The West Lancashire Golf Club Feature Review

By: Richard Moore | Wed 21 Oct 2020 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Richard Moore


Founded in 1873, The West Lancashire Golf Club (‘West Lancs’) is among the oldest clubs in England and is home to a renowned course that is Highly Recommended on Golfshake. West Lancs has frequently been a Qualifying Venue for The Open Championship and it's easy to see why.

Golf architect Donald Steel is quoted on the Official Website as saying: "Only in Britain can one savour the true flavour of seaside golf, of which West Lancashire is a perfect example."

Likewise, Tommy Fleetwood said: "Between tournaments I always make time to play West Lancs. A proper links which is always in top condition, a must play for any golfer."

Robert Rock commented: "One of my favourite links courses in England, always in fantastic condition. A great test of golf and should be on any golfers must play list."

Pre-Round Thoughts

West Lancs

(Immaculate Greens at West Lancs)

My brother-in-law has played all of the courses on England’s Golf Coast (Merseyside) and having played West Lancs most recently, he said it is so good that I just had to visit. So, I went to see for myself. 

To say I was excited was an understatement. I even received a welcoming message on Twitter the day before, so I was all set on arrival.

West Lancs is very accessible – just 40 minutes from the M6 junction with the M62, and even has a railway station by the club’s entrance – Hall Road Station (on the MerseyRail linking Liverpool to Southport line). It is 20 minutes by train from Liverpool.

As there is no dormy accommodation at West Lancs, quite a few golfers stay at the Hilton or Malmaison hotels in Liverpool for the added nightlife, offering good access to other golf clubs like Formby too.

I was given the warmest welcome: Initially ‘Ray the starter’ met me at the door and asked how he could help, which was a nice touch. I then met the Head Pro Gavin Abson who had been in similar roles at Royal Troon and Loch Lomond, so the fact he has now been at West Lancs for over six years is a glowing recommendation on its own.

I had a tour of the clubhouse, which was built in the 1960s and is ultra-modern inside. Great moments have been captured in the entrance when some of the game’s greats have played there like Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle.

There is a marvellous first floor restaurant with wonderful views over the 9th and 18th greens and beyond (which may raise a few eyebrows as most links courses go right out for the front nine and loop back again so you only see the clubhouse on the way back).

It's reasonably priced for a full breakfast, and ideally situated to enjoy sunsets in the summer and you can see some of the passing ships on the Mersey Estuary and across the bay to Snowdonia.

There is an excellent practice facility for around 10 golfers at a time - based on all-weather ‘astro-turf’ – but you can step forward to use tees in the ground to practice your driver. A well-priced warm up basket later and you are ready to step just 30 yards to your right and onto the 1st tee.

Ray steps up as the starter to ensure the smooth running of the start and offers a helping hand picking your line for the opening tee shot and even calms any initial nerves with some amusing anecdotes.

Front 9 Overview

(The 6th)

The first thing that struck me was the firmness of the fairways. They were in incredible condition. Then the condition of the bunkers with beautiful sand (no stones!) and the greens. They were firm and ran very true. I hardly needed my pitch repairer all day. Nor did I need to pick any stones off the green from a previous player’s bunker shot. It was all pristine.

Even though the course was busy, it was so tranquil. Just the sound of the wind and the occasional train going past. It is peace on earth. I’m a 12 handicap and I played off yellow tees (slope rating of 135).

I enjoyed the opening hole as you need to avoid the three pot bunkers on the right and rough and OOB on the left (where the practice ground is) before it dog-legs to the right towards the green. Ordinarily, you play into the wind, but the day I played it was off the left so helped the approach shot. A great opener.

I liked the 2nd even more with the elevated tee providing great views over the sea/estuary. A true links shot with two bunkers slap bang in the middle of the fairway to concentrate the mind. Beware the incredibly tough rough behind the green which consumed my ball after a thinned wedge approach. Beware as there are a few holes where the green is beautifully framed by a bank of the long grass that sways at least a foot high. It looks so good but not when you hunt for your ball!

The 3rd is a really nice mid-length par 3 from an elevated tee with some devilish bunkers surrounding (very similar to the first par 3 at Burnham & Berrow). Fortunately, I had not anticipated how strong the wind was ‘helping’ so my pushed shot missed all of the bunkers long, but then I got to experience the real delights of West Lancs’ greens with the immaculate but punishing run-off areas from the putting surface. Your ball can end up in a hollow anywhere between two and six feet below the green leaving a ‘heart in the mouth’ chip or a Texas wedge (depending on how brave you are). But this for me typifies the fun you will have at West Lancs. Tough but fair!

The 4th again is an elevated tee shot towards a dog-leg right. You need to trust the course guide here as with wind behind you are tempted to cut the dog-leg but the rough is rough! With the breeze behind this was my drive of the day, but the wind direction was not typical, leaving just a wedge in.

The 5th was a 180 degree about-turn made even harder due to the wind direction. The tee shot was precarious having to negotiate three pot bunkers right in the landing zone for your drive. The hole dog-legs left to a well-guarded green. At 405 yards into wind it is a big test.

Take a look from the fairway to the raised green on 6th which looks impressive and readies you for your short tee shot to follow on the par 3. There’s a nice seat beside the elevated 7th tee ideal for your lunch or a drink with panoramic views back across the course and out over the sea.

The 7th is a 90-degree dog-leg to the right that reminded me of Amsterdam’s International Golf Course’s 2nd hole (where the European Tour held the KLM Open in 2019). Depending on wind direction you could take the green on at 320 yards (in fact a ‘hole in one’ was recorded here in June 1972 - the longest ace in the Guinness Book of Records! But for mere mortals and short hitters like me, it is picking a spot on the corner guarded by four bunkers. Concentrate on your approach to the green as a miss to the right and you are left six feet below the green in one steep runoff area akin to a WWI trench!

(The 8th)

The 8th is another impressive elevated tee where you need to carefully pick your spot as you head down a channel between dunes - reminiscent of Saunton East’s 4th tee shot and its 3rd fairway where you walk down the channel of dunes. Loved it!

The 9th finishes back at the clubhouse. There is water to the left - but this only really comes into play for a wild hooked drive. The course is well laid out so there is very little ‘green to tee’ walking except the short walk around the 18th green to find the 10th tee that takes you to the most easterly part of the course near the railway line. This provided some memories of Formby’s opening three holes which also hug the train line.

Back 9 Overview

(The 12th)

The 10th also reminds me (as do a good few parts of the course) of the opener at Royal St David’s in Harlech. A little bleak and featureless at times with just imposing bunkers in your landing zone to concentrate your mind. The tee on 11th was closed so only the forward tees were in operation, but I think there would be a lot of fun teeing it up off the back needing to carry a fair bit of rough to reach the short stuff. The forward tees made it quite short but still a fun hole being so close to the railway - avoid the slice at all costs! 

The 12th is an intimidating par 3. All you can think about is carrying the imposing front bunkers – anywhere else will do! I found the back of the green and only on the walk up do you see the immense false front to the green. ‘Club up’ or you could be 50 yards short with the ball still rolling down the hill!

Then the highlight of my round was on the 13th tee. It’s an impressive view down to the fairway and the sea beyond the course boundary. Three pot bunkers guard the corner and tempt the big hitter to take them on. But the really impressive bit lies right behind you. The championship tee is virtually as high as the trees beside it. A skiers’ drag lift wouldn’t look amiss up the steep slope to its summit. Think I will tee one up there next time - provided my vertigo does not get the better of me. The green has no bunkers, but you may have a semi-blind approach to it.

The 14th tee is the only blind tee shot – I recall Gavin the Pro suggesting a line between the church spire and the marker post. Sadly, it was my worst tee shot and my first penalty off the tee. But having taken my medicine, the approach to the green is wonderful. The raised green looks spectacular as it is surrounded by the only group of trees on the course and provides a certain likeness to some holes on Formby Ladies Golf Course. Loved this hole.

The 15th is relatively short but there is much to negotiate. Firstly, you must be wary of the railway line on the left for any hooked drive. Anything pushed right will be blocked out by the aforementioned trees. Then an iron into the green.

(The 13th)

I managed to play to my handicap until the last three holes when the wind probably tore into my resolve more than I realised. The 16th is just a long straight uphill par 5 which I ended up not scoring (having lost two balls) but I started to catch a glimpse back to the clubhouse and the end of the round.

The last par 3 was the 17th needing me to select a long iron to reach 155 yards straight into the wind, which was challenging. Some deep bunkers to avoid here at all costs.

The final hole provides an interesting tee shot through a tunnel of dunes. Avoid the heavy rough to the left (blind from the tee) and the lake on the right. Again, it played longer than the 410 yards due to the wind but an impressive last hole in front of the clubhouse.

Verdict

Overall, I was really impressed by the standard of West Lancs. The course’s tag line is “the truest links on England’s Golf Coast’’ and it sums up the experience perfectly. Like many links courses there is nothing beautiful about the scenery, but the quality of the layout is how you judge it. The best greens I have played on.

Watch out for the unique wildlife. I spotted a few quite big furry black caterpillars. And the friendly pheasants that come up to you looking for food. Never seen that before!

I can’t say anything about the bunkers as I was careful to avoid them all day. There are lots of small pots which looked more of a nuisance instead of being menacing (none like the monsters at Woodhall Spa) but I'm still glad that I wasn’t in any. However, the sand quality looked super. As for going back and playing here again? Definitely.

Overall Rating - 10

Course (Conditions) - 10

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10

Course (Green Condition) - 10

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8

Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 10

Practice Facilities - 8

Friendliness/Hospitality - 10

Pace of Play - 10

Value for Money - 10


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