Before the Ryder Cup became the behemoth in it’s current state, the matches used to be played on the best courses in the UK, not just at a site that can hold a quarter of a million people. Back in the 1930’s Southport & Ainsdale GC held the event back to back and the Championship Links still offers a stern test to the modern golfer.
Tight fairways flanked by gorse and heather mean that accuracy from the tee is vital. No mean feat if the wind blows from the Irish Sea. In order to score well here you must plot a route from tee to green. High dunes frame the holes in traditional links style; there are no bail out areas on this James Braid designed masterpiece. True fast greens all year round make S&A a great course to play, even in deep winter.
The par 3 200 yard opener, set in front of the large Clubhouse demands you bring your A game right from the start. Next comes a Par 5, defined on both sides by a cloak of heather and protected all the way up the fairway by positional pot bunkering. The 2nd is another tough hole. If you start well here, you can get into the round and settle down, if not your confidence can take a real hit. The front nine offer birdie chances at 6, 7 and 9, if you do the requisite and hit some good shots. The halfway house offers the chance to sit down, have some food and drink, lick your wounds and prepare for the back nine. Standout holes on the homeward stretch include the short par 4 15th, which points back towards to the railway line and is littered with well positioned bunkers to catch all but the straightest tee shots. Next up is the famous Gumbleys, a par 5 with the trainline guarding the right hand side (Hillside GC is also in range for the really bad shots) before huge railway sleepers and a massive bunker have to be negotiated by the second shot. A great hole!
The closing hole offers a chance for a birdie and the opportunity to finish on a high. Finally take a seat on the large terrace in front of the 1st and 18th, count up your score, order a cold drink from the super friendly bar staff and plan when to return. You will want to take it all on again. A real gem!
Southport & Ainsdale GC: A fine Links that stands up well to it’s noisy Southport neighbours.
Ratings: Course 4.5, Staff 5, Facilities 4.5
Price: £100-150 depending on time of year.