- +44 (0) 1704 578000
2 miles S of Southport
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Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club hosted the 1933 and 1937 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain. Team Captains in 1933 were Walter Hagen (US) and J.H. Taylor (GB). It was an exciting contest in 1933, which went down to the very last match between Easterbrook and Shute and it turned out to be a putting contest on the final green. Shute had a four-footer for the USA to retain the Ryder Cup, but he missed. GB 6 ½ - USA 5 ½. The 1935 Ryder Cup was played at Ridgewood.
Only the Belfry has hosted more home soil Ryder Cups than Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club. But everybody flocks to play S&A’s royal neighbour, Birkdale. If only they knew what they were missing a couple of miles down the road.
Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club was originally founded in 1907 with George Lowe laying out the first course. At that time, golf was played across a stretch of links land between the railway line and the main Liverpool road. In 1922, the council decided to build another road into Southport and they decided to route it across the links, splitting the course in two. Fortunately, some new land was identified and James Braid, the greatest golf course revisionist of all time, was called in to sort things out. By 1924, Braid had built six new holes and updated the remaining twelve.
So, in the scheme of things, Southport & Ainsdale is a relative youngster and it is set amongst exhilarating dunes and tangly heather. S&A has a very natural feel to the layout, although it is somewhat old-fashioned with some blind drives and obscured approach shots. This is not your traditional out-and-back layout. In broad terms, the course is laid out in two loops, with holes 2 through to 6 forming the inner loop. The fairways wind their way through gaps and valleys between the dunes and many of the greens are raised on tricky-to-hold plateaux. S&A is a serious golfing test, the layout measures over 6,800 from the back tees with par set at 72 and from the yellow tees, the length drops to 6,396 yards, but the par also drops down to 71.
There are many memorable holes at S&A and the 8th is a bunkerless par three, measuring 157 yards. The green is sited on a raised table and only the best tee shot will stay on the putting surface. The 16th, measuring 506 yards, plays directly into the prevailing wind and when the wind’s up, three solid strikes will be required to reach the green. The hole is called “Gumbley’s” and it has a fine example of a sleeper-faced bunker. It’s a monster, set into the face of a large, tussocky sand ridge. Avoid this one like the plague.
Southport & Ainsdale has hosted many important amateur events over the years and the good old Dunlop Southport and Swallow Penfold professional competitions were held here in the 1940s and 1950s with Max Faulkner, Fred Daly and Christy O’Connor emerging victorious. But S&A will be remembered for the 1933 and 1937 Ryder Cups. Britain won in 1933, but 1937 heralded the first American Ryder Cup victory on British soil, but it wasn’t their last because the USA retained the Ryder Cup for the next 20 years.
Marc Westenborg was engaged by the club in 2018 to improve the aesthetics on the closing hole through the installation of dunes to screen the fairway from the driving range and the removal of weed trees from around the tee complex. Material for the new dunes came from “slabbing” blocks of marram grass from elsewhere on the course, affording the work an immediate mature look.
In addition, bunkers were removed from the 1st, 17th and 18th greens as part of an overall plan to reduce the number of sand hazards around the course.
Southport & Ainsdale should be played not only from a historic perspective but because this is a very natural and challenging links course, one of Braid’s finest seaside examples. It stands up remarkably well against its regal neighbours.
I would need a second visit to Southport & Ainsdale to form a clearer opinion of the course.
As of now, I do not consider it to be a links course. I do not necessarily consider it to be a links-like course. It certainly has elements of being links-like, but it also is often a heathland golf course as well as sometimes straying into a parkland course. After the round was completed and we went inside for a beverage, I wandered into the room housing the Ryder Cup memorabilia from 1933 and 1937 and saw the enlarged picture of the course as it appeared during those two Ryder Cups. The course at that time was treeless.
I admit to having a bias towards links golf, followed by heathland, then links-like. I took a photo of that historical photo to study it a bit more. As I studied the course as it was first built, I regretted not being able to play that course instead of a course that has a few holes with trees. If it were up to me, I would remove every tree on the course because I prefer to play it as it was intended to be play despite knowing that a course often has to modify some holes for changes In technology.
But this is not to suggest that I did not thoroughly enjoy Southport & Ainsdale. I very much enjoyed it and highly admired the course with one caveat. The course is well routed offering a wonderful variety of holes in both their layout and lengths. There is also a good variety of holes that are flat, raised or fall to lower ground
There are numerous and well thought out placement of bunkers. The bunkers can be very punitive due to their depth and steepness of face. There are a lot of bunkers. I landed in more than I expected as shots that I hit and thought would be fine turned out to be tempting fate a little too close to the bunker’s surrounding edges where balls did not take a kick past the bunkers but the land gathered them into the bunkers. The result was absolutely fair. Course knowledge is paramount at Southport & Ainsdale.
The green surrounds are sufficiently varied while the green surfaces have more movement than many of the courses we played in the nearby area.
The one negative caveat is that the green speeds were very slow, likely in the five slowest green speeds I have played in the UK and Ireland. They were in perfect shape, but slow. This is understandable as the course had not received a lot of water and there was a recent streak of very high temperatures. A return visit under more normal weather conditions would likely see the greens at their proper pace.
We were unable to play Hillside due to the DP World Tour tournament, but as I played Southport & Ainsdale I found myself thinking where could one find three outstanding to good golf courses from different clubs so close together, literally connected. Of course I thought of Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America and Sebonack, all of which are above these three. I also thought about which areas in the world are blessed with so many fine golf clubs so close to each other. I thought of the Hamptons on Long Island, the sand belt area near Melbourne, Surrey outside of London and Lancashire. Hopefully I made my point that Southport & Ainsdale is good despite my bias to have all of the trees removed.
The course is likely considered to be short by the longer players at 6848 yards, par 72. The par 3’s have two which are relatively short. But do not let the length of the course trick you because the course is rated 74.6/140 due likely to having so many bunkers that require both strategy and execution off the tee and into the green. From the yellow tees the course is 6389 yards, par 71 rated 72.5/134. I found the ratings to be appropriate.
The opening is a long par 3 of 202/183 playing over lower ground to a green roughly level with the tee. The green is bracketed by higher mounds on both sides and sloped sharply back to front with good inner movement. You need to drive over rough, rolling ground and avoid the two fronting pot bunkers. The green is relatively long but thin with two bunkers left and one on the right. It is a wonderful opening hole.
The second is the longest par 5 on the course at 565/554. It features thirteen very well placed fairway bunkers scattered down the hole with a final green side bunker on the front right. The left side fairway bunkers are set inside the fairway. These bunkers are punitive; go in one of them and you will likely not make par. The green has higher ground to its left. I liked this hole because it requires thought. If not for the splendor of the sixteenth, this would be my favorite par 5 on the course.
Three is a mid-length par 4 of 417/371 yards playing from an elevated tee over early dunes and a valley to a flat fairway. The fairway bunkering features two left and two right with the left ones a bit more of a danger. A final fairway bunker is farther down the right. The green complex is a good one with three front bunkers and a false front and grass depression. The green slopes to the rear. I also liked this hole.
Four is a short par 4 of 363/316 where I felt the yellow tee to be too short. There are seven bunkers before you reach the green which has flanking front bunkers and an additional near the front left. The first set of fairway bunkers on the right cut into the fairway. The green is slightly elevated with fall-offs to the front and left.
The number one index hole is a difficult one at 446/400. The green is angled left to right with three bunkers and a run-off to the left. The tee shot must avoid the three fairway bunkers. There are a few trees behind the green that do not come into play but I wish were not there.
Six is a par four of 394/364 playing between dunes of which the right side is higher. This sharp dogleg right has an outer corner bunker and an inner corner bunker fairly far up the fairway. This right side fairway bunker seems unnecessary until one realizes it is there to catch those trying to cut the corner of the dogleg as it is hidden from the tee. The difficulty of the hole continues with a green surrounded by six bunkers. There are trees atop the dune on the right to likely make the hole more difficult for the longer hitters but I wish they were removed and replaced with an extension of the dune, even if manufactured.
Seven is a short par of 484/473 playing from an elevated tee with three bunkers on the left side and one on the right. The fairway takes a sharp turn left and narrows for a bit before widening again bracketed between dunes which continue down the right side. The land is rolling and heaving before flattening out to the green. The green complex features three fronting bunkers. The three early bunkers are a bit deeper than they look and many balls roll near the face requiring a shot merely to get out rather than advancement. It is a fun hole unless one finds a bunker.
Eight is a par 3 of 165/144 featuring an elevated plateau green where one simply cannot be short or you ball will tumble quite a ways back towards the tee.
Nine is another short par 5 of 531 from the back tees but a par 4 of 443 yards from the yellow tees. I would rather play it as a par 5. The fairway is wide but then plays between two dunes. The first fairway bunkers come into play on the second shot. The green is well bunkered with three left and two to the right. The surface of the green does not quite have the same movement as many other holes.
Ten is a par 3 of 179/156 yards with a single bunker on the right front. It is the weakest par 3 on the course.
One of my favored holes on the course is the eleventh which is a strong par 4 of 445/427 yards going left. One must avoid the collection of three fairway bunkers on the left as well as the two scattered bunkers on the right. The fairway narrows at about two-thirds up the fairway where the land heaves. The green is protected by three bunkers. The green is bracketed by scattered gorse on three sides.
Twelve is a par 4 of 410/404 featuring strategic bunkering beginning with the three fairway bunkers placed inside the fairway almost as if they are cross bunkers. This dogleg right then completes the bunkering with four at the tree including three on the left side to a green angled left to right. One has to be precise on this hole. I liked this hole.
Thirteen is a short par 3 at 159/148. Visually the hole did not grab me despite the four fronting bunkers and a pond behind the green.
The par 4 fourteenth offers a narrow fairway bending left with out-of-bounds down the right and two deep fairway pot bunkers. I did not think as highly of this hole.
I disliked the fifteenth, a short par 4 of 342/333 yards with out-of-bounds down the tree-lined right side. The left side features a lot of trees which is why I disliked the hole. There are seven fairway bunkers and two at the green. The green is slightly raised and angled left. I liked the bunkering but disliked all of the trees as well as the flat green. This hole is at the farthest point from the clubhouse.
The best and most famous hole on the course is sixteen, a par 5 of 540/514 featuring the famed second shot which is blind over two dunes coming together to create a small “v” with sleepers going across two-thirds of the left side to middle. The second shot is blind. But first the tee shot must avoid three scattered fairway bunkers. The blind second shot has to go over a rise of at least 40 feet and be in the middle to avoid a set of bunkers left and right. This is the most interesting green on the course with various rises and swales culminating in a small but higher back left rear of the green but a falls left as well.
The seventeenth is nearly as memorable as the sixteenth. It’s a long par 4 of 457/426 which starts from an elevated tee. Like the fourteen through the sixteenth, there is out-of-bounds down the right. This hole plays off the left to a hole going straight. One has to avoid the collection of four fairway bunkers left. There should a central bunker out of range for most players. The green is flattish.
Eighteen is a fun finish to the round. It is a short bar 4 of 352/342 playing to what appears to be a narrow channel between tall dunes and flanking fairway bunkers. If you find the fairway the approach shot should be short to a sizable green. One should not miss the green to the left as you will go down a deep valley laving a blind shot to the hole.
Southport & Ainsdale is a joy to play. It is a must play if in the area. I liked it slightly more than Formby despite the slow greens due to the character from the land. While the course lacks a bit between holes thirteen to fifteen, there are many memorable holes. If all of the trees were removed I suspect it would rise in the rankings.
Always nice to replay an old favourite, and S&A did not disappoint having not played it for a couple of years. Recent work on the course really enhances the appearance on what in my opinion is a great links course and true test of golf. The greens putted really nicely and the fast hard running conditions as a result of a recent dry spell made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. If your ever in the NW be sure to look the course up you wont be disappointed.
I think S&A may be the least talked about course in this area, and I’m not sure why. From photos and Google Maps procrastinating, it looks as much heathland as links but it is decidedly not. It’s not as undulating as Hillside over the railway tracks, but there are plenty of small slopes, some big slopes, plus some very linksy blind shots – none more so than The Gumblies on 16, where you must play over the most outrageous bunker and railway sleeper combo I’ve seen.
This is a proper championship test, with most of the holes playing parallel to the coast meaning constant cross winds. It can be a grind, but none of the famous courses on this coast claim to be for all abilities. Number 2 is a grand long par 5 framed by heather that slopes subtly up between pot bunkers to its green.
7 is a downwind respite, before 8’s a short hole in the opposite direction up to a dramatic, plateau green. It’s one of the best par 3s I’ll play this year. There are a lot of angled fairways which reward the better player, and it is a tough course, but the heather isn’t too encroaching. Similarly, you play back along the railway to the 18th but the track doesn’t get too close and the wind should blow your ball in-bounds.
Being picky, you could perhaps choose 13 and 15 as weaker holes but the audacity of 16 and the consistency elsewhere makes up for it. I didn’t visit Hillside so can’t compare, but I’d put S&A only a little behind Formby – it is worth including in any NW England trip.
Southport & Ainsdale (S&A) cannot be missed if in the area. It is unfortunately overshadowed by its close neighbours, Hillside and Royal Birkdale, but S&A's ranking of top 40 in England and top 100 in the UK is fair and well deserved.
It is not a championship course, rather a members course. It isn't long, it has a good amount of quirk, and it's very fun. This all starts on the opening hole, which is a very well bunkered par 3. From, the course constantly changes from links to heathland, and there is not a weak hole until the back nine.
The best hole are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 15, 16, 17 and 18. The start of the back nine is good but nothing special, but the end is fantastic. 15, 16 and 17 all play next to the railway, 16 being a fantastic par 5 with a huge cross bunker.
If you are in the area, S&A is the perfect course to play after getting beaten up at Birkdale. Would be a big mistake to miss it.
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The course at Southport & Ainsdale hosted the 4th and 6th editions of the Ryder Cup back in the 1930s so it’s an historical golfing track, with lots of photos on the clubhouse walls to remind you of that. The man who redesigned the layout, James Braid, was rather fond of installing bunkers on his courses (he was often called in by clubs to advise specifically on bunkering) so it’s no real surprise to stand on the first tee and see there are no fewer than eight sand pots surrounding the green on the opening hole, a long par three.
The revetted sand hazards are a recurring theme for the remainder of the round, as are rumpled fairways, heathland elements of heather and linksland patches of gorse. It’s a superbly routed, with holes laid out in two loops, and enough movement in the landscape to keep things interesting without overtaxing the walking golfer. The par five 16th, running alongside the railway that separates the course from neighbouring Hillside, is the star of the show at S&A with its famous sleepered cross bunker but there are many fine holes to be played here.
England’s “Golf Coast” is blessed with as fine an array of links courses as you could wish for and S&A isn’t all that far behind the world-class standards set by its Royal counterparts. Along with the likes of West Lancashire and Fairhaven – which are also overlooked by visiting golfers playing the gig-name venues – Southport & Ainsdale is well worth including on a golfing itinerary to the northwest of England.
As said in other reviews, it is definitely a mistake trying to compare this S&A to Hillside and Birkdale because it is different golf. Southport and Ainsdale plays as a links course however has a much bigger parkland/heathland element to it unlike its neighbours. Unfortunately we hit Southport and Ainsdale on a blustery day which made it very difficult to score well with the 143 bunkers that they have. The condition of the course was top notch, good greens, well maintained fairways and bunkers and lovely heather.
Some of my favourite holes would be the par 5 2nd which had heather both left and right and multiple bunkers plotted all the way up the fairway. The 5th hole was a tough par 4 playing straight into the wind making it an even SI 1 hole! Make sure you hit the fairway as missing it left or right may find you in the ditch or in their awfully thick rough that they have. The 6th hole was a great links hole but also playing tough with large dunes on either side of the fairway and 3 deep bunkers to the left and right of the green.
In my opinion, I preferred the back nine at S&A despite being much more challenging as it did have a greater variety of holes. The 10th was a short and slightly uphill par 3, the 11th was a tough par 4 with a blind second shot making it a lot harder. 13 is where it begins to feel a bit more like a parkland/heathland course as this is a short par 3 with trees on the right and a water hazard long of the green. Accuracy is important on this hole as the green is narrow. 15 is one of my favourite holes on the course although it is probably the hardest. On the tee it is very intimidating as there must be at least 10 deep fairway bunkers all in play off the tee and trees/gorse on your left. The 17th is also a great hole which is named 'heather' so as you can probably gather, it has a lot of heather. The elevated tee makes it a beautiful driving hole with the heather lined all the way down the left hand side of the fairway. A very good picturesque hole.
Overall, I enjoyed Southport and Ainsdale as it had a good bit of everything, I think it definitely deserves its place in the top 100 UK list and I reckon its quite harshly ranked on that also! Its a great golf club that is steeped with history so its definitely worth a visit if you get the chance.
Seriously, seriously good golf course. S&A has a really cleverly routed layout where the first six holes play in a loop, with the other twelve holes wrapping around the outside of that loop. Whilst its claim to be a genuine links can’t be questioned, there are heathland characteristics with heather scattered throughout some of the holes. Prepare yourself to also be attacked by bunkers from all angles. A critical reviewer could say that there are a few too many around the course, so undoubtedly the strategy to scoring well around S&A is one where you avoid those pot bunkers that are dotted up and down every fairway. This all makes for a great test of discipline from the tee, is it worth being aggressive with the driver or is a long-iron the smarter play?
With regards to the standout holes, whilst courses that commence with a par three are normally a pet hate of mine, the long first with five pot bunkers protecting the opening to the green, all coming in combination with a backboard and bowlshaped surround, is an absolute pleasure to start the round with. The second provides a better insight as to what’s to come as you face a climbing par five that’s dotted with no fewer than sixteen sandy coffins. Two great holes in quick succession to start the round. And the excellent holes continue too. After threading your drive between the dunes on the 6th, next comes a semi-blind yet right-angled par five at 7 where you’re forced to play around bumpy dunes that obstruct the direct path to the green. The par three 8th is another unique hole with its raised green. My ball landed a foot short of the putting surface here to only then be propelled unceremoniously to the bottom of the hill leaving me with a forty yard pitch back to the plateau.
The club have made some good improvements too, bunkers have been upgraded and re-revetted in many areas and they’ve removed the gorse in the middle of the 14th, something I expect will be a welcomed decision by members and visitors alike. Gumbleys, the long 16th is the star of the show on the back nine though, a hole that now makes it very close to the top of my all-time favourites list. The tee shot plays parallel to the railway line before you’re then faced with an intimidating sleeper walled bunker structure in the middle of the fairway that you have to clear, after which the fairway snakes and creeps up around bunkers to a wildly undulating raised green set into the side of a dune. A tough penultimate hole with a raised tee is negotiated at 17 before a fitting finale at 18 threads its way through a valley of dunes after which you’re then presented with an approach shot into a raised green set in front of the clubhouse. And what a clubhouse this is. Traditional in style from the exterior but one that oozes charm from the inside where the inner refurbishment captures the perfect balance between the plush and the charming.
All being said, I’d go as far to suggest that S&A is a must-visit if you’re making a visit to play the best courses in the North-West region. I’d also argue that the gulf in the rankings between S&A and its more esteemed neighbours is too wide, I’d make the argument that S&A should reasonably be 20 or even 30 places higher in the UK & Ireland rankings.
Not quite up to the caliber of its more renowned neighbors, but still a fine layout. The routing is not as ingenious as Birkdale’s, the tee shot demands do not rival Hillside’s nor are the green complexes as interesting as Formby’s. But the par 5s are outstanding and the overall experience is delightful. Not to be missed when visiting England’s Golf Coast.
Most people compare/contrast this outstanding golf course to nearby Hillside and Royal Birkdale – but I consider that a mistake. Review the course for what it is, and celebrate its own creation.
Southport & Ainsdale starts with a very demanding 180-yard par 3 that has no less than 8 bunkers guarding the green. This opener grabs your attention and lets you know that this tight demanding course is no push over. A beautiful par 5 second hole gives you a glimpse of surrounding dunes, gorse and charming quirk that oozes around this property. While the topography is mostly flat with smaller dunes, the fairways have plenty of natural undulation as they navigate through what feels like a landmine of bunkers.
The par 5 16th deservedly gets most of the attention with the famous sleeper cross-bunker that sits on a large dune and stares down at you. The second shot over this ‘Gumbley’ bunker requires a lot of courage and for first time players, this completely blind shot becomes one of the toughest shots on the course.
Did you remember to buy a course guide?
Southport & Ainsdale isn’t all just about two or three epic holes, but to its credit, you walk off the 18th green and say Wow, that was really superb! I thought the strength of the course was the many demanding par 4s that move in many directions, and constantly demand accuracy off the tee – most notably the last hole with its blind dog-leg tee shot into a hugely undulating fairway that could kick your ball into the thirsty bunkers. The tee shots are tight, and the greens are rarely on the same level of the fairway. Players will thoroughly enjoy the stretch of holes 4 through 8 and 15 through 18 which stood out to me as Braid’s better holes. I enjoyed how the course often required less than driver off the tee in many places in order to relentlessly position your ball to safety or the best spot for the approach. While the greens are relatively tame, there’s plenty of blind tee shots that will remind you that you’re on a serious championship course that has hosted the world’s best for the past century.
When planning a trip to the “golf coast” of England, including Southport & Ainsdale is an absolute necessity. This James Braid masterpiece will quickly make you forget about its neighbours over the railway line.
I was lucky enough to visit S&A on a trip to the open at Birkdale this year. As the 1st of 3 courses played on the fabled England's Golf Coast we were certainly treated to some wonderful golf.
After 3.5/4 hours in the car the welcome at S&A was excellent, it had a lovely feel for a members club, a bag store to prop up your clubs and a terrace overlooking the putting green and 1st tee.
The 1st piece of advice is to hit the range...I love a putting green, but with the 1st tee viewable from the clubhouse there is pressure from the off at 200+yds into a prevailing wind. A strong start, if not for me, its certainly a par 3 you want to play well with 9 bunkers to catch a shot not quite struck in the grooves.
What follows is a lovely mix of links fairways, heather, gorse and strategic bunkering. My favourite of the 1st few holes is the par 4 5th, a strong hole which is great from tee to green. The hole narrows where you want your drive, and still have a long iron in, it felt great walking off with a par.
If you are a strong driver of the ball you can score well round this course, but need to know your lines off the tees, there are a few dog-legs, but most of the shaping is subtle, with the line important on all of the 6th, 7th and 9th, 11th and 12th. If negotiated off the tee you still need strong approaches, but the tee shots are key, and set up a score especially on the par 5's.
Interspersed in these holes are some lovely par 3's all requiring strong iron shots. The 8th perches on a hill, with anything short leaving a difficult pitch over the crest. The 10th a well bunkered hole after filling up at the halfway hut, and the 13th my favourite with a well shaped and sloped green.
The run-in follows the trainline that separates S&A from Hillside, with accuracy and course management essential. Its a lovely run-in to a clubhouse backdrop, and you can just see a 'sunday finish' whether it be for a club champs, knock-out final or the Ryder Cup in the 30's.
Definitely one to return to on a group trip.