will make for memorable stretch of golf holes. The standout run on this side is through holes 4-7, where dramatic bunker work and turf laying has taken has place. The par 3 4th is quite simply a stunner, with a litany of rugged waste areas and bunkers punctuating the vista. The Himalaya style bunker on the 5th is an attention grabber and hole 6 will be some par 4 from the newly laid back tee.

Being originally from across the border in Yorkshire, I had heard stories about the quality of the back nine at Hillside when I played junior golf, almost 20 years ago. The spectacle is something to behold in person however and is possibly one of my favourite nine hole runs of golf in England. The devilish par 3 10th welcomes you with a picture postcard tee shot framed by a collection of punitive pot bunkers. The 11th is an attractive slightly downhill and potentially scoreable par 5, 12 requires a careful tee shot to avoid the all too welcoming pond down the right. But once you set your eyes on the 13th, you are introduced to the richest and most awe inspiring piece of dune land. I fell in love with the 14th, probably one of the toughest holes on the course from the back tee, where the half pipe appearance gives a feeling of width, but the reality is that the sides of the pipe will devour your ball if you stray too far from the fairway. This run for home stitches it’s way through these towering corridors of earth and quite frankly, I found my mind wandering from the game and marvelling at the spectacle.

Hillside is a course on the move, intent on adding quality and variety to already memorable design. It is a fair and exacting challenge that require a varied skill set for a golfer to stand a chance of success. The changes being undertaken are expansive and extensive and will take some time to bed in, but I really feel the finished product might prove to be one of the most remarkable renovations in England over the next few years. I can’t wait to get back to see the completed work in all its glory.

March 20, 2022
8 / 10
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T P Dean

Hillside was a course that had escaped me before this year, and a large amount of improvement work had already taken place on the front nine ahead of my visit. But on the evidence of my solitary visit in May, the widespread critique that the back nine is vastly superior to the front nine was one I thought was largely unfounded. A huge amount of work has been carried out and seemingly no expense spared over the last two years with an attempt being made to provide more parity to the two nines.

Even from the first tee shot, the course provides an excellent challenge of your ball striking. Alongside Alwoodley and Burnham & Berrow, I now have Hillside to add to the list of England’s most intimidating opening tee shots. The tee on the 1st practically snuggles up amongst the onlooking golfers watching on from the patio. It’s also a tee shot that’s now easier on the eye since dunes have been constructed between the 1st and the 9th to improve the visuals, so you now face the daunting task of threading your drive between these newly created dunes and the railway track to the opposite side. Further dune construction has also taken place between holes 9 and 18 adding more definition to what I assume were previously deemed less striking holes.

Typical hallmarks of Mackenzie & Ebert design have been added on the par three 4th hole where sandy wasteland has been introduced whilst wetlands have been created ahead of the back tee on the 5th. Holes 7 and 8 however were my favourites amongst the front nine. The 7th is beautifully framed by a copse of trees that sit behind its green whilst my fondness for the 8th comes from how it arcs like a brush stroke against the side of the large dune that backs onto the 11th hole.

Admittedly, there is a stark contrast when you enter the back nine. I dare say it’s the most dramatic links land in all of England. It should therefore come as no surprise that the large dunes dictate the play on this returning nine as the fairways are cut through the valleys. Each hole here is beautifully isolated, and whilst it’s a shame that the fairways themselves don’t have the classic rumpled appearance, each hole is as pretty as a picture. The snaking par five 11th is often cited as the favourite hole of visitors, and it’s a gorgeous golf hole, but I did also have a soft spot for the short 10th that provides the gateway into the duneland with its raised and tilted green, embedded into the back of one of those dunes. In fairness though, you could probably pick up any of the holes between 10 and 18 and place it amongst many other links courses where it would automatically become the course’s signature hole.

Hillside’s an incredibly strong course that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves as visitors to the area go about hunting Open venues, but it should be recognised as one of the crown jewels amongst this most absurdly strong golfing region. Any golfing itinerary to England’s Northwest coast should include Hillside, and I’ll be very keen to observe how the course will be judged once the work is completed and fully bedded-in. There’s a strong football connection at Hillside with ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish and Alan ‘you can’t win with kids’ Hansen both being members; Hillside might previously have been deemed a game of two halves, but the club is now taking big steps towards scoring a worldy.

October 07, 2021
8 / 10
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Paul Howard

As you play the 18th hole one looks to the left and there is Hillsides illustrious bigger North West Coast Brother. Alas Hillside will always be looked upon, perhaps unfairly, in Royal Birkdales shadow. For here is one of the finest golf courses you would wish to play. It certainly isn’t particularly long and arguably requires some more length. I played it from the blue tees and it wasn’t always easy to see where the back tees were hidden. On some holes they didn’t exist.

However Hillside truly is a fabulous golf course. The back nine especially is an absolute delight to play. The par 3 10th hole up the hill then the par 5 11th with the hills either side to start. Then a walk through the pines to one of the many dog legs. It just got better and better.

Is it better than Birkdale if you take out the title of holding an Open Championship? I really don’t know… but it’s closer than one thinks!

September 07, 2021
8 / 10
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Zak Harrison

I played this in the Robert Rock Junior tour, what a great course!!! A great variety of hazards and quite challenging. Watch out for those bunkers they are a killer... The whole experience here was great such a friendly club I would love to go back

October 02, 2020
9 / 10
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Susan Caton

I've been to Hillside on several occasions but each time I go it gets better. The areas surrounding the course, paths, clubhouse are all 10/10.

Yesterday the greens and bunkers were smooth despite the challenges of 2020, the fairways and tee beds were in excellent condition and the course was extremely playable for all levels of golfer with plenty of room on the fairways but well positioned bunkers to gather anything not struck well.

With a warm welcome from the shop and the bar staff as well it was a very pleasant day out.

July 10, 2020
9 / 10
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RM61

The North West is blessed with many great courses and Hillside is up there with the best. The course is very much a tale of two halves but both are excellent in their own ways. The opening couple of holes run adjacent to the railway line which is a feature of the front 9. The 2nd is a nice par 5 which has a brook and bunkers to negotiate from the tee before threading the second shot through a corridor of bunkers to reach the putting surface. Hole 5 is another excellent par 5 asks plenty of questions from the tee, is well bunkered and demands accuracy from the players approach. The 9th is an interesting par 4 with a split fairway and a green again well guarded by bunkers. Hole 11 which many people feel is the signature hole is a brilliant par 5 teeing from an elevated platform to a fairway framed by huge dunes….this is a spectacular hole. The closing stretch at Hillside does not let up, 16 is a long tough two tired green par three with no bunkers and 17 is a majestic long par 5 playing back towards the clubhouse. The course finishes with a good left to right dog leg par 4 to a green well protected by deep pot bunkers. Hillside is very much a tactical course asking plenty of questions of the golfer. The nearer you play towards danger invariably leaves a better angle to the green but anything slightly errant could end up wrecking the scorecard.

April 18, 2020
8 / 10
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Hillside is great. Located next door to Birkdale and S&A, it is a must play if visiting on a trip. The course is often praised for its back-nine, which is great. However, I wouldn't go as far as saying it's the "best back-nine in England" like a lot of people do. 10 11 14 16 17 18 are all really good holes, but my so are 1 2 3 5 and 7.

Don't overlook how good the front nine is. Play here and you'll have a blast.

April 16, 2020
7 / 10
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