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.
Date: July 02, 2021