North West England - Best in County Rankings 2019
This is the third of seven regional re-ranking reports for England. In this article we look at three counties – Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire – in the North West of the country. It’s an area that extends to around 5,500 square miles, with a population of around seven million people, bounded by the Scottish Borders to the north, the Pennines to the east, the West Midlands to the south and the Irish Sea to the west.
It’s along this final boundary that you’ll come across “England’s Golf Coast”, which is undeniably the finest stretch of links terrain to be found anywhere in the country, running all the way from the Fylde coast of Lancashire to Cheshire's Wirral peninsula. Here, you’ll come across a dozen of the best courses in the business, including three Royal tracks that have collectively hosted thirty-three editions of the Open Championship.
The North West is the third-most-populated region in England, dominated by the two large conurbations of Merseyside and Greater Manchester, and there are more than two hundred and seventy clubs operating here for the benefit of members and visitors alike. You’ll find a warm welcome awaiting at every club, whether it’s at a world-ranked links venue or a little 9-hole affair operating further inland within the Lake District.
More than half the chart positions in the Cheshire listings remain unaltered, including the No. 1 course at Royal Liverpool. The club marked its 150th anniversary this year by hosting the 47th edition of the Walker Cup, the latest in a long line of famous tournaments held down the years at Hoylake.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club
The club’s historic 18-hole layout has been in play since 1871, just a couple of years after the club was founded, making it one of the oldest links courses in England. Originally laid out by Old Tom Morris’s brother George and his long-term caddy Robert Chambers, the course was substantially altered by Harry Colt between the two wars before Donald Steel then Martin Hawtree carried out further modifications in more recent years.
The aesthetic merits of Royal Liverpool might divide opinion – reflected in reviews over the last two years – but nobody can ever argue about the course’s ability to identify true champion golfers, which can easily be verified by a look at the list of Open Championship winners at Hoylake.
Heswall Golf Club
Seven miles further south on the Wirral, the course at Heswall climbs three places to re-enter the Top 10 for Cheshire at number 10, following a recent course upgrade. Six greens were converted to USGA-standard putting surfaces and three fairways had additional drainage installed. A bunker refurbishment programme has also just got under way.
|1||Royal Liverpool||No change|
|2||Delamere Forest||No change|
|9||The Mere||Down 1|
|11||Reddish Vale||No change|
|12||Dunham Forest||Down 2|
|13||Wychwood Park||Down 1|
|15||Vale Royal Abbey||No change|
|16||Carden Park (Cheshire)||Up 1|
|17||Carden Park (Nicklaus)||Down 1|
|18||Portal (Championship)||No change|
|19||Mottram Hall||Up 1|
|20||Bramall Park||Down 1|
Still the No. 1 track in Cumbria, Silloth on Solway lies a little bit out of the way in the northwest corner of England, where the celebrated Scottish links course at Southerness sits less than ten miles away as the crow flies on the other side of the Solway Firth. It’s a relatively remote spot to get to within England but one that’s well worth reaching if top quality, yet highly affordable, links golf is what you’re after.
Silloth on Solway Golf Club
Our globe-trotting US Consultant Fergal O’Leary was here last year and had this to say about his visit: “Don’t let the isolated location scare you away. Pound for pound, this is the best value for golf in the UK and arguably the most underrated course in the continent… I was so impressed right from the first tee all the way to the last green… the abundance of appeal, strategy and architectural genius makes this course stand head and shoulders above the British links that the world is familiar with.”
Fifty miles inland from Silloth, close to the small market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland (famous for the town's annual Horse Fair), is where our biggest mover in the Cumbrian chart is located and it’s the old course at Appleby (up two places to No. 5).
Appleby Golf Club
This moorland layout was designed by Willie Fernie from St Andrews, who four years after winning the 1883 Open embarked on a 37-year tenure as the Troon professional, and it has been described as both “the Sunningdale of the North” and “Gleneagles in the raw.” Wherever you wish to liken it to, it’s set out on a bedrock of free-draining sandstone, allowing golfers to enjoy dry underfoot conditions all-year round on fairways bounded by heather and wispy rough.
|9||Kirkby Lonsdale||Down 1|
There’s little movement in our Lancashire chart. Indeed, all seven of the top courses are lined up in the same order as last time around in 2017 – and the revision before that in 2015, for that matter – which means that Royal Birkdale retains its status as the No. 1 course in the county. As far as player reviews on this site are concerned during this calendar year, all five have been 6-ball “Perfection” posts.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club
Comments from these reviewers include: “everything about this course, from beginning to your last putt on the 18th, oozes class… it truly was such a treat to play such a prestigious course and I will savour the experience for a very long time… proper links course, in my opinion one of the better Open tracks… afterwards, soup and a sandwich in the clubhouse and a last chance to soak up the history before leaving but vowing to return again.”
The course comes in for criticism from some links purists who don’t like the “motorway” fairways that were created by Fred Hawtree back in the day – and his grandson Martin’s remodelling of the 17th green also attracted criticism when the work was carried out a decade ago. Nonetheless, this mightily impressive layout still seems to tick all the boxes for most golfers who come here seeking to emulate the exploits of the great Open champions who’ve won here since the event was first hosted at Birkdale in 1954.
Manchester Golf Club
Ten years ago, the course at Manchester was only listed as a Gem on this platform. Now, in quite an incredible change of fortune as more and more golfers become aware of its undoubted charms, it moves up two places to No. 8 in the county standings. Fashioned by Harry Colt when the club moved to its current premises in 1912, the course is draped across an enormous property which comprises pockets of moorland, heathland and parkland in a heady amalgam of great golfing terrain.
|1||Royal Birkdale||No change|
|2||Royal Lytham & St Annes||No change|
|5||Southport & Ainsdale||No change|
|6||West Lancs||No change|
|9||St Annes Old Links||Down 1|
|12||Formby Ladies||Up 1|
|17||Bolton Old Links||No change|
|20||Formby Hall||Down 1|
The next region to come under the spotlight is the East of England and the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk will be examined in greater detail.
Top 100 Golf Courses