POOL OF LIFE

When Liverpool was named 2008 European City of Culture last year, people who didn’t know any better laughed it off as Brussels bureaucracy gone mad. Because, to the uninitiated, Liverpool was famous for The Beatles, a couple of football teams and unemployment and that’s about it. Twenty years ago that might have been the case, but the last two decades have seen the city’s fortunes on a steady upward curve and it’s now rightly regarded as one of the best places to visit in the UK.

For a place that gave us the shellsuit, there’s a surprising amount of culture to be soaked up and for those of you (or more likely ‘er indoors) who like shopping, retail therapy is on hand big time.

Liverpool is a city where people like going out, so you’ll never find yourself far from a packed bar, bustling restaurant or decent club night.

Then there’s the golf. The city and its surrounding areas are home to a great selection of courses from Royal Birkdale – one of the most celebrated Open venues – to some less well-known but superb VFM tracks like Woolton and West Derby.

West Derby on the city’s eastern outskirts has been referred to as the “Sunningdale of the North”. The club has been in existence for over a century and the well-matured layout is classic parkland, with easy walking and an impressive array of greenery. Indeed, it is these trees which provide much of the test at West Derby. For us, the best hole here is the spectacular 132-yard par 3 14th, which features two ponds and a waterfall. Not somewhere to get your feet wet!

A few miles round the city ring road is Woolton. Another parkland course, Woolton is also over 100 years old and the maturity of the trees mean that the relatively short yardage (less than 6,000) is offset by the tight nature of the layout. Getting the big dog out is simply not an option at many of the holes.

By contrast, you’ll definitely need to have your driving boots on if you head up towards the Southport area for a round at West Lancs. Perhaps the least well known of the incredible stretch of links courses that runs up to Lytham, the course is a tough test where long, accurate driving is rewarded with tempting approach shots to greens framed by sandhills. The view from the elevated 8th tee is something else with the Mersey to your left and a thin ribbon of fairway in front of you. Awesome doesn’t do it justice!

A few miles further up the coast from West Lancs is Royal Birkdale. At £160 for the day during the summer, a day here isn’t for those who are shy about getting their wallets out. However, come outside of those times – it’s £65 a round during winter months when links courses are still in great nick – and it does represent some sort of value. The course itself is one of the UK’s finest with holes played along valleys with high dunes running down either side. It’s tough when the wind blows – which is pretty much all the time – but it’s an experience you’ll take with when you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Click here for where to play, stay and dine out in style