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St Annes Old Links

Yardage
6941
Par
72
SSS
74
Built
1894 / 1901
Architect(s)
George Lowe, Sandy Herd, Donald Steel
Nature:
Flat, open, running links course and final qualifier for The Open Championship, among Blackpool's skyline
Location/Address:
Near Blackpool airport. Postcode FY8 2LD
http://www.stannesoldlinks.com
Secretary
Jane Donohoe
Telephone
01253 723597
Professional
Daniel Webster
Green Keeper
Stuart Hogg
St annes old links, finest courses
St annes old links, finest courses
St annes old links, finest courses
St annes old links, finest courses
St annes old links, finest courses
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Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Ashton Trophy - Sept
Fees in 1960s
75p
Fees today
£60

Review

An inland golfer’s initial impression of St Annes Old Links is that of a flat, windswept,  stark landscape with Blackpool’s Tower and big dipper in the background.

Those of us who know links golf will not be put off by this initial impression as we know that the beauty of the golf is found in other more subtle matters.

St Annes Old Links, finest courses,

Blackpool's tower and big dipper behind the 13th

Stuart Hogg, a Master Green-Keeper, who came here from that delightful fast-running James Braid-designed links course on the Black Isle, Fortrose and Rosemarkie, that looks across the Moray Firth at the new Castle Stuart development, is increasing the proportion of fescue and indigenous bent grasses in the greens while gradually starving out the Poa annua (Annual meadow grass).

Stuart is pursuing a programme based on Jim Arthur’s simple principles of aeration, and using low amounts of fertiliser and watering. This will ensure the links is reclaimed for fine grasses that are now measured at over 65% in the greens and flourishing on the fairways, giving us that tight turf from which to play and firm greens with roll-out, to challenge the creativity of our shot-making.

St Annes Old Links, finest courses,

'Burma Road'. The par five 5th

The course is in tremendous condition, firm and fast running, and giving every bump and hollow a significance as one plays the ball below the wind, avoiding the many gathering-in, revetted, pot bunkers.

The prevailing wind sweeps across the course with a hole-routing that, apart from a couple of short holes, is predominantly at right angles to the wind.

The player attempting booming, high drives will soon come to grief here, where the smooth green aprons give you confidence to run the ball in and when not on the putting surface, to employ the bump-and-run to save par.

At almost 7000 yards off the back tees (par 72, SSS 74) this is tough golf set on a Championship course that is regularly used as a final qualifier when The Open is played down the road at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, as it will be again in 2012.

Indeed some of the holes here formed part of the course of the original Lytham club that then decamped in the 1880’s to where the Royal club is now based, leaving this lovely piece of linksland to be developed.

An extended course was designed initially by George Lowe, the local professional, and later revised by Sandy Herd (Open Champion in 1902 at Hoylake, when using the then new rubber-cored Haskell ball) who was the professional at Huddersfield, previously having been at St Andrews.

St annes old links, finest courses

The long, thin, par three 9th hole

The clubs signature hole is the well protected ‘Cannon’  nineth, a 173 yd Par three sited between two sand dunes with a long (46 yards) thin green (15 yards at its widest) surrounded by 8 revetted Pot Bunkers which requires careful club selection. In fact when Bobby Jones played here in the 1926 Open Qualifying he was so impressed he took a careful plan and measurements of the 9th so to have it reproduced back in the States.

The ninth is one of four good short holes that include the classic links third hole and the two-tier thirteenth. My favourite, however, is the 176 yard ‘Keeper’s Trap’ sixteenth, with a green possessing run-off to traps all around, and usually played into the prevailing wind. This hole requires a quite immaculately hit long iron to find the small green safely.

St annes old links, finest courses

The lowered dune at the 18th

Recently Donald Steel was invited to review the course, centred primarily on bunker positioning. He also suggested opening the blind shot across the dune at the ‘Valley’ eighteenth hole . I am sure there are die-hards who bemoan this change but this par five alongside the railway, has been much improved.

St annes old links

Seagulls on the 7th

After a gentle opening hole, the second ‘Gilletts’ is the first of four par fours measuring over 400 yards, the most memorable being the seventh ‘Penance’ – 454 yards, with a bank of bunkers positioned 70 yards shy of the green that pose a risk/reward choice.

There are three holes measuring between 320 and 370 yards and four par fives, three of which are between 560 and 622 yards, thereby giving exercise to all the clubs in your bag.

St annes old links, finest courses,

The clubhouse

This friendly Club has a large, handsome, dark wood-panelled clubhouse and there are virtually no trees to be seen. It attracts not only the local golfer but has a large county membership based in the Manchester area, who particularly enjoy playing dry winter golf on this all-year-round course, when their local Manchester courses are reduced to quagmires!

One does not come to St Annes Old Links for the beauty of its scenery, it is for the fine running golf of testing character that will give you the ‘Joy to be alive’ feeling. You can be assured of the course’s ever improving condition under the leadership of its able Course Manager, who is pursuing sustainable greenkeeping practices and who possesses a personally signed copy of Jim Arthur’s bible of greenkeeping, “Practical Greenkeeping”.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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