The Clubhouse

Southport: a golf tour review

One of our marketing managers was fortunate enough to visit Southport to play some of the country’s best and most beloved links courses. Here is what he had to say about England’s famous golf coast.

Tom Duncombe
Tom Duncombe
7 mins read
EnglandLinksGolf toursGolf & nightlife

Very few locations in the world boast such a high quality and quantity of courses as England’s golf coast. From Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) to Royal Lytham & St Anne’s (Blackpool), 13 golf courses make up this iconic stretch of coastline, and Southport is located at the very heart.

Given the vast number of courses, it is impossible to tick every course off in one go, so we made sure our golf tour was centralised around Southport at The Vincent Hotel to guarantee all layouts were easily accessible from the town centre. The Vincent provided a great four-star base for our tour - the perfect place to unwind after experiencing some of the best links courses in the country!

Day 1: Royal Birkdale

Rated no. 3 golf course in England via Top 100 Golf Courses

Playing the marquee name in Southport was the perfect way to kick-off our golf tour. Following a fairly easy three-and-a-half-hour drive from the southeast, we arrived at Royal Birkdale – one of three Open Championship venues and Royal courses on England’s golf coast.

The clubhouse is fantastic and one of the most iconic in golf, with its beautiful art deco-style architecture that has been photographed so many times before. Plus, with a large pro shop, excellent changing rooms, and a bar/restaurant area, it is more than just a pretty face.

1st hole, Royal Birkdale

After a long practice session across the club’s extensive facilities, it was time to tee off. The 1st is one of the toughest opening holes in England, with a large bunker off the fairway shaping a dogleg off to the left. And with the hole playing gently into the wind, it felt closer to a par-5 than a par-4. A difficult start and a sign of things to come!

Although the first few holes are relatively flat, it doesn’t take long to be met with the towering dunes for which Birkdale has become so famous. There are lots of doglegs too, and pot bunkers pepper near enough every fairway and greenside. They don’t look bad at first, but they are incredibly severe and rarely present a clean lie. More often than not, I either couldn’t make a full swing, was pressed up against the edge of the bunker or didn’t have a full stance!

6th hole, Royal Birkdale

On the back-nine, things kick up a notch. Tee boxes tend to be raised and the fairway bunkers feel like they multiply by at least three compared to the front-nine. The par-4s are very difficult, however, three of the last four holes are par-5s, which does mean there are some good birdie and par chances.

18th hole & clubhouse, Royal Birkdale

The par-5 18th is a great finishing hole. Although reasonably flat by Birkdale standards, it presents a testing tee shot into a harsh dogleg to the right, which is makeable in two. It is a great risk/reward hole if your match makes it to the 18th (as ours did). Playing down towards the famous clubhouse was a dream come true and topped off a fantastic round of golf.

18th hole, Royal Birkdale

Day 2: Hillside

Rated no. 22 golf course in England via Top 100 Golf Courses

After a tough but enjoyable day at Royal Birkdale, it was great to get back on the links – this time at Hillside Golf Club, former British Masters host and current home to the English Open (Cazoo Classic).

As with Birkdale, the first couple of holes were reasonably flat and the first four or five are very scorable, particularly with just a light breeze to contend with. The front-nine is forgiving, and the bunkering was a lot less severe than on the previous day.

7th Hole, Hillside Golf Club

Open doglegs and blind doglegs are a key feature of the front-nine, and the 9th is a great closing hole at the turn. This long par-4 almost plays like a par-5, with the fairway broken into two sections that forces a short club off the tee to leave you with a long iron into a well-protected green.

8th hole, Hillside Golf Club

The back-nine continues in this fashion, with raised tee boxes, towering dunes and forgiving fairways, with fierce winds often lingering. There are a couple of testing doglegs, however, the back-9 plays a lot straighter than the front, with a lot of the course out in front of you. The general consensus is that it is one of the best back-nines in golf, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree!

Whilst it doesn’t have the history and star power of Royal Birkdale, Hillside was a real treat. The back-nine is extremely memorable and the whole course is shaped by large dunes, sandy waste areas, strategic bunker placement, and even woodland clusters on occasion. The par-3s throughout were possibly the best of the trip as well. All these factors presented great variation throughout the round.

13th hole, Hillside Golf Club

Day 3: Southport & Ainsdale

Rated no. 43 golf course in England via Top 100 Golf Courses

It may not have had the grandeur of the other courses, but there is something about Southport & Ainsdale that creates a sense of comfort and belonging. The course itself is more of a heathland/links mix, which provided a great alternative to the links challenge of the first two days.

1st hole, Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club

The opener is a long par-3 that plays directly into wind, and with an audience on the putting green, my pre-shot nerves are higher than usual. The 2nd is a sign of things to come, with relatively wide, heather-lined fairways, copious bunkers, and gentle dunes. The heather makes it particularly difficult to find errant tee shots, so placement is preferred over length on this course.

6th hole, Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club

The course was consistently great throughout, however, it is holes 16 and 17 which I will remember the most. Bordering the train line which separates S&A from Hillside (yes, they’re that close), the par-5 16th presents an open fairway and although it is makeable in two, a huge dune creates a blind second shot – a great matchplay hole.

16th hole, Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club

After the testing par-5, you’ll need to climb up to one of the highest points and best views on the course to play your tee shot on 17. With plenty of heather on your left, thick rough on your right, and the train line straight ahead, this testing dogleg left looks pretty but can get very nasty, very quickly – my favourite hole at S&A.

17th hole, Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club

Despite having my worst score of the trip, Southport & Ainsdale was my most enjoyable round – which I wasn't expecting to be the case. The flow of the holes, the introduction of heathland, and the closing stretch made it so much fun to play, and it is a must-play when visiting its neighbouring courses of Birkdale and Hillside.

Day 4: West Lancashire

Rated no. 35 golf course in England via Top 100 Golf Courses

For our fourth and final day, we ventured to the classic links course of West Lancashire (AKA West Lancs). Situated 30 minutes south of Southport and just 20-minutes north of Liverpool, West Lancs was the longest we had to travel from the hotel to play.

On arrival it was immediately apparent that this was much more of a classic links course than the previous layouts. Open, dry and firm, with a noticeable breeze, West Lancs resembled everything that is special (and difficult) about links golf. Plus, the conditions of the greens were arguably the best and quickest we played on all week.

Front 9, West Lancs Golf Club

Tight doglegs, run-off areas, fairway and greenside bunkering, and thick rough are aplenty here. The first three holes are a great way to kick things off. First, a tricky dogleg par-4, then a long par-5 with trouble either side and then a short (usually into the wind) par 3 with four greenside pot bunkers – the perfect start!

This theme maintains throughout the front-nine with trouble always lurking nearby, either in the form of thick rough or pot bunkers. The dunes often play a factor and most greens have run-off areas which makes approach shots incredible difficult to judge the distance. More often than not, I had to play every hole 20 yards short and hope for the best!

13th hole, West Lancs Golf Club

The back-nine is a slight contrast from the front, although the first three holes start in similar fashion with one par-4, one par-5, and one par-3. The 13th is a fantastic dogleg left and then holes 14 and 15 feel a little more secluded, with blind tee shots onto tight fairways in between trees and the train line.

The closing holes epitomise what West Lancs is all about. Peppered with pot bunkers, very playable and great fun. Enjoying a drink on the restaurant veranda was a brilliant way to top off the trip and watch the remaining groups come in!

18th hole, West Lancs Golf Club


What a trip! We’re so lucky to have such an array of links courses on our doorstep, and I would strongly urge keen golfers to head over to Southport to play these layouts at least once in their lifetime. Although every track we played was labelled as a ‘links’, they were all very distinctive from one another which wasn’t something I expected going into the trip. This made the whole golf tour enjoyable and varied throughout the four days.

With all courses (particularly Birkdale, Hillside, and S&A) in close proximity and a lively nightlife within walking distance, golfers would struggle to find a more convenient location for a golf tour of this quality anywhere else in the UK.

Feeling inspired?
With exciting nightlife and several of the country's top links courses nearby, make Southport your next golf tour location.


Tom Duncombe avatar
Tom Duncombe

SEO & Content Manager

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