Played by NCG: HillsideJanuary 5, 2017 Courses & Travel
An Open qualifying course in sensational condition and one that Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus love - what's not to like about Hillside?
Where is Hillside?
Two miles south of Southport on a magnificent strip of land which sees Royal Birkdale, Hillside and Southport & Ainsdale all run next to one another. And, despite the name, it is a proper links.
Reason for going
Like I say it is a links and there is not much better than teeing it up on a December morning at comfortably one of the top 50 links courses in the UK. And I had one day of holiday left to take.
What to expect
If you haven’t been before then you might have heard the high praise that Greg Norman paid the course after a visit back in 1982. He wrote a thank you note to the club describing it as ‘The back nine holes are the Best in Britain.’
If you have been to Hillside then you will know what he is on about. Though there is much to love about the front nine. The opening tee shot requires all your nerve to stop looking at the railway that runs down the left, think Prestwick but in reverse, and the par-5 2nd is probably the pick of the front nine where the railway again could play a part (it did).
The short 7th is a treat of a par 3 (left) and you are back near the clubhouse two holes later. And then the fun really starts with a sensational par 3 and a jaw-dropping par 5, more of which in a bit. While the front nine is generally on flatter land, the back features more elevation and what you might expect from what Jack Nicklaus described as a ‘wild looking links’.
The 17th runs the other way to the 11th and is a similarly impressive hole before the closing hole, at 439 yards, provides the ideal finish. Two very well-struck shots are required to finish your round on a high (no I didn’t).
My best bit
The view from the elevated 11th tee with large chunks of Birkdale and S&A in view while the tee shot is where you will dream of hitting your Sunday best.
Every hole is good, there isn’t anywhere where you sense that standards have dropped and the thrill of the ride just gets better, or at least maintains the lofty standards of the 10th and 11th, the further into the round you go.
And you won’t feel uncomfortable here, the clubhouse is unstuffy and, should time allow, arrive early. Not just to hit balls on the vast expanse of practice ground but to enjoy the Full English Breakfast on logoed plates. Like the course, everything is just so.