Hall Road West,
L23 8SZ ,
- +44 (0)151 924 1076
9 miles north of Liverpool.
Weekdays only, not before 9.30am
West Lancashire Golf Club is the oldest surviving golf club in Lancashire, although, strictly speaking, Blundellsands is now part of the borough of Merseyside. In 1901, Harold Hilton, one of the finest amateur golfers of all time, was the Secretary of West Lancashire Golf Club. That same year, he won the British Amateur Championship at St Andrews, beating J Low by one hole. Hilton was also the British Open champion in 1892 and 1897, a feat only surpassed by Bobby Jones, who won the British Open on three occasions, also as an amateur.
The club was founded in 1873. The course was originally designed by the hands of an unknown architect, but this is such a natural links that we suspect Mother Nature did most of the work. We do know that Ken Cotton and Fred Hawtree made significant revisions to the layout in the early 1960s.
Its esteemed Royal neighbours keep West Lancs out of the limelight but it is a truly classical links course, located on a charming stretch of prime links land. On a clear day, to the north, Blackpool Tower can be seen in the distance. To the southwest, there are panoramic views across the Crosby Channel to the Birkenhead peninsula and Liverpool Bay beyond.
James Finnegan, in his book All Courses Great and Small, articulately sums up the characteristics of West Lancs: “On the 355-yard 13th, we fire away from an elevated tee, the fairway curving left along a dune-framed valley to a green on a cunning low plateau. The next hole, 412 yards, also begins on a high tee in the sandhills, but this time the downhill drive is blind, over a ridge, and the fairway bends sweepingly right, around a thick stand of pines, finally disclosing a raised green tucked in the lee of a wooded hillside.”
The Guinness Book of Golf Facts and Feats tells the amazing story of Peter Richard Parkinson who, on 6th June 1972, at West Lancs, performed the British Isles’ longest hole in one. It was on the 7th hole, and clearly it was a mistake because the 7th is called “Folly”, a 393-yard par four. Either way, it was one hell of a biff!
Stuart King commented on James Finnegan’s description as follows: “I have been a member at West Lancashire for over 40 years and never seen the 14th tee that is reported as being in the sandhills!”
Had the pleasure of playing West Lancashire GC recently (Oct 11th) - WOW! I’ve been lucky enough to have played several links courses this year and to be honest, I’ve not had a bad experience yet. However, the conditions at West Lanc’s yesterday were simply superb.
After a warm welcome from the Professional staff, we spent some time on the practice areas fronting the clubhouse. The turf here was just a joy to chip and putt on, setting the standards which we found were maintained throughout the course.
I’m never sure when standing on the first tee of any course what to truly expect and perhaps at first glance, as you look across the 1st, 9th and 18th fairways / greens, you might be forgiven for thinking that the terrain looks a little uninspiring. Worry not though as you are in for a real treat.
From the moment the starter warmly greets you on the tee and happily shares his pride in his club, you start to get the feeling that you are in for something special. The 1st at just 428 yards (into a head wind) lures you onto the course where you really start to recognise the quality in front of you.
As I referred to earlier, the design and setup of the course is immaculate, from the sand in the bunkers (gives you great confidence to play from) to the contouring of the greens and surrounds. Bunkers designed to gather the ball and up turned saucers for greens, demand your attention and if you manage to walk off with a par, you have earned it.
There was simply nothing out of place and the attention to detail and pride of the greens team is easy to see.
The architecture of the clubhouse might not be everyone’s choice but the views from the lounge and the warmth of welcome from the staff cannot be denied. It all just added to a great day out.
We will be back!
The ferry did, indeed, go across the Mersey and to paraphrase Gerry Marsden, this land was a place I loved.
West Lancashire Golf Club looks out upon one of the most sung about estuaries in the world.
And the Stena Line ship arrived as we were taking our refreshment following the delayed spring open at this great old course.
The vistas out to sea are one of the hallmarks of a club made famous by Harold Hilton, its secretary in the early 1900s after his two Open wins at Muirfield and Hoylake
Hilton is remembered in the modern clubhouse with memorabilia and a photo of him playing in a three-piece suit and smoking a cigarette while in mid-swing.
As our intrepid quartet took on these tough links, I wondered how Hilton would have managed to score well with hickory clubs in heavy, often wet tweed.
Anyway, thanks to my partner's early blitz of birdies, we threatened to follow in his footsteps in grand style.
Sadly, good things rarely last but, while we didn’t live up to the dazzling pace, we did prove that, on a relatively calm sunny day, good scores are possible.
Actually, by ‘relatively calm’ I mean a wind which only required a two-club alteration. Goodness knows how a hoolie is accommodated.
Regardless, West Lancs was a joy – especially memorably for its fabulous green complexes which are in superb condition but often prompt delight to turn to dismay as approach shots fall from the putting surface into swales or, worse still, bunkers.
The potted sand traps are fiendish because they are narrow and the ball often ends up against a vertical face or extraction requires a gymnast’s flexibility to create a stance (twice I was forced to kneel on one leg on grass with one foot in the bunker).
The friendly chap in the pro shop had warned us to make sure we kept out of the rough but it wasn’t nearly as penal as he suggested.
Indeed, it was graduated so the ball could be played easily out of the first two cuts and would only be lost if shots were very wide.
Strategy and accuracy rather than big-hitting are key to success around West Lancs and this is reflected best by the short, dog-leg, par-four 7th.
My pals were tempted to cut off the corner where rough and bunkers lurk. I followed the less dangerous (chicken’s) route and chipped to ten feet for a birdie putt (I missed!).
The 13th is the course’s picture hole, curving from right to left, with a backdrop of the sea and 32 wind turbines, as high as the London Shard.
Delicate placement down the right is likely to yield a score, whereas bunkers will suck in shots just left of centre and bushes and a pond will punish hooks.
The quirkiest hole is the 14th, the men’s stroke index one, with a blind tee shot over gorse before bending round towards a green protected by woods to the right.
I hammered my best drive of the day and thought I had nailed a seven-iron into the green only for it to fall off to the left.
This was also my fate on the 15th which is ironically named Sniggery because it provided no chortles.
It requires a controlled drive to avoid trees and water to the right and out of bounds to the left. However, I can verify that is not the end of the danger because my approach slid down to the pot bunker at the side of the target and I couldn’t get out.
But the sting in the tail came on the long par-three 12th when my partner’s ball literally landed on a bees’ nest. I can’t think why he refused to play it.
Yes, West Lancs is at one with nature, fitting beautifully into the landscape and, at £55 for a better-ball competition with sandwiches and soup thrown in, it was among the best-value rounds of my top100 quest so far.
But, unfortunately, unlike Gerry, here I can't stay.
Played West Lancs again recently in an inter club match, one of my favourites and can't believe I have never reviewed it. Over recent years the new green keeper has presented this course in outstanding condition and appearance. This is a true test of links golf, for more probably one of the most underrated courses I have ever played, yes it can be tough but take what it gives you on the day and appreciate its glory.
Hole after hole provides different challenges from blind tee shots, small greens, dogleg holes, clever fairway bunkering this place had the lot and more in the tank. If your ever visiting the North West Coast be sure to include this beauty.
West Lancs didn’t quite hit the spot for me like other courses in the area did. It is an impressive layout, with its two loops of nine meaning the wind comes from all directions. It just, for me, missed a little charm or quirk, plus the three holes along the railway line have more parkland turf. It is a true championship course but is still playable if the wind is behaving.
The front nine is the slightly more linksy side, playing nearer the sea and challenging you with frequent doglegs. 7 was my pick as it is shorter and so really does dare you to cut the corner.
The back half plays closer to the railway than sea, although 13 (pictured) has perhaps the best sea-bound view on the course. 16 is a particularly memorable long hole, its aesthetic and bunkers worthy of an Open venue. All four par 3s are of a high standard, although similar in length.
So I would recommend West Lancs but not ahead of the courses a little further north. I didn’t leave the course besotted, but plenty of people have, so it’s best to visit and decide for yourself.
I played West Lancs twice in one day in an open competition in September 2018 and in varied conditions, the wind on certain holes in the afternoon blowing almost in the opposite direction to the morning - a good way to experience the different character of the holes.
The 2nd is one of my favourite holes on the course, a par five of 515 yards with two centre-line fairway pot bunkers to negotiate off the tee - avoid these and you will have a shot at the green in two, which is sneakily tucked in to the right behind a mound. The green is small and more receptive to short approaches than mid/long irons or woods, making accuracy key in the approach play. The lay-up is complicated by a bunker 30 yards from the front, so strategy is a major factor.
The 3rd is my pick of the par threes, it is 160 yards at most downhill to a green with four pot bunkers short and right, framed in a majestic amphitheatre setting. Beautiful! The 4th is the hole where the most prevalent themes of the course reveal themselves - not necessarily aesthetically great, daunting and edgy - not immediately littered with obvious danger, but dangerous! It is a left-to-right par four with a wide driving zone, but with O.B. left and some horrible deep grassy hollows to the right you must hit this fairway as the approach becomes quite narrow and undulating the closer you get to the green, hence the stroke index of 4. The 5th is par five that, like the 2nd, is reachable even for average length hitters if the wind is helping, relatively flat towards the green, albeit with five bunkers scattered around.
The 7th is my favourite hole on the course, a hole of great character. The tee rests at one of the highest points on the grounds from where there is a panoramic view of the course, surroundings and bay area. It is a sharp dogleg right and, in the appropriate wind, cutting the corner and going for the green are options for big hitters, though for most it is about finding position left of the bunkers off the tee and hitting a precise approach to hold the green that perilously falls off both left and right. The front nine closes with two par fours, both favouring tee shots shaped from right-to-left, the 8th downhill and off the large mound on the right side of the fairway and the 9th off the fairway-side bell. These are two tough holes if the wind is against you, the 8th in particular, where it is not uncommon to see tee shots lost right onto the 2nd fairway leaving a long 200+ shot to the green.
The back nine begins with a benign flat par four that plays very short if downwind and provided you manage to avoid the five fairway bunkers. A charming hole and birdie chance to set you off on the back side. Then, the long 11th, one of the more memorable holes on the course, running seemingly forever and ever along the boundary of the grounds with the Liverpool-Southport railway line passing by on the right. It is a 585 yard straight hole with four bunkers to trouble the tee shot, three to consider on the second shot and two at the green, the one on the right in particular possessing magnetic powers.
The stroke saver describes the 12th as being "widely recognised as one of the great par threes". I found this an odd statement on reflection as I would prefer both the 3rd and 6th over this one. That said, it is clearly a very good golf hole. Around 180 yards slightly uphill to an elevated green surrounded by dunes and with two deep pot bunkers short right. The 13th on the other hand is rightly highlighted for a great vista from the elevated tee and is also a super par four. It veers right to left around a high dune, with three pot bunkers on the left side of the fairway at the foot of the dune. You want to have a short approach as the green is dangerously perched on a ledge with fall-offs short and right, so it should be accessed from the right side as the contours will help feed the ball to the middle of the green.
The par four 14th hole is the hardest on the course. It is a long dogleg right with several complications: a blind tee shot; a solitary bunker and jungle to the right to deter cutting the corner off the tee; there is room left but the further left you go the more you turn the hole into a par five; straight tee shots can overrun the fairway find a hazard; the second shot towards the elevated green, which is overlooked by a smattering of trees, leaves little margin for error left or right with long grass and bushes rendering the best miss short. If it's into the wind it really is a total brute. There is not much respite after this as the 15th is another tough par four that demands a long approach to a narrow green area if you don't hit a solid drive to the left half of the fairway. The O.B. wall and railway is all down the left and is a factor on both tee shot and approach, whilst tee shots too far right off the tee will be partially blocked out by trees. I found actually this hole just as difficult as the 14th in the end.
If you have managed to keep your score together to the 16th tee you have done well and this straight par five might offer a birdie chance, but you must be precise with both your tee shot and second shots due to the bunkering. The par three 17th is around 200 yards with a green shape / bunker position that probably favours a left-to-right flight. Then to the closing hole, a straight par four, asking a very accurate tee shot due to the unusual links-land pond on the right of the fairway and bunkers left to capture the obvious bail-out. It's quite common to see players with good scores on the go aiming down the 10th fairway here, a point that perhaps takes away from the hole slightly I would suggest.
Pick of the holes: Par 3 – 3rd; Par 4s - 7th, 13th; Par 5 - 2nd.
Who is keeping West Lancs such a secret? An outstanding golf course with some magic holes and presented in wonderful condition. Every bit as good as its close neighbours, probably worthy of a rating higher than S&A.
West Lancs is a beautifully pristine links, in the brilliant condition that you’d expect of an Open venue so it’s no wonder this place is often used for final qualifying. Routed with two loops of nine, this is a strong and true test of links golf where closely mown run-off areas are combined with thick rough to keep the examination tough and proper. Combine that with views out to the Liverpool Docks, the hills of North Wales and Gormley’s statues on the beach adjacent to the opening holes, and West Lancs has some great ingredients.
If you like your links golf unfussy and in front of you, then West Lancs is a course that you’ll thoroughly enjoy. Personally, I favour courses with quirk and character, and as good a course as this is, I felt West Lancs a little lacking in this department. There are no particular stand out or memorable holes, but instead it’s a series of strong holes, one after the other. If I was to name some of the more noteworthy, the 2nd with a centre line bunker in play from the tee and a sneaky pot bunker behind a dune before a slightly hidden green had some interesting traps up its sleeve. The 7th, a short par four with a grouping of bunkers protecting the corner of the dogleg was another of the picks from the front nine.
If we’re talking charm and character, I felt that the back nine had the edge over the front. A lovely mid-length Birkdale-esque par three at the 12th is followed by the excellent 13th, played from a raised tee box to raised green, with a view of the sea in the distance and a depressed dogleg fairway in between, this was the middle of my favourite stretch of holes through the course. A change of scenery follows at 14 and 15 as trees come into play, the first hole of these being long and blind and the other short and tight, both making good, strategic holes.
Overall West Lancs provides a good day out and is a hearty, genuine links but it’s probably a level below some of the other top class courses in this golf-rich region.
West Lancashire does not quite get the credit it deserves as it is surrounded by the likes of formby, hillside, S&A and Birkdale all nearby. As West Lancashire is given a Liverpool postcode I feel like it doesn’t quite get the same recognition as the Southport courses, yet it is equally as good! As soon as we entered through the gates we knew we were going to be in for a real treat and a fantastic links course was ahead of us. The general vibe of the golf club was good and everyone was very friendly with us. The condition of the course was immaculate with the greens rolling very well, the bunkers being fantastic and the fairways and tees being cut beautifully.
The par 3s were fantastic with my favourite of them being the 3rd hole. A short hole measuring only 160 yards from an elevated tee, well protected by bunkers to the right and a narrow green to hit to with many run offs. A few other favourites of mine would be the par 4 8th which was a very long hole playing about 430 yards. A blind tee shot followed by a tough approach shot with a slightly raised green to hit into. For me holes 13,14 and 15 were a fantastic stretch of holes on the back nine. 13 was a short par 4 with a trio of bunkers up the left hand side of the fairway. 14 plays as the hardest hole on the course at 430 yards with a blind tee shot but a beautiful 2nd shot into the green with trees running up the right hand side. 15 was a short par 4 dog leg right requiring an accurate tee shot and hidden bunkers around the green making it a very challenging hole.
When I look back at West Lancs golf club I realise that there are no real weak holes on the entire golf course with each hole bringing a new challenge. I really enjoyed my round there and definitely plan on returning back to play there again soon!
As with nearby Hillside, a game of two halves, although the differences are smaller at West Lancs. The front nine, nearer the sea is more austere. The back nine, especially the stretch between holes 12 to 15, offers a lot more vegetation and land movement.
I found that I liked the look of the front nine better, but rather than wishing that the whole course looked like that I felt that the variety actually enriches the course and makes it more memorable, although not all green sites on the back nine were to my liking.
West Lancs represents a different take on the links theme to its links brethren in the Southport area and I would put it as my 5th priority after the three Open venues and Formby when planning a tour to the area. In the real world of budgets and availability/time constraints, this means that it will go on the itinerary most of the time...
Finally, a plus is that you can take the train to the course. Hall Road station is probably as close to a club house as any train station in the UK. Keep this in mind if you wish to set up a car-independent itinerary!
What a fantastic course! West Lancs should be world famous. Make no mistake, this is the real deal; a proper links course which challenges every aspect of your game. You come off feeling like you've had a proper examination - but, wow, it's fun. We played in June and it was fast and firm - proper running golf. Greens were in good nick and the whole experience was a joy. Every bit as good as it's more illustrious neighbours. Play it if you can.