St Annes on Sea,
- +44 (0) 1253 724206
1 mile SE of St Annes town centre
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Championships hosted: Boys Amateur, Brabazon Trophy, British Masters, British PGA Matchplay, Curtis Cup, English Men's Amateur, English Women's Amateur, Men's Home Internationals, Ryder Cup, Senior Open, The Amateur, The Open, The Womens Amateur, Vagliano Trophy, Walker Cup, Women's Home Internationals, Women's Open
Royal Lytham & St Annes is the most northerly of the English championship links courses, situated only 10 miles, as the seagull flies, from its illustrious neighbour, Royal Birkdale. This monster links opened for play in 1897, eleven years after the club's formation, when it moved from its original location. George Lowe, the club's first professional, fashioned the links and the layout was further modified between the wars by Harry Colt.
This is definitely a links course, but it is no longer beside the sea. It now lies half a mile inland, but with Blackpool tower looming in the distance you know the sea isn't far away. Rather unusually, the links is surrounded by red brick houses and (less unusually) flanked on the west by the railway line. The guardian Victorian clubhouse always watches sternly over the links. Conditioning is often exceptional and not as rough and ready around the edges as many of its contemporaries. The ground is relatively even, except perhaps on a couple of holes, where the going is slightly undulating.
The course itself is extremely tough, only Carnoustie (on the British Open circuit) is thought to be tougher. Bernard Darwin describes Lytham’s challenges in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles:
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club played host to the 1961 and 1977 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain & Ireland. Team Captains in 1961 were Jerry Barber (US) and Dai Rees (GB). This 14th edition of Matches was the first to be played in two sets of 18-hole foursomes and singles, which doubled the number of points available from 12 to 24. Unfortunately for the British, this was the debut of Arnold Palmer, who, along with Billy Casper, has won more Ryder Cup points than any other American. USA 14 ½ - GB 9 ½.
Team Captains in 1977 were Dow Finsterwald (US) and Brian Huggett (GB & Ireland). Despite GB & I lobbying to reduce the number of matches to 20 and Nick Faldo winning all three of his matches while suffering from glandular fever, it was not enough to prevent the US team from winning its 10th consecutive Ryder Cup. However, this would be the last time that Britain and Ireland would compete alone against the mighty US; players from continental Europe joined forces with GB & I in 1979. The Ryder Cup was played at Eldorado in 1959, East Lake in 1963, Laurel Valley in 1975 and The Greenbrier in 1979.
The greens are firm, fast and true, or as Darwin once said when he was playing a match at St Annes against an opponent who was a very good putter. “The truly-struck putt comes on and on over that wonderfully smooth turf and flops into the hole with a sickening little thud, and there we are left gasping and robbed of our prey.”
The 1st is unique because this is the only par three starting hole on the Open Championship circuit and it’s a long one, measuring 206 yards from the back tees. Ian Woosnam hit a fine tee shot here in the 2001 Open and then sank the putt thinking he’d made a birdie two. Unfortunately Woosnam was carrying 15 clubs in his bag. This cost the Welshman £225,000 and possibly the Open Championship title—it also cost his caddy around £20,000 and his job.
The 17th hole, a 467-yard par four, belongs to the esteemed Bobby Jones. As an amateur, he won the 1926 Open Championship, beating Al Watrous by two shots. A plaque (located close to the spot from which he nailed his second shot onto the green from a rough, sandy lie during the final round) commemorates Jones’s triumph and the mashie that he used for this remarkable shot is displayed in the clubhouse. The final hole is a relatively ordinary 414-yard par four and it’s a simple case of straight hitting to avoid the 15 bunkers that are trying hard to swallow the ball. The resurgence of British golf occurred here in 1969, when Tony Jacklin’s final drive avoided all the bunkers and he putted out to win the Open in a sea of emotion.
Royal Lytham and St Annes could never be described as a “classical” links course. It doesn’t have any giant shaggy dunes, nor does it have undulating roller-coaster fairways or pretty sea views. But it does have honesty and character by the bucket and spade load, and bags and bags of history.
A true open venue, some class and style. Another special experience, which I will repeat soon, I hope.
Surly on any real golfers wish list, will cost a fair bit, but is pretty much worth the money. Having said that, it is surrounded by great golf courses which are ever bit as good, and perhaps better value for money.
You would not believe as you are driving into the course that you were about to play one of the finest golf courses in England but somehow, in between the housing estate that surrounds it, is a parcel of pristine land.
Three of the opening holes run alongside the trainline so not an easy start if you are a slicer. The course makes you think about shot selection - wide in some places, narrow in others, pot bunkers and thick rough making hitting fairways vital.
Trying to take on every drive, and approach will likely leave you battered and bruised at the end of the round, but play sensibly and you will get around just fine. A "fair" links course where good shots are rewarded, but positional play is absolutely important as the slopes and mounds round the green will render it impossible to get close to flags if you are coming from the wrong side.
From the outside, the clubhouse can seem a bit stuffy (albeit beautiful), and as you walk in the porter will direct you to where you can go. Having said this, I found all of the staff to be exceptionally welcoming and helpful even if other areas did have an "old boys club" vibe. Don't let you put this off visiting however, the golf course alone is worth playing and the clubhouse is truly a wonderful experience.
The "Dormy House" accommodation looks out over the putting green and if I were to go back, I would definitely like to spend a night in this fantastic looking building.
Great course, in great condition. Some long tough holes, but with wide enough fairways for any golfer to play. Beware some of the deep bunkers.
A very warm welcome from all at the clubhouse. Worth the pilgrimage, definitely go play it.
Lytham was the last of England’s current top ten that I was yet to play, so naturally there’s a sense of anticipation of playing a course of this stature. It did not disappoint.
I’d visited the course nine years earlier to watch Ernie snatch the Open from Adam Scott and I may be hard pushed to say that the conditioning at Lytham during that week was any better than the day I played it. Fairways like carpet, pristine fringes, greens like velvet and immaculate pathways. Lytham was hands down the best presented golf course I have ever played.
Thankfully, Lytham is more than just an immaculately presented links. Indeed, this place is pretty special, and it would be a shame if the Open was taken away from the club. I’d previously heard negative remarks about the course being enclosed within a housing estate, but I feel that these are lazy comments. Everyone likes a links course to butt up against a beach with waves lapping against the dune-side, but the fact that the course is surrounded by houses only entered my mind on two or three occasions. You're kept captivated by what's going on in front of you at Lytham.
The land is ideal golfing ground too. Low lying dunes create visual interest and carve out the holes, and whilst the close to two hundred bunkers do give rise to Lytham’s infamy and add to the difficulty of the course, I would argue that only a handful of holes could be considered over-bunkered.
The opening few holes set you up for the stern test that is to come. Lytham demands a precise game. Large, contoured greens, shaven run-offs and thick rough keep you on your toes and the closing holes carry plenty of jeopardy that prevent you from ever feeling comfortable if you’re holding a score. There’s a lovely variety to the holes at Lytham, but it’s the middle of the round that will provide the fondest memories. The stretch from 7 through to 10 is one of the best within the Open rota. This sequence of holes starts with a gloriously bunkered long par five through the dunes and a railway lining the right hand side. No fewer than 15 bunkers are dotted through this hole. Then comes the wonderful 8th, the best par four on the course with a trio of cross bunkers wedged into the front of the green. Yet deception is everything on this hole as shortly after these bunkers is an area of dead ground before the putting surface that will naturally gobble up a ball from anyone fooled by the visual trickery of this approach when playing the course for the first time. 9 is just a wonderfully shaped par three. If this hole backed onto the seaside rather than suburbia, then it would be deemed to be amongst golf’s great short holes. 10 then wraps up this beautiful run of holes with some large mounding creating some visual intimidation and blindness to another clever hole.
Royal Lytham isn’t flawless. Not everyone will share the joy of playing the course that I did, but I’d advocate that this is a course well worthy of its top 100 world ranking. Oh, and make sure you try the sausage roll with a splash of mustard at the half-way house. It’s to die for.
What happened next? One of Question of Sport’s most famous captains and rugby union legend Sir Bill Beaumont began chatting to me on the driving range of his home course.
Later, Sir Bill’s group played through our quartet as we searched for yet another ball in the fierce rough, summed up the bonhomie of Royal Lytham & St Anne’s.
“Has it met your expectation?” he asked as he trundled past.
It certainly had and so, so much more.
Anyone who has an interest in the history of golf must visit the venue of eleven Open championships.
We had the delight of being invited by an international member who lives is Estonia but had grown up within a stone’s throw of the links.
He gave us the guided tour to a clubhouse which is akin to a museum of golf. There is a homage to Seve which almost prompted a tear of reverence alongside the club’s own trophy cabinet (if the members are good enough, they can lift a silver kettle or, even more bizarrely, a giant shrimp!).
At lunch we sat on the balcony where chatting onlookers had been told to be quiet as Gary Player flicked his famous backhanded wall putt on to the green in 1974.
I could have gone home satisfied before we even hit a ball on the famous old links (is it a links if it is a couple of miles inland?) but I am glad I didn’t.
It is a privilege to attack the first hole – a par three which sums up Royal Lytham. Keep out of trouble and success can follow. Find a bunker and it probably won’t.
I had watched endless instruction videos because of the course’s infamous 174 deep sand traps.
I knew all about the need for a wide stance, lowering my tailbone (I didn’t even know I had one before last week), a wedge which could balance a wine glass and smashing the sand hard.
The problem was that I didn’t expect to have to put practice into play quite as often or the bunkers to be quite as steep.
Anyway, they bore significant responsibility for my inability to register anything like a good score.
Nevertheless, I could appreciate the glories of this historic course.
Every hole has been described countless times by people with greater knowledge than me, so I shall resist giving my less-than-expert view on all of them
Instead, I shall stick to my personal takeaways.
I was enamoured of the holes which ascended while running parallel to the railway track which appeared to be a magnet for errant drives (seriously, how many balls hit trains?).
The 7th was a stand-out for me – a par five which demands that even great tee shots weave between bunkers before an attack to a green which is guarded by more greedy traps and a grassed dune.
Having been chastened on day one, I played it thoughtfully on day two only to three putt!
Ah, did I mention the mystery of Royal Lytham’s greens? They all appear to be flat and straight and yet none of our group, including one compadre who had a superb round, could sink anything about eight feet. I still don’t know why.
The 8th was my personal favourite. A short par four to a green perched high, forcing a shot over three traps akin to gaping whale mouths beneath it.
The only hole which I felt was a bit out of sync was the 13th – yes, it has the usual deep bunkers and greenside trees which stand at about 70 degrees as a symbol of how the wind can get up but it seemed something of an afterthought in my opinion.
I agreed with our host that the 15th is a brute of a par four and that the 17th is a great hole with a dogleg which inspires big decisions about whether to risk a blind second shot over the corner with heavy rough and bunkers lurking.
And then there is the 18th. Surely, one of the greatest holes in golf.
On the second day, our host insisted that we play from the championship tees and was so right to do so.
We felt what it must be like to have the eyes of 45,000 spectators and the TV commentators describing every move.
When I lowered my tailbone for the umpteenth time and clipped it out of the greenside bunker to within seven feet I could imagine their acclaim. After I missed the putt, I could visualise them groaning and slipping off to the bar without offering a single clap.
Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s is an unbelievably good course, its history is superbly presented and I was lucky enough to play it in wonderful company.
But our visit would not have shone as much if it hadn’t been for the friendliness of its welcome.
From the steward as we walked in the steps of giants into the fabled clubhouse, to the staff serving our ample lunch, the accommodating team in the pro shop, the members such as Sir Bill wishing us well and the poor lass who sat in the halfway house for half an hour waiting for the last round of the day to come past, this was natural hospitality.
What happened next?
We had the time of our lives.
So lucky to play here again recently in an inter club match. I have so many fond memories of the course going back 30+ years.
The bunkering is perfectly placed and as tough as I remember it from 5 years ago. There is no let up or holes that can be navigated without caution.
Course condition was immaculate as one would expect, a must play for all golfers in my opinion.
Highlight of the day for me was getting up and down on 18 from a similar position to my hero in '88, albeit quite not as much at stake or as crisply struck but made me happy.
What Lytham lacks in dunes and sea views it makes up for in character and soul. It is still deserving of a place on The Open rota, and from speaking to the extremely friendly staff on site it sounds like they’re working hard to obtain another one.
The front 9 reminds me of St Andrews – the bold line that gives you the best approach angle must challenge the OOB down the right. You can bail to the left but you’ll be left with a harder, possibly blind second shot. A yardage book is essential so you can try and thread the bunkers. These are all really sharply cut yet sit grandly and naturally in the landscape. As balls feed into them you’re often left with an awkward stance or swing. A couple of sandy scrapes have now been added, which I don’t particularly like but maybe those areas looked that way 100-odd years ago.
The back 9 will definitely separate the men from the boys (I’m certainly the latter) as you play back into the prevailing wind. The finish is as hard as anywhere, with some long par 4s and a couple of blind shots with wind whisking away anything off-line, probably lost. A post-round beer on the balcony overlooking the 18th is always well deserved.
My favourite part of the course is the far end with 8 playing up Lytham’s largest hill, then the picture postcard short 9th. These two holes stand out because of these quirks, beyond that it is all a stern, consistent yet diverse test. Just maybe a couple of the par 3s aren’t as memorable as other courses’ are. Hopefully they get another Open as seeing today’s big hitters taking on the railway line and ample bunkers would be box office entertainment.
We were lucky enough to play Royal Lytham & St Annes earlier this year and as I sit down to reflect on my year of golf it was the absolute stand-out experience. The first Open venue I have played, on arrival, you do not get a sense of great grandeur that you might expect, however, walking through the doors of the clubhouse and stepping on the worn-away paving stone where so many champions have walked certainly started to build the anticipation and first tee nerves.
We had lunch before our round out on the famous balcony overlooking the 18th green and first tee box. From here you get a great outlook of the scale of the course, the train line that runs alongside the first few holes and the Victorian housing that surrounds the property on all sides. If you have time, it’s well worth a stop.
Having made the most of the practice facilities, including a fair few bunker shots (more to come on that front) and holing a few putts on the practice green in front of the stunning Dormy house, we stepped out in front of the pro-shop to begin our round.
What followed was a four-hour tour-de-force golfing experience.
The first hole is a testing par 3 which is well protected by pot bunkers and requires a solid first swing of the day. And it doesn’t let up much from that point on. The second is a perfect example of the examination to come – deep pot bunkers on the right hand side of the fairway at 188 yards and then again on the left hand side at 267. They loom ominously large from the tee box.
All of the holes were brilliant tests of strategy and required strong tee-to-green game. Once you managed to find the putting surface, the greens were in fabulous condition, running fast and true.
I could go into great detail on all of the holes but that has been done before here. However, to pick out a few highlights…
The long, straight par five seventh with bunkers on both sides of the fairway, train tracks back in play further right and gorse bushes further left. If you can keep it straight, your second is either a lay-up between 6 bunkers or go for the green which is flanked by dunes on the right and bunkers on the left. An immensely fun challenge.
Holes eight to ten are the best on the course. The famous elevated green on 8 precedes the incredible ninth, tucked in at the far end of the course. My first birdie of the day made it extra special. Ten is then the turn towards home, playing blindly up through the dunes with a second shot down to a sloping green.
Fifteen is another long par 4 that requires a long second shot into a well protected green.
And then 18. A truly special closing hole on a truly special links.
No, it doesn’t have the most visually stunning surroundings. But it really makes you question your whole game, the entire way around.
We stayed in the dormy house overnight and were able to repeat the fun the next morning. I can’t recommend this highly enough – fantastic accommodation and a brilliant breakfast. Our party also all commented on how welcome we were made to feel by the members, especially playing on a Saturday morning in a tee time that would usually be reserved.
Would also recommend a game of ‘camel’ to keep track of the number of bunkers you end up in. Our group found 44 across the two rounds. Practice your bunker game before you go!
This might be the most unspectacular location of any of the Open Rota courses, but it’s an unbelievable layout. If you’re miss is right for the first 10 holes of the golf course, you are going to be in a world of hurt! Most memorable hole for me was 8, a beautiful tee shot down the hill before approaching the plateaued green. 7 is also a monster of a par 5. I also managed to negotiated the last 4 holes in level par, a member playing another hole walked past me on another tee near 18, think it is 16 and said Adam Scott would pay me good money for that finish!! The staff here also are so hospitable and refunded my dad who came and walked and couldn’t play because he hurt his back the day before at Birkdale, incredibly kind of them. Members we ran into were all so nice too! Such a pleasant place!!!
The championship course at royal lytham is about as pure as it gets big run off areas around the greens punishing any approach short or slightly offline intimidating tee shots and the most bunkers iv ever seen.
The front 9 is my favourite holes 6-10 are the standouts for me along with the famous 18th playing towards the iconic clubhouse Holes 13 to 17 are fairly flat but are brutally tough
Friendly staff, superb clubhouse the place is just special it’s not for beginners though it’s brutal