St Annes Old Links Golf Club Feature Review

By: Andrew Picken | Wed 23 Sep 2020 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Andy Picken


The coastal area around Fylde is famous for sandy beaches, illuminated promenades, piers, and candyfloss. Lytham St Annes is definitely an area blessed with excellent golf, including access to lots of accommodation that makes it the perfect destination for a group trip. Royal Lytham & St Annes, Fairhaven, and St Annes Old Links all rate highly on Golfshake. Blackpool Airport is close by, so you are regularly hearing and seeing aircraft - helicopters in particular.

History

St Annes Old Links was established in 1901 on land that had been used for golf since 1886. It was previously the home of Lytham & St Annes Golf Club. This club moved a short distance to the south side of the town to what is now the Championship Course after failing to obtain assurances from the landlord regarding future tenure of the land.

In 1901, the entrance fee to the newly located Lytham & St Annes Golf Club had risen to five guineas, so according to local newspaper the LythamTimes; “the club had become too exclusive for many of the shopkeepers and traders who desired to play the game locally.”

The popularity of golf was growing massively so George Lowe, the professional at Royal Lytham & St Annes, asked for permission to reinstate the previous course to its former purpose. He recognised that the barren, windswept strip of Lancashire coast lent itself directly to golf. Comprising of sand dunes, wild grasses and even a few beaten down trees, this was an ideal location for a superb course.

Branding was an issue even in those times, and the club was first known as Old Links Golf Club, St Annes on the Sea. Over time this has evolved to the current SAOL - St Annes Old Links. The 10th and 17th holes can lay claim to be the oldest in the area having remained in use all that time.

Pre-Round Thoughts

My first impression on parking in the car park was how flat and barren the course looked from this perspective.

This changed quickly once inside the old fashioned, traditional, but highly functional clubhouse. This is a members club but as a visitor we were made to feel very welcome by staff and members alike.

On walking to the locker room, I immediately noticed that the short game practice area was of an excellent quality. The humps and swales tested every short of shot likely to be later faced.

Each litter bin had fixed lids such was the strength of the wind. The bunkers are such an integral part of the course that sterilised rakes are issued personally to each golfer intending to play. There are few trees on the course but those that remain have been battered and twisted by the weather giving another indication of how much a factor the wind can play.

Front 9 Overview

This is a pure links course. If you are errant off the tee it is better to be wildly off-line as there is a better chance of reaching an adjoining fairway rather than being slightly off-line, which will undoubtedly find the penal and strong natural grasses and rough requiring sensible and conservative recovery play.

It's definitely a challenge and I would suggest my particular preference are the holes that are closest to the clubhouse itself. The signature hole for the course is the 9th. It was known as “Cannon” and the long and thin green complex has a wonderful layout. It is hardly visible from the tee so ensure you note the flag position before your round commences. According to locals, club selection ranges from a driver to a wedge dependant on the wind direction.

Bobby Jones visited here to practice prior to his Open success in 1926 at Royal Lytham & St Annes. He was so enamoured with the design concept and its construction that he arranged for architects to take detailed and accurate measurements. It has been suggested that these have then been used as inspiration for courses he constructed in America. The most famous being Augusta National.

Back 9 Overview

All of the short holes on this course are astonishingly good. I particularly like the 16th which was known as “Keepers Trap."

There is a crowned and elevated green protected by a necklace of pot bunkers and swales directing any off-line shots into them. Out of Bounds fencing runs down the entire right-hand side of the hole to prevent access to the nearby airport. There is absolutely no protection for the wind that blows from this direction. The hills and dunes to the rear horizon of this hole are immense and despite the proximity of housing this is visually a lovely golf hole.

Verdict

If you enjoy tough, well presented links courses then this venue is definitely worth a visit. My intention is to try and return during the winter because I think that this turf will play superbly given the free draining sand and the way in which the course was set up. The greens were excellent. True and running at a decent pace.

I would venture that it is a near impossibility to navigate your way around St Annes Old Links without a visit to a bunker. They are exceedingly well placed. Please note that their effective footprint is much larger than it appears from the tee such are the slopes and the tightness of the cut turf.

To succeed here you need to be able to plot and plan and manoeuvre your way around the course. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and found it to be a good test of your golf game. The final three holes alone would be sufficient to tempt me back, but add in the great short holes and I can see why this rates as Highly Recommended by the Golfshake Community.

Overall Rating - 9

Course (Conditions) - 9

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 8

Course (Green Condition) - 9

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8

Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 8

Practice Facilities - 8

Friendliness/Hospitality - 8

Pace of Play - 10

Value for Money - 8


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