On a pleasant March Spring day I went to play at Hoylake yesterday on a society trip. And the experience of the entire day was just like the weather! By this I mean that although it was a lovely day, in the summer the day would have been hard to beat… with the sun is out, the rough up, and the G.U.R is nonexistent. However as one would expect we were off a reduced length, and plenty of the bountiful array of bunkers were out of action, so although the course was a treat we were probably playing it at its most benign.
However despite not experiencing the full test of the course, it was plain to see why it is one of the more popular Open Venues for both players and patrons! For a start, there is what first greats you as you arrive at the club, the great and illustrious clubhouse. Then inside the helpful starter greats you with the upmost hospitality showing you to the locker room and the extremely well stocked Pro Shop silently urges you to buy some of the great items for sale. As you go further into the clubhouse the sense of history and the ghost of golfing greats only go further to arouse the anxious feelings of the impending round.
And what a round it is! You know right from the off that you need your 'A' game at hand! The first is probably the hardest opening hole I have played. The clubhouse windows on the left shudder in fear of the horrendous hook shot that may fly off your club, and to the right Out of Bounds lies the whole way up the hole. Then also the fairway narrows to less than 20 yards at prime 3-wood range, so you are left with the quandary lay up and face a 200 yard approach shot over Out of Bounds or try and carry the corner with the big stick, personally I was happy to take a five! The second is a great short hole where again the emphasis is on driving accuracy, however once on the fairway good luck stopping the ball on a green that slopes away from you into deep swales. The third is a great risk/reward Par 5 where bunkers are a plenty but a good score is to be had so long as you find the right tier on the green. The fourth is a great par three with another tricky green, and cavernous bunkers awaiting the wayward tee shot. The fifth is another tight hole where accuracy on the drive and the approach are vital. There is a reason why it is S.I 1!! The sixth, although with a daunting tee shot is actually a kind respite from the previous 5 holes. But nevertheless danger still lies in wake! The seventh is another must hit Par 3 as complex swales leave a very tricky up and down. The eight is a cracker of a Par 5! You drive towards a narrowing fairway and there is a distinct possibility of leaving yourself a chance of getting on in two! However too close to the large mound at the end of the fairway and there is no choice to lay up! If you do go for it in two avoid the front right bunker at all costs! It is deep… The front nine then finishes with a great short Par 4 at which a 4 is a very good score!
At the start of the back nine the course comes into its own, with 10, 11 and 12 along the shoreline, where the views over the Dee estuary are so beautiful they make the sudden growth of bogeys on the card seem not that bad! The 13th is another Par 3 but where length is not the issue, but again accuracy. Miss this green at your peril! The 14th is a superb 3 shot Par 5 with danger lurking in the form of bunkers at the drive, lay up, and approach. The 15th is one of the hardest holes on the course, with Out of Bounds to the right and two big blows required to reach the green! The 16th is the final time that the Out of Bounds comes into play, but avoid that and there is a strong possibility of a rare birdie. The 17th has plenty of protection from bunkers at the front so take an extra club on the already long approach! Then the 18th closes the round in the same way it started, danger left and right off the tee and with a new bunker front right, there is an imperative on accuracy with the approach!
In all this is a course that is not for those who like the undulations of St Andrews, nor for those who like to smack a driver on every hole (I used mine 3 times!), but if one wants a supreme test of golf and great history, Hoylake is the place.
Date: March 20, 2010