- +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.
Very little to choose between S & A that makes the Top 100 list and Formby and West Lancs that do not reflecting the increasing competitiveness as new courses are built and older courses upgrading. More in the Hillside, Formby bracket with a mix of landscape design part links, part parkland, part heath. Favourite holes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 14 and the epic 16th.