It’s one of the finest courses on the Open rota and, in the run up to the Senior Open, we went out and took on the challenge...
Reason for a Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club review
I committed last winter to playing at least once a week so have been trying to get to as many really good winter courses as possible. Where better than an Open championship links? Low and behold others had the same idea as the place was bustling with lots of visitors taking advantage of the reduced rates and the opportunity to show off their new Galvins.
Where is Royal Lytham?
Royal Lytham & St Annes is south of Blackpool and across the estuary from Southport. Driving from Manchester you will be there in around an hour.
There is little sense, driving in among all the housing, that you are just about to turn into an Open venue.
Sir Michael Bonallack describes it well on the club website: “The first time you arrive at the entrance the somewhat foreboding exterior of the clubhouse gives a totally false impression of the wonderful experience that is awaiting you.”
If you are lucky enough to visit, arrive early enough to afford yourself a history lesson courtesy of some magnificent portraits in the Victorian clubhouse – halfway up the stairs sits a magnificent portrait of Seve, winner of two Opens here, while in the dining room there is an immense portrait of Bobby Jones who won the first of three Championships at Lytham in 1926.
And leave yourself at least a good hour for lunch which will likely be spent pondering that first tee shot and precise approach to the last.
On the course you’ll find the only par 3 opening hole on the rota, the most northerly of the Open layouts in England and a links course that isn’t beside the sea, rather one that has a rather daunting railway line that can be found on six of the front nine.
And bunkers, lots and lots of bunkers. Of all the Open venues this has the most, probably by some distance.
I have no idea how people navigate the opening stretch, the whole thing is like a massive build up of pressure as you tip toe along the railway, and I love each hole a bit more than the last.
I always find that by the time I reach the turn I am exhausted and never capitalise on the light relief of a short 4 and reachable 5 that start the back nine.
The 8th I think is the hole I think of when I think of Lytham.
My best bits
Hitting a proper iron shot on the 1st to the middle of the green. I have never managed this before. From the tee tucked in behind the pro shop, there is an eerie quiet, you are at an Open venue, it is the opening tee shot, and you wanted it to be a big whale with a driver, unfortunately it is a 6-iron so to actually hit it sweetly is a very fine feeling.
What to look out for
Bobby Jones’ plaque at the 17th would be a good start. Tied with Al Watrous with two to play, the amateur hit a wayward drive left before a remarkable 175-yard recovery from the sand dunes to the green. The plaque is just beside a fairway bunker.
Jones played the last five holes in 4-3-4-4-4 and won by two.
The mashie-iron he used that day now hangs below his painting in the clubhouse.
Otherwise watch a brilliant YouTube video of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price and Nick Faldo slugging it out on the final day to appreciate some of the magic on show that day in 1988.
And for all the talk of Seve being the “car park champion” in 1979 his drive at the 16th wasn’t that wide, it’s just that the cars were parked too close to the fairway.
It’s also worth a watch of how Tony Jacklin closed out his Open win in 1969 and quite how nerveless his final drive was.
When I go back
I will stay in the Dormy house, I have never done it and it is supposed to be a sensational experience, made even better by their recent refurbishment and keen pricing.
1 night, DB&B with one round of golf on day of arrival or day of departure – £301pp.
1 night, DB&B with two rounds of golf on consecutive days – £456pp
For more information, visit the Royal Lytham & St Annes website.