Please see video review (embedded instagram post) at end of this blog
Nestled between Royal Birkdale and Southport and Ainsdale on the north west coast between Liverpool and Lytham lies a stunning links course, that is possibly not one of the greats only because it is overshadowed by its famous neighbour.
While rumour has it that Royal Birkdale shuns footballers in favour of lawyers, doctors and businessmen for sure Hillside welcomes them with open arms. Famous names like Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hanson and Jim Beglin are amongst its members.
I had the pleasure of playing the course as a guest of Jim Beglin, so I was lucky enough to get a great briefing on each hole – yes from the reds too.
Playing in November meant the men played off forward tees, while their usual tees (the blues) underwent rest and reparation! That meant my red tees were often only 20 yards in front of theirs. No matter, most of the par 4s were so long that I had to resign myself to getting on the green in three on most of them. Fortunately three of the men’s par 4’s (the 1st, 9th and 18th) were par 5’s for ladies, so there was some concession for me during the round.
The front 9 is really good links golf, if not the most outstanding. But when you turn the corner at the halfway hut, you are in for a huge treat. Links golf at its most stunning (and sometimes vicious).
The first tee requires a straight shot – anything too far left will end up out of bounds on the rail way line! There is apparently much banter in the club house about balls with British Rail marked on them.
Click here for Video Review of HillsideThe 10th is said to be one of the best par 3’s in UK. Jim described it to me as : “It is stroke index 18 if you get on the green, stroke index 1 if you don’t”. For sure there was only one good place to land the ball (the green), and if you didn’t make it you were in such trouble (bunkers or rough) your par chance was greatly diminished. For me, it was my best hole, a drive that landed two feet from the hole that had me putting for birdie. A 2 for 4 points. Nice!
The signature 12th hole is dramatic. A long sweeping par four that stretches out below a raised tee, lined by dunes the size of small hills. A long straight drive is required. Watch my video clip to see what happens if you stray left or right (link at start of this blog).
Don’t be deceived by the clear blue skies – a wicked wind sweeps its way up and down the dunes and it is vital to take this into account when selecting your club. Clubbing up 2-3 more is not unheard of!
Keeping the ball in play is also key to a decent score card. The rough is unforgiving. Take an unplayable if in doubt. I made the mistake of trying to chop one out of the rough only to thrust it deeper in.
The last hole is a spectacular par 5 for us ladies (par 4 for the guys). But at just 384 long and with that lovely links fairway sending it bouncing on a par in easy reach of the bigger hitters.
I played Royal Birkdale the following day (review to come!). Another truly spectacular course , and for me one of the best links in the UK. Hillside back 9 is a close rival to Royal Birkdale (Hillside was used in the Open Qualifying Series Final) and anyone visiting the UK and wanting a great links experience should definitely add this to their list!
Click here for Video Review of Hillside Or see instagram post below. Just press play.