James Braid's links poses a fine test on this famous coast where S&A continues to impress amid strong competition

Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club Course Review

Green Fee Range: £135-£150 (November 2018-March 2018: £65-£85)

Medal Tee: Par 72 – 6,803 Yards

Visitor Times: Weekdays except Thursday morning – limited times at weekends

Website: www.sandagolfclub.co.uk

Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club Course Review

Twice a Ryder Cup venue, S&A is a James Braid design that has stood the test of time. It’s a fine and challenging links that sets out its stall form the word go with a daunting par-3 of nearly 200 yards as the opener.

Related: Top 100 courses UK and Ireland

Looking up towards the 2nd green. 

Dating from 1925, Southport & Ainsdale is the work of five-time Open champion and prolific course architect James Braid.

The fact the layout has remained largely unchanged since that time is testament to the quality of Braid’s design and the terrain on which it sits. This is a very natural-feeling links set over undulating duneland that was previously used for grazing cows and sheep.

The course bares its teeth from the outset. The 1st is a challenging par 3 of almost 200 yards to a green guarded by nine bunkers.

The front nine delivers an excellent and eclectic selection of holes from the very long par-5 2nd to the testing par-3 8th. Just 150 yards to a plateau green, anything coming up short will roll back some 30 yards.

Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club Course Review

There’s no let up on the run for home. A great emphasis is placed on straight hitting from the tee and anything straying off line tends to find trouble.

The 16th “Gumbleys” is a most challenging and unusual hole. A par-5 of just over 500 yards, it looks innocuous on the card but the prospect from the tee is extremely intimidating.

The drive must find the fairway but it’s tough not to go left with the railway line waiting right. The second is then blind and over a huge sleepered bank; an excellent hole on an excellent links course.

Course changes since previous ranking

According to general manager Philip Worthington, “The majority of work we have carried out in the last two years is ecology based. We have opened up several areas of the SSSI site to sand, allowing for re-generation of the natural dune grasses that are so often lost on links courses. We have cleared a large amount of gorse to make the course less penal for those marginal misses, however we have retained all hazards that are an integral part of the experience here at S&A. Continual green work has been completed to further improve our drainage. This has ensured we can remain open, on quality surfaces, in all but the most torrential conditions. A new halfway house has been installed to offer all golfers that welcome snack, or rest, on the 10th tee.”

Proposed course changes

“We have some major works commencing in November 2018. We are removing our granite paths on the 1st hole, 17th hole and 18th hole, reinstating them back to turf pathways like we have elsewhere on the course. We are lowering the dunes on the 1st hole just a hair to create a better visual of the iconic green, and we are adding a substantial dune complex to the right of the 18th hole to screen the driving range and houses from view. We will also be opening up a large sand scrape area to the left of the 18th hole, again as part of building a diverse mosaic of habitats across the course. The dune complex we will build is some 5000 cubic metres of sand and earth to mirror the left hand side of the fairway and provide a sheltered, more enclosed, 18th hole experience. On the 17th green and the 18th green – we are removing a couple of bunkers to create open run off areas next to the putting surfaces. As with many great links courses, we believe that a combination of challenges should await the wayward approach shots.”

Golf Monthly Verdict

Classic Braid links with a very natural feel.