While Ireland and Scotland get most of the attention, it is England that has the most courses on the World Top 100. No area more so than England’s Golf Coast, especially for quality links golf courses.
One of the best places to take an England golf tour is on the northwest coast, where you are spoilt for choice. Beyond the three Royals; Lytham & St Annes, Birkdale and Liverpool, you’ll find some of the finest links in the British Isles. Including Hillside golf course, often cited as “the best course to not have hosted an Open Championship.”
Literally neighboring and sharing the dunes that give Royal Birkdale its character is Hillside Golf Club, a must-play links. It gained notoriety when in 1982 Greg Norman proclaimed it boasted, “The back nine are the best in Britain.” Seconded by Jack Nicklaus who agreed by saying that “…within the second nine are some of my favorite holes.”
The Robert Trent Jones family may be the first family of American golf course architecture, but in English golf, it is three generations of Hawtree’s. Their firm dates back to 1912, a year after the original course opened. In 1957, Fred Hawtree was brought in to do an extensive reimagining of the course (only 4 original holes remain). His vision opened in 1967 and quickly rose to be a favorite of the R&A for amateur championships, hosting Open Qualifying since 2014.
While Fred’s son, Martin, is a prestigious golf architect in his own right and one of two “Martins” the R&A relies on, it was Mackenzie & Ebert’s who were hired in 2020 to elevate the front nine to the storied level of Hillside’s backside.
The front nine is routed on a flatter stretch of land and the challenge was to develop dunes between the holes creating more drama. A secondary objective was to eliminate many of the green guarding bunkers, to be replaced by tightly mown runoff areas, allowing more creativity in chipping.
Along with the R&A, the DP World (European) Tour has discovered the magic of the course. The 2019 British Masters and the 2022 Cazoo Classic are just the beginning of a prosperous future hosting professional events.
Hillside Golf Club is private, but they extend a warm welcome to visitors that make them feel like a member for the day in their 1930s clubhouse, styled on a classic English country residence. Unlike many private clubs in the UK, Hillside allows late afternoon visitor play on Saturdays and midday play on Sundays during the season.
During the 2023 Open Championship
Play Hillside as part of a Premier Golf Open Championship Package.
Witness 3 days (Fri – Sun) at the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool, and play Royal Birkdale GC (Monday), Formby GC (Tuesday), Hillside GC (Wednesday) and Royal Lytham & St Annes GC (Thursday).
Packages start from $7,970 per golfer, double occupancy room