The Open returns to Hoylake this year, but Royal Liverpool is not the only top-notch golf course on the Wirral, as Sky Sports found out on a visit to local tracks Wallasey and Caldy.
Having the Open in town is always a superb showcase for the area, and on the Wirral there’s plenty of golfing on offer for fans who like what they see when visiting the major golf championship taking place this July.
Just a short drive through the Wallasey tunnel from Liverpool sits the Wirral peninsula, which contains a host of golf courses and some real beauties doted around the small seaside towns that all follow a similar look of English links towns that stage the Open.
There are plenty of hotel options, plus a plethora of small B&Bs dotted around the coast and the beautiful countryside. Our base was at Peel Hay in Frankby, ideally situated in the heart of golfing country in the Wirral with welcoming hosts Sue and Ken who know plenty about golf as well as the area.
Under ten minutes from Royal Liverpool via a short drive that should be quieter than most come Open time make it a perfect base for staying during the event, or on a return trip to sample the golfing delights of the area.
Perched on the northern tip of the Wirral peninsula is Wallasey Golf Club, as classic a links course as you could wish to find, and a club that is steeped in history as the birthplace of the stableford scoring system thanks to Dr Frank Stableford’s idea in 1931.
The traditional old clubhouse houses plenty of Stableford memorabilia, while a signed original painting of the great Bobby Jones also takes pride of place in the main lounge. Painted by former member John Berrie, it is the original from which the famous painting that now hangs in Augusta Nationals’ clubhouse was copied.
Jones came through qualifying at Wallasey before winning the Open at Hoylake during his Grand Slam year of 1930. All this then, even before stepping out onto the first tee, giving golfing historians a history lesson with a simple stroll around the clubhouse to drink in the history of the place before a ball has even been struck in anger.
Stepping out on the course you’re greeted with a trademark links course, designed by Tom Morris Snr, it’s a typical rolling, sweeping landscape carved out of the natural humps and bumps of the local linksland.
From the first hole you get the impression of the course, narrow, bumpy fairways with errant tee shots receiving maximum punishment with the thick rough. The second hole is where Dr Stableford happened upon his new scoring system, when the wind was blowing hard against he though it almost unplayable for higher handicappers.
The challenge remains tough throughout the round, fairways sometimes are hard to even see off the tee let alone hit, firm fast greens await as well with some dangerous pot bunkers lurking for anything off line.
Although tough, Wallasey is very easy on the eye with some great views, especially off the elevated fourth tee, while the highly raised greens of the 10th and 15th offer a different challenge with club selection a tough task – even in the benign conditions we were lucky enough to play in.
The 18th is a marvellous hole, with only a hint of a fairway, it is tough enough off our tees let alone the backs. Overall it sums up the essence of Wallasey, a firm test of all aspects of your game, but offering warm surroundings and brilliant views while it does so.
Originally a nine-hole course by Jack Morris, the nephew of Old Tom Morris, Caldy was converted into an 18-hole course in 1931 by five-time Open champion James Braid and offers a real game of two halves with cliff top links holes alongside traditional parkland tests.
The course, just down the road from West Kirby, is divided into two by the Wirral Way, and old railway line that is now a public footpath, and the bridge over this offers the divided between parkland and links.
After a couple of parkland holes with rural views of fields for miles around, you cross over the bridge and are hit by stunning views of the mountains of North Wales across the River Dee, by the side of which the holes then run in an eight-hole loop.
These holes, for me, have the edge on their parkland neighbours, although all of them have USGA standard greens which ran quick and true throughout. The third hole, a short par-four, dog-leg right, heading down towards the water and a batch of trees is particularly picturesque.
It’s an eclectic mix of styles, with some heathland thrown in for good measure, but with the firm fairways and the tight lies it is very much a links style of golf that you have to play, with the low bump and run often more successful than anything thrown up high.
Back on the other side of the course, the closing stretch is tough but enjoyable, especially the par five 18th with out of bounds down the right meaning there’s no time to relax even right at the end of the round.
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For more information on all the courses on England’s Golf Coast, visit www.englandsgolfcoast.com.