British Masters 2019 – England’s Golf Coast

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Dave from @agolfinglife here to shed some light on The British Masters! It’s much earlier in the golfing calendar this year owing to date changes across the pond for the Majors and PGA Tour, however there is always something special about the British Masters and this year at Hillside will be no exception.

Venue: Hillside Golf Club, Southport.

Dates: Thursday 9th May to Sunday 12th May

Tickets: are available from www.betfredbritishmasters.com and £90 for the full package or starting at £19 a day.

May always brings out the best weather and for the windswept North West coast we are in for a real treat of links golf. Early signs are that the weather will be typical, with light to moderate winds – which always feel 10mph stronger on those exposed tee boxes, patchy showers and plenty of sun especially over the final two days when the course will come alive with spectators.

Last year’s champion British Masters Champion Eddie Pepperell, who many will remember for famously not even having a hat sponsor during the tournament such was his own form kicks us off on Thursday with big names such as fan favourite Tommy Fleetwood, fellow Brits; Matt Wallace, Tyrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, Chris Wood, Andy ‘BEEEF’ Johnston and Andy Sullivan as well as Martin Kaymer in the field it’s setup to be an absolute cracker!

Hillside has been on my radar for many years, featuring highly in the county rankings in an area synonymous with Britain’s best golf courses, indeed many of the countries top 20 courses reside in the windswept coast line from Southport to Blackpool.

I was lucky enough to play the course earlier this year and it’s easy to understand why it ranks so highly as a standout course and is a great breakout from the more traditional Royal’s of Liverpool, Birkdale and Lytham St. Anne’s as the new addition to the circuit.

Golf courses in the Area

I set myself a couple of goals last year, one of those was to play a handful of the past British Masters venues as well as tackling the North West golf coast, I managed to tick off Woburn, Walton Heath and Close House from my bucket-list before making my way over to Southport.

It’s hard to believe that in such a small area so many of the country’s best and most challenging golf courses can be found. Hillside itself is simply stunning, given it was a month or so before tournament you would expect nothing less, but still the course was in beautiful condition, I don’t recall having ever played a course so close to a major tournament – probably the closest I will to get to true tournament feel and boy those greens really do speed up when the pros are coming to play!

If you are thinking of heading across for a few days prior to the weekend pro action and fancy honing your skills on some historic courses you won’t be disappointed; but be prepared for your wallet to take a battering.

Top of you list should probably be Hesketh, by far the least well known of the courses in the region and thus also the cheapest but equally beautiful and probably more challenging than the others, with prices starting at £65 for a midweek round.

I couldn’t recommend Hesketh highly enough, the 16th is the signature hole, once described by Sir Henry Cotton as the best Par 3 in Lancashire, which is some achievement.

If you want to test your mettle at past Open Championship venues; you can tackle the Royal Trinity in a single trip too; Royal Liverpool, Hoylake (1897 and 2014), Royal Lytham & St Annes (1926 and 2012 and Royal Birkdale (1954 and 2017), rounds start at £175 for visitors although one of the finest places to stay is at Dormy House at Royal Lytham which also secures a green fee reduction of 25%.

There is very little I can say to impress upon any reader about the history, the beauty, the challenge and the prestige of playing these classic links courses. The best advice I can offer, is that, if you can only play 1 course I would plump for Lytham, as whilst it’s not the prettiest I feel it offers the best all round challenge as you have to be on top of your game and really work to attain a good score. Wild tee shots are punished and shot selection, fairway placement and angle of attack into greens are all put to the test.

If you fancy an easier afternoon head to the more picturesque Birkdale where the flatter fairways are certainly more forgiving.

The best of the rest are still by far better than most other courses you will ever play in your life; Formby, Southport & Ainsdale as well as West Lancashire should not be ignored and as with Hesketh you will get treated to sumptuous heathland crossed links courses from £105 upwards.

For me Formby feels like a ‘proper’ members club, but as with all the courses the staff tend to make you feel very welcome as long as they and the course are treated with respect. My last round was at Southport & Ainsdale and was one of the most enjoyable of the trip and I would suggest that any trip to the area has to include a visit to S&A – I can’t pick a poor hole in the 18 hole layout! The first in particular is a real test… almost always played into the wind and measuring 187 yards with hefty green side bunker protection you will need to make sure you have warmed up and you are ready with your irons to strike!

S&A is also the closet and most natural in terms of a golf course brother to Hillside with parts of each course sharing the same land, a number of fellow golfers warned me about the blind tee shots but I didn’t find this to be particularly bothersome, no more so than my home course. It’s certainly up there with some of the best in the area, tees, greens and fairways were all pristine and what a  great place to finish a fantastic week of golf!

England’s Golf Coast Map

Where to stay and What to do!

Southport

There are so many decent hotels in the Southport area, most will already be booked up so an impromptu arrival may cost you significantly, a golfers favourite is the 4* Bliss Hotel in Southport on the waterfront which is well placed for getting around the area, has great rooms, good service and reasonable prices! There is also a Casino right next door.

If you prefer the classic seaside Victorian feel, The Royal Clifton Hotel which gives you excellent views over this stunning coastline.

Blackpool

Blackpool is just down the road; I’ve stayed at Herons Reach (DeVere) previously as this is a great, cheap base for getting up and down the coast to your desired golf courses and of course Hillside. The service is pretty decent and this is more of a business hub than standard B&B fare which helps it’s standing, there is a also a golf course on site, when compare to the local area the course doesn’t compare but they usually chuck in a free round for two night stays or longer and it’s worth playing even if it’s just to sharpen your game and get rid of those bad shots.

Unfortunately, unless you want the stag and hen experience Blackpool centre offers very little with the exception of the classic old Pleasure Beach theme park which still has the largest number of rollercoasters of any park in the UK and when officially opened The Big One was the tallest of its kind in the world measuring at 213ft with the first drop being a mere 205ft.

Liverpool

There are hundreds of bars to visit, however a night out in friendly Liverpool City Centre is probably more akin to the nightlife one would like to experience. Recent past City of Culture, Liverpool is a fantastic, vibrant, fun and busy city!

For music lovers it’s the home of The Beatles too. The Beatles Story museum is probably number one on the list for every visitor to the city with time to spare and provides a welcome day off from the golf course if you need something else to do with your time.