9 Great Top 100 Courses in Southport

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Heading to Hillside for the British Masters? Here are five great courses in our Golf World Top 100 Courses: GB&I ranking you should play while you’re there, plus a handful of other must-plays. By Michael Bailey.

Royal Birkdale
The abundance of other top-class courses along England’s Golf Coast do, arguably, offer better value but it is difficult to resist the allure of this highly-popular Open venue. For the price of a (admittedly old) small car a fourball can unpick their scores at the end of a round as they take in a view that will last forever in the memory from the clubhouse window over the 18th green as the sun sets over the Irish Sea. Royal Birkdale is pure (and fair) links golf with a tough start and finish.
Royal Birkdale is ranked 11th in our Golf World Top 100 Courses: GB&I. Click here to see the full ranking.

The treacherous par-3 12th hole at Royal Birkdale

The treacherous par-3 12th hole at Royal Birkdale

Royal Liverpool 
With the town of Hoylake along the road, this is a great Open venue with lots of places to socialise. The initial open, flat terrain does not provide the immediate visual impact of other Open venues but it is always well conditioned, with its most picturesque part parallel to the Dee Estuary. The holes here are a good test irrespective of the weather. Students of golf history will enjoy the clubhouse’s displays.
Royal Liverpool is ranked 36th in our Golf World Top 100 Courses: GB&I. Click here to see the full ranking.

Royal Liverpool, also known as Hoylake, is one of the UK’s most underrated links golf courses.

Royal Liverpool, also known as Hoylake, is one of the UK’s most underrated links golf courses.

Formby
This scenic, challenging links was created in 1884 and has an air of heathland in parts which, together with acres of tall pines, provides a uniquely picturesque setting. Its true greens and tactical bunkering add to the challenge and show why it is a regular host of elite amateur championships – from The Amateur to the Curtis Cup matches. There is no trickery here – if you play well, you will score accordingly. Holes 5 and 12 (both by Harry Colt) take some beating. 

Formby is characterised by its engaging change of vistas – from pines, to heather to dunes. It has been a riser in our Golf World Top 100 Golf Courses: England for several years now.

Formby is characterised by its engaging change of vistas – from pines, to heather to dunes. It has been a riser in our Golf World Top 100 Golf Courses: England for several years now.

Hillside
A current Open regional qualifier, its famous second half unfairly steals the headlines from the front nine. The railway line is ready to collect a loose drive from the first few holes and the wind quickly tests, with opening holes heading in different directions – thus, accuracy is key from the start. It is a links where each hole really is different.
Hillside is ranked 63rd in our Golf World Top 100 Golf Courses: GB&I. Click here to see the full ranking.

After a slightly sedate start, Hillside gains momentum. It has one of the best back-nines in the world.

After a slightly sedate start, Hillside gains momentum. It has one of the best back-nines in the world.

Southport & Ainsdale
As with all except Hoylake, ‘S&A’ is located ‘Along the Line’ – the Liverpool/Southport railway. Recent tweaks have added balance and challenge. After a tough par-3 opener the mix of heather and gorse enhance the look of a flatter links than some neighbours. Watch for the huge “Gumbleys” bunker. 
Click here to read our full course review.

The 6th hole at Southport & Ainsdale – a former Ryder Cup host.

The 6th hole at Southport & Ainsdale – a former Ryder Cup host.

West Lancashire 
The most southerly links on this stretch of coast, recent upgrades by the greens staff provide a firmer, faster but playable condition. More exposed than most in the area, this classic links offers golf in natural surroundings. Every hole on this honest seaside test demands your full attention in a breeze.
West Lancs is ranked 99th in our Golf World Top 100 Golf Courses: GB&I. Click here to see the full ranking.

West Lancs may not be as picturesque or varied as Royal Birkdale, Formby or Hillside but it’s an honest links with lots of character and challenge.

West Lancs may not be as picturesque or varied as Royal Birkdale, Formby or Hillside but it’s an honest links with lots of character and challenge.

And don’t overlook…
Away from the Top 100-ranked courses, look to Wallasey – laid out over land that is a little more undulating than nearby Hoylake. To score well, do not assume driver is required off the tee as rough and tactical bunkering often awaits. The course is easy on the eye with undulating fairways that thread through dunes. It’s probably not far away from a Top 100 spot. As well as being the home of Stableford, there is lots of history in the clubhouse, including what is thought to be the sole signed portrait of Bobby Jones, who qualified here before winning The Open in 1930. 

Shorter than the other courses in the area and surrounded by Formby itself, Formby Ladies provides a great setting for a thought-provoking round, with small greens and famous heather-lined fairways. Some holes there would slot right into some championship courses – the 12th being one. Finally, Heswall is a good place to visit alongside Hoylake and Wallasey, a parkland with great views over the River Dee into North Wales. 

Freshfield, Formby, Ainsdale and Birkdale train stations are all ‘Along the Line’ and provide easy access to the key places. The city of Liverpool is little over 30 minutes away too.

Formby’s Dormy House is just £45 a night including breakfast, so you can eat and drink heartily in the evening before falling onto the 1st tee the following morning. It is a good central base with good train links obviating the need for driving. Formby is right next to Freshfield, which gives easy access to Birkdale Village (eight minutes on a train), where there are lots of bars and restaurants. 

Otherwise, try the highly-regarded Balti House in Formby Village (five minutes in a taxi) or walk to the Freshfield pub for good beer and pub grub. Further afield, look to Jade Gardens for Chinese food and Dolce Vita for Italian fare in Ainsdale Village – catch the train to Ainsdale Station. 

Michael is a Formby member and has played 88 of the GB&I Top 100.









































Nick Wright