First class golf is only one of the attractions of Lytham St Anne’s. To visit this quintessentially English resort on the Lancashire coast is to experience the best of domestic tourism. It wants for nothing in terms of facilities, services and ambience. Solid, peaceful and unchanging, it is easy to imagine life here in a pre-war era, when families and golfers would arrive by train for their annual holidays by the seaside.
Largely Victorian in origins, its architecture is a delight to behold. Handsome, pristine villas line the broad pavements, interspersed with venerable hotels that have pumped the economic lifeblood into the community for a century or more. Tradition and quality are evident at every turn, and they go hand in hand with good value at Lytham St Anne’s.
In fact they are twin towns, with separate identities, although you’d be hard pressed to find the join. The locals say Lytham is the resort and St Anne’s is where they live but like a good marriage the union becomes stronger with each passing decade.
As its name implies, the Royal Lytham & St Anne’s Golf Club has bridged the imaginary divide since 1886, making a major contribution to the community’s prosperity as the frequent stage for the Open Championship, first played here in 1926. Every seven years or so a torrent of wealth cascades into the town as the golfing world beats a path to its door but the spin-off is perpetual as visiting golfers make the pilgrimage, to play the great links and the three nearby courses whose names have become synonymous with the Open.
Fairhaven, St Anne’s Old Links and Lytham Green Drive have all been venues for final qualifying and although the latter is no longer suitable (it’s deemed too short for modern championship play) it remains a major attraction, not least for its superb presentation and facilities.
Unlike its links land neighbours, the Green Drive course is a tapestry of emerald, as lush as could be imagined and heavily wooded in parts. Trees influence play on most holes and they also protect the course from the wind that is a major factor on the adjoining links.
It’s a fine club course, easy walking and tight but fair, with rough that will cost half a shot. At 6,194 yards to par 70, it has some short and tempting two shotters but the big hitters should think twice before chancing their arm. Sound course management is an imperative here.
You’ll not find a prettier course in a long day’s drive and when you see those greens you’ll want to roll them up and take them home! There’s a cracking clubhouse too and you’ll be made most welcome, in true Lancashire fashion.
The club was founded in 1913, which was 12 years after St Anne’s Old Links first saw play. This grand old course was laid out by Alex Herd, hard by the sand dunes that overlook the Irish Sea at the north end of town. So the wind is a major factor here in fact it holds the key on most days.
With the exception of three one shotters, all the holes run roughly north to south or the reverse and the prevailing wind is a westerly, or variations thereof, and invariably on the sharp side of brisk. To exacerbate those problems and unusually for a links, this one has four ponds that influence play on six holes. This compounds the interest in high summer when the fairways produce some fiery bounces. It offers pure links golf, traditional, demanding, exhilarating, the very essence of the game.
The course has been used for final qualifying for the Open since 1926 and a further measure of its quality is the number of national events it has hosted, the English Amateur, the British Ladies’ and the World Seniors’ Championship among them. Plainly, this is one not to be missed. It’s a class act.
Those sentiments also apply to Fairhaven, although it differs in style and character. It might be described as seaside parkland with stands of trees and flowering bushes giving perspective to a site that, in keeping with the region, is flatter than your average kitchen floor.
It was laid out in 1922 by a local architect with some in-put from James Braid, whose distinctive bunkering is readily recognisable, particularly the fore-shortening cross bunkers that became popular in that era.
The renowned greens are of modest size and generally flat so plainly the priority is putting the tee shot into the required position for the approach. The fairways are generous but miss one of them and, more often than not, you can forget about par.
Hit the greens in regulation, though, and if you can putt at all you’ll be in seventh heaven, as Justin Leonard discovered in final qualifying for the 1996 Open. Justin, a sublime putter, shot a course record 64 and was granted honorary membership in consequence.
The par of 74 owes much to five par 5s, four of them on the back nine including a closing run of 5-5-3-5. The better player in full fig will reach most of them in two but normal mortals with anything like a short game will have a grand day if they keep their wits about them and temper ambition. Fairhaven is one of the unsung gems of English golf and not to be missed.
There’s little we can tell readers about Royal Lytham that they haven’t seen for themselves, in person or via television. Access has been somewhat restricted in recent years but a new policy has opened the gate rather wider.
Mondays and Thursdays are assigned to corporate groups but some tee times have become available through the week, and even on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. In keeping with demand, the costs are not cheap (see the information panel elsewhere) but playing this great links is an imperative when visiting the town. Make up a four ball for 36 holes and have lunch in the grand old clubhouse. It will be the highlight of your golfing year.
From the north, follow M6 to Junction 32 and go west on M55 then follow signs.
From the south, follow M6 to Preston turn-off (Junction 31); head for Blackpool, turning off on the A584, the coast road to Lytham.
The Royal Lytham & St Anne’s GC, Links Gate, Lytham St Anne’s FY8 3JQ
Green fees: midweek £105 per round or £155 per day. Weekends £155 per round.
Book any time from two weeks in advance up to 24 hours.
Handicap certificates required. Maximum 21. Ladies welcome.
Pre-booked caddies available at £30 per round, plus tip.
Clubhouse access available. Light catering at any time; notice required for hot meals.
For reservations telephone 01253.724.206 ext 229.
Location: follow the A584, which becomes Clifton Drive. Watch for the famous White Church on the left, then drive a further mile or so to the lights by St Thomas’ Church. Turn right here, go over the railway bridge and the clubhouse is first right.
See also www.royallythamgolf.co.uk
Lytham Green Drive GC, Ballam Road, Lytham St Anne’s, FY8 4LE
Green fees: midweek £32 per round or £40 per day. Weekends £35 by arrangement.
Handicap certificates required. Clubhouse access and catering available.
For reservations contact 01253.737.390.
Location: follow the A584 and turn right at Station Road, opposite the windmill on Lytham Green. The clubhouse is about a mile inland.
Fairhaven GC. Forest Drive, Lytham St Anne’s FY8 4JU
Green fees: midweek £40 per round or £50 per day. Weekends £45 per round.
Enquire regarding packages on offer for group bookings.
Members only before 0900 and between 12 noon and 1330.
Clubhouse access and catering available.
Handicap certificates required.
For reservations telephone 01253.736.741
Location: follow A584 beyond the windmill, turn right at Fairlawn Road and left into Blackpool Road. Just over the railway bridge turn right into Forest Drive and sharp left.
St Anne’s Old Links GC, Highbury Road East, St Anne’s-on-Sea FY8 2LD
Green fees: midweek £45 per day; £30 after 1330. Weekends £50 per day, although only 18 holes possible on weekends. A summer package offers coffee upon arrival, golfers’ lunch and a three-course dinner plus 27 holes for £58.
Handicap certificates required.
Location: St Anne’s is the northern-most course in town. Follow Clifton Drive (A584) beyond St Thomas’ Church, turn right at Highbury Road West, and clubhouse is on the left, over the railway bridge.
For reservations telephone 01253.722.432
There are literally dozens of good quality hotels of various ratings in Lytham St Anne’s. To find one to meet your requirements contact the Visitor & Travel Information Centre, 67 St Anne’s Road, West, St Anne’s-on-Sea, Telephone 01253.725.610 or visit http://www.visitlythamstannes.co.uk/ or
The centre also offers an all-encompassing brochure, including an area map, listing all the hotels and restaurants of note.
by Barry Ward, Publisher/Editor of www.posh-golf-travel.com