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.
Date: March 29, 2020