10 Royal Lytham & St Annes

Architect: Lowe
Stats: 6,371 yds, par 71, SSS 74
GF: £105-£212
Visitor information: Mondays and Thursdays are main visitor’s days
W: royallytham.org
2008 Ranking: 10 (No Move)
Gallery: Royal Lytham & St Annes pictures

In the grand scheme of cross-border Open comparisons, if Birkdale is England’s Muirfield, then Lytham is its Carnoustie. For while there is little of aesthetic merit outside Lytham’s perimeters to set the pulse racing – ‘land-locked’ as it is by roads, railways and residential properties – there is considerable technical beauty to savour within its boundaries.

Uniquely in Open Championship terms it kicks off with a lengthy par 3, where Ian Woosnam almost holed in one in the final round of the 2001 Open, settled for a two, but ultimately signed for a four amid much 15-club heartbreak. Like all four par 3s, that first green is stoutly defended by a ring of sand, and it is the design and placement of Lytham’s 200 or so bunkers that has helped engender such reverence for this George Lowe layout.

The one-shotters, and indeed three-shotters, have run their course by the 12th from where a sextet of mostly fearsome par 4s bars a smooth passage back to the instantly recognisable clubhouse. Even the shorter par 4s coming home at 10, 13 and 16 refuse to lie down willingly. But the 17th is the toughest obstacle, a hole where Bobby Jones broke Al Watrous’ heart in 1926 with a memorable shot across the corner from the wrong side of the fairway. Only the longest of drives down the right will open up a decent view of the green on this 432-yard brute of a par 4.

Given the quality of the Lytham test it’s little surprise that golf’s biggest events have queued up to visit over the years: two Ryder Cups, the Walker Cup to come in 2015, the Women’s and Senior Opens, and of course the small matter of some 10 Open Championships, with an 11th to follow in 2012 on a layout suitably strengthened and lengthened since David Duval prevailed last time round in 2001.

Quality of test and design: Lytham is a thinking man’s course that doesn’t take too kindly to attempts to overpower it despite new added yardage for the 2012 Open. It is sublimely well-protected whether greenside, off the tee or even in the par-5 lay-up zones.

Presentation: This is the kind of club 
where the course doesn’t get excessively overplayed leaving greater scope for almost year-round conditioning.

Visual appeal and enjoyment: To use a human analogy, Lytham’s is an inner beauty rather than an overtly flashy, outer one. Given its undoubted challenge, this absence of any external wow factor is probably a good thing.

Ambience: This is a traditional club steeped in history with a wonderful old-school aura. As with Royal St George’s, there’s a welcome feeling of space in the immediate clubhouse surrounds.

Panellists’ comments: “Many greens are raised so approach shots have to consider the safe side, or where to avoid at all costs!”; “More finely crafted holes than any other UK links”; “The greens are as good as you’ll find”

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