Played by NCG: St Annes Old Links
Reason for a St Annes Old Links course review
This was the only gap on my North West resume and everyone who had been had lots of good things to say about it. So a short overnight trip was planned and Royal Lytham & St Annes, Fairhaven and St Annes Old Links were pencilled in as an early-season treat.
Where is St Annes Old Links?
Just up the road from its famous royal neighbour and just south of Blackpool. The current 10th and 18th holes were part of a previous layout before the club relocated with nine holes being laid out by the club pro George Lowe in 1901 and another nine added nine years later by Sandy Herd. The Big Dipper and Tower are constant reminders of where you are in the world.
What to expect
If there is a dictionary definition of a ‘good old honest links’ then this is it. Nine holes out, nine holes back, pretty much flat as a pancake, some brilliant bunkering and outstanding greens. And if you get it on a windy day expect some brutal hitting and some soft par 5s.
Take the 347-yard 1st which, played into a 40-mph wind, was a good drive and a solid 6-iron which never looked like reaching the green.
Then, to finish you have a downwind 514-yard par 5 (below), which even with the gusts dropping you should still be able to reach with a short iron.
Without wishing to point fingers but if you are particularly wide off the tee (like my playing partner) then you could well flourish here. Miss the fairways by a matter of yards (like me) and you will make a lot of bogeys.
It’s virtually impossible to talk about St Annes Old Links without a mention of their spectacular par-3 9th which is, in truth, fairly out of character with its surrounds given the dunes that frame the green in front of the clubhouse. Reports suggest that Bobby Jones, playing in the 1926 Open at Lytham, took detailed measurements of the hole to recreate something like it at home in the States.
Though the green at the 15th, the short 16th and long 17th would get my nod as things seem to step up a level in terms of presentation the more you go on. The 320-yard par-4 10th is also pretty cool as you head off from the very impressive clubhouse.
My best bit
Finding the green at the 16th in a right-to-left crosswind which something like a fade (I thinned it) which I haven’t managed since 1988. Despite the seven bunkers, constant gusts and upturned green I found the middle of the green without any fanfare. And then three-putted.
St Annes Old Links course review: what to look for
Over the years the likes of Water Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have played the old links and there will be plenty of other notable names to add to that list with the news that Final Qualifying for the Open Championship will be held here for the next four years.
When I go back
I’d like to think my playing partner would get in more trouble off the tee, I’d like to not make a mess of the famous 9th hole ‘Cannon’ and, ideally, the wind would only be gusting at around 20mph. As for the turf, bunkers, speed of the greens and general ambience of the whole place I’d like things to stay just the same.