Review for Southport & Ainsdale

Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Review:

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.

Date: July 27, 2022


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