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Sean_A

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Weighty WEST LANCS GC New
« on: April 28, 2023, 09:39:27 AM »


Despite being one of the oldest clubs in England with a long history of hosting prestigious events, West Lancs GC is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Situated in the wonderfully named Blundellsands, perhaps one reason for the lack of fame is due to the origins or near origins of the links not being the handiwork of a famous golfer. 1873 is very early in the architecture timeline, but the names of these primal designers aren’t even recorded. It is thought T Dunn, J Braid and H Hilton may have had their say about the course, but I haven’t found any clues as to what these contributions might have been.

Within 12 years of being founded West Lancs would become a major force in amateur British golf by being one of 24 clubs to contribute toward the purchase of the Amateur Championship Trophy which was first played in 1886. A major amateur event was organized by Royal Liverpool in 1885 which was won by Allan Macfie. In 1922 the R&A decided to retrospectively declare the 1885 tournament the first Amateur Championship. Thus, it became that Macfie was the first winner of the event rather than Horace Hutchinson’s win at St Andrews in 1886. Incidentally, because of halved matches, there were only three semi-finalists and Macfie received a bye into the final!

Harold Hilton is most often associated with Hoylake, but in 1889 he became a member of West Lancs. In 1901 Hilton was appointed the first paid Secretary of the club. In May of that year Hilton successfully defended his 1900 Amateur Championship by pipping John Low one up at St Andrews. These must have been sweet victories after losing three finals in six years during the previous century. However, all wasn’t doom and gloom for Hilton in the 1890s. He won the Open twice, the first in 1892 (one of the years he lost in the Amateur final) and again in 1897 at his home club, Hoylake. However, it can be argued that Hilton’s finest achievements were victories in both the 1911 British and US Amateurs…he was 42! Hilton was the first person to complete the double Amateur and the last Englishman to win the US Amateur until Matthew Fitzpatrick’s 2013 stunning victory at Brookline. Hilton would pop up again and in 1913 cruise to an Amateur win at St Andrews. Soon after WWI would descend upon Europe and golf took a back seat. As if a switch had been flicked, to a man, the pre-war champions fell away from their glory days and were replaced by a younger generation. There can be no doubt that Harold Hilton was one of the greatest of champions in the period between 1890 and 1914.



The old house on the inland side of the rail tracks created a stark and fairly equal divide of flat inland holes and holes in the dunes. Re-siting the house to its present location on the seaward side of the tracks in 1961 opened access to more interesting land in the dunes. Fred Hawtree and CK Cotton are usually attributed as the designers for what strikes me as a highly modern links. There is very little quirk which is a hallmark of the period. Cotton often collaborated as a partner with Lawrie, Pennink or Steel, but not Hawtree so far as I know. Fred Hawtree was seemingly a natural choice to redesign West Lancs as he did work on nearby Birkdale, Hillside and Hoylake. While it would be interesting to know who did what, what matters most is the course we have to enjoy.

The course is layed out as two 9s; the first a clockwise loop back to the house and the second a figure 8. The demanding opening four holes generally play north along a shipping lane of the Irish Sea.  While I wouldn't quite say it was winter conditions, a steady 12-15mph north wind under gloomy skies increased the challenge by a considerable degree. The first is a good representation of what to expect. Many holes are played between low dunes over relatively flat fairways. However, that description isn't meant to imply the golf is boring, far from it. The greensites are often one or more of cleverly located, well protected by sand or unusual shapes. Three linear bunkers running down the right send the clear message to drive left. Trying to come in from the right will mean facing a blind shot with hidden bunkers.   


Even in the poor light it is clear the green is not without interest.


The rather amateur looking bunkers are more centreline, but the par five second is similar to the 1st.


The short holes may well be the highlight of West Lancs. Aptly named Bowl, the third plays into a protective ring of dunes, but the green is raised. Raised greens with scooped out wings/runaway areas is a central theme of the design.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: March 04, 2024, 03:14:28 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2023, 09:48:21 AM »
I love that image of Hilton. Obviously, as a career amateur, he must have had some decent level of financial support, though he doesn't seem to have been grand -- West Buckland, his public school in Devon, is not especially famous, and was only founded in 1858. But his images just scream to me 'I'm a Scouser' (Liverpudlian, for those across the pond). You could see him in a different age hanging out with the Beatles. Or running down the wing at Anfield.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Sean_A

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2023, 10:31:41 AM »
I love that image of Hilton. Obviously, as a career amateur, he must have had some decent level of financial support, though he doesn't seem to have been grand -- West Buckland, his public school in Devon, is not especially famous, and was only founded in 1858. But his images just scream to me 'I'm a Scouser' (Liverpudlian, for those across the pond). You could see him in a different age hanging out with the Beatles. Or running down the wing at Anfield.

Harold was meant to be a chain smoker. I think he had a fag in his mouth while teeing off on the 1st in the final of 1901 Amateur at TOC 😎.

Ciao
« Last Edit: April 29, 2023, 10:35:33 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2023, 10:33:56 AM »
Delete.
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

James Reader

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2023, 12:12:13 PM »
Richie Ramsay might have something to say about Fitzpatrick being the first Brit since Hilton to win the US Amateur.  First Englishman maybe.

Mark Pearce

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2023, 04:54:05 PM »
Richie Ramsay might have something to say about Fitzpatrick being the first Brit since Hilton to win the US Amateur.  First Englishman maybe.
He might also be very upset at being mistaken for an Englishman.
In June I will be riding the first three stages of this year's Tour de France route for charity.  630km (394 miles) in three days, with 7800m (25,600 feet) of climbing for the William Wates Memorial Trust (https://rideleloop.org/the-charity/) which supports underprivileged young people.

James Reader

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2023, 02:09:32 AM »
Richie Ramsay might have something to say about Fitzpatrick being the first Brit since Hilton to win the US Amateur.  First Englishman maybe.
He might also be very upset at being mistaken for an Englishman.


I was suggesting Fitzpatrick was the first Englishman since Hilton; not the first Brit.  Wouldn’t want to make the mistake of labelling a Scot English. 😳

Niall C

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2023, 07:35:07 AM »
I love that image of Hilton. Obviously, as a career amateur, he must have had some decent level of financial support, though he doesn't seem to have been grand -- West Buckland, his public school in Devon, is not especially famous, and was only founded in 1858. But his images just scream to me 'I'm a Scouser' (Liverpudlian, for those across the pond). You could see him in a different age hanging out with the Beatles. Or running down the wing at Anfield.


For a career amateur, he certainly made a pretty decent living from the game.


Niall

Sean_A

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-3)
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2023, 10:57:14 AM »
Thank you James

West Lancs Tour Cont

Unfortunately, the slight turn right on the 4th gives off an air of similarity to the opening two holes, but the green isn't raised.


Taken from near the 5th tee; another bowled out green flank.


Heading back toward the house, the tough 5th is an odd hole. The fairway is the sort which turns left quite sharply, thus encouraging a placement drive. The green seen beyond the fairway is the 6th.


A sensible gap is provided for those who earn the angle with the drive. There is no photo of the green, but there is a thumb print just right of the pin.


A simple, yet cracking short hole, the 6th is tilted imperceptibly to the left.


Perhaps the best hole on the front nine, #7 is a reachable two-shotter, but given the nature of the ramp-like green it is easy to get caught out of position with an aggressive tee shot. Perhaps a bit heavy handed nor as attractive as one might wish, the fairway bunkering is nonetheless well placed throughout the 18 holes.


The green from the 8th tee. Putting or chipping down the slope to the front of the green is precarious.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: May 02, 2023, 02:38:14 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-7) New
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2023, 02:16:19 PM »
West Lancs Tour Cont

A provocative hole, the 8th is banana shape left. This isn't one of my favourite design concepts, especially since the 5th is another of the placement drive style holes.  That said, once golfers are comfortable, the decision to cut the dunes on the left or layup has merit. The 9th plays around a pond to the left; a fairly straightforward hole. A shortish par four, the 10th has a blind bunker eating into the right side of the green. Following the line of the railway tracks. the three-shot 11th is perhaps the dullest hole on the property. Our fortunes change dramatically for 12-14, the best string of holes on the course. A par three, the 12th is a cracker.


A tough target for a decent length par 3.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: May 26, 2023, 02:55:21 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-12) New
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2023, 08:24:18 AM »
West Lancs Tour Cont

A marvelous hole, the 13th swings left around what looks to be newly reshaped bunkering.


The bowled out shaping creates a fabulous peninisula green.


Spooning the 13th, the blind drive 14th is West Lancs' most unusual hole.  Once over the dune, the first glimpse of the green is terrifying.


There is plenty of room to bail left or layup. I am not sure playing to the back of the green with a forward hole location is wise.




The tracks make their presence known once again for the shortish two-shotter 15th. Big hitters can certainly reach this green.


A photo of the green from the 16th tee reveals the sneaky blind bunker which brilliantly protects this hole location.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: May 26, 2023, 02:57:25 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC (1-15) New
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2023, 10:13:59 AM »
West Lancs Tour Cont

Its lovely when there is a ying and yang to par 5s. We were punished on the 11th by the contrary wind; that same wind makes the 16th very reachable in two. However, there are some well placed bunkers to contend with on the approach.


The green is not easy to hold.


The least compelling of the short holes, however, 17's subtlety isn't easy to negotiate. The green bends to the right behind the bunker, yet the putting surface tilts left.


The home hole has sneaky water down the right, but for that it isn't a standout hole.


My over-riding impression of West Lancs is the design is very much a modern course and it surprises me that it isn't included as such among the plethora of rankings. The short holes and the 12-14 stretch are without question the highlights of the design. Perhaps the element of quirk on 13 & 14 push my opinion in a positive direction. In fact, 14 could well be an All-England hole, which imo are far and few between among the courses I played in this area recently. 2023

Ciao
« Last Edit: May 26, 2023, 03:01:39 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Thomas Dai

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2023, 11:26:16 AM »
Thank you Sean. As you say, very fine.
atb

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2023, 11:37:09 PM »
Can't recall seeing (m)any pictures of such a storied course. I'm guessing the low lying nature of the terrain doesn't provide many 'stunning' opportunities, so congrats on capturing the layout so well.
We now regularly visit a friend in Crosby and you've tempted me into paying the green fee on next visit - chalk another one up for  GCA.

For anyone visiting the area check out the beach just to the south, for something stunning and unique.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Another_Place_(sculpture)
I'm blown away by it every visit. Maybe Robert Frost is wrong and this is a place to take a moment to look far and deep.
Oh I do love to be beside the seaside.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2023, 12:21:18 AM by Tony_Muldoon »
Let's make GCA grate again!

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Weighty WEST LANCS GC
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2023, 12:06:45 AM »
Can't recall seeing (m)any pictures of such a storied course. I'm guessing the low lying nature of the terrain doesn't provide many 'stunning' opportunities, so congrats on capturing the layout so well.
We now regularly visit a friend in Crosby and you've tempted me into paying the green fee on next visit - chalk another one up for  GCA.

For anyone visiting the area check out the beach just to the south, for something stunning and unique.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Another_Place_(sculpture)
I'm blown away by it every visit. Maybe Robert Frost is wrong and this is a place to take a moment to look far and deep.
Oh I do love to be beside the seaside.

I very much wanted to go see the statues, but was outnumbered by men who are cultural deserts.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

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