Golf Article

Royal Liverpool

If they Hold It, Will they Come?

By Peter Hellman, Classic Golf Tours


"If they hold it, will they come" was probably said many times by the British Open committee responsible for picking Royal Liverpool as the site for the 2006 Open. 

Liverpool, the city, certainly lacks the charm and universal golf appeal of venues such as St. Andrews, Turnberry, Royal Troon or Carnoustie (all in Scotland) or Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham St. Annes in England.  Lacking charm is a nice way of saying that for years many in England and elsewhere viewed the city more as a "pool of cess" than a "pool of liver".  Either way, its tourism virtues can be difficult to find. 


There must be a reason why Royal Liverpool, though among the Rota of Open courses, has not held a British Open event in 39 years?  Is it the area's slow and painful move from a heavy manufacturing economy to an economy based on high tech and service industries?  Perhaps it's due to its large pool of blue collar workers struggling to adjust?  Or, maybe it has something to do with the Beatles, Liverpool's most famous sons?  To get enough information to make my own decision, I journeyed to Liverpool to see for myself. 


The first thing I discovered is that Royal Liverpool is not in Liverpool.  It's located between Hoylake and West Kirby in an area called the Wirral.  (With names like Hoylake and the Wirral you have to believe that things are already improving.)   The Wirral is a peninsula, located across the bay from Liverpool and accessed via a long tunnel under the bay.  From the airport the drive takes about an hour.


Things are different out on the Wirral.  It serves as both a bedroom community for the Liverputians working in the city and as a quaint retreat from the hardness of the city with beaches, open space and some great golf.  Here is what I found and what you can play.


Royal Liverpool, opened in 1869, is the second oldest seaside course in England. The course is delightful and has a welcoming club house and staff that is anxious and proud to show off its course.  At 6921 yards (visitors play from the yellow tees at 6327 yards) and a par 72, Royal Liverpool is noted for its challenging winds and great golf history.  Non members are welcome on Monday through Friday and though a bit pricy (about $200 per person), its worth the cost.  Ten Open Championships have been held on the course, the last being in 1967.  In 1930, Bobby Jones won the Open here in what was the second leg of the then Grand Slam of Golf (winning the Open and Amateur Championships in both the United Kingdom and the United States in the same year)  Shortly after winning the Open,  Jones, age 28, retired from competition having no more golf challenges to pursue. The original Walker Cup (United States versus the United Kingdom) was held here in 1921.


After Royal Liverpool, a round at Wallasey Golf Club is a must.  Like Royal Liverpool, it has plenty of history and a welcoming attitude to visitors.  This Tom Morris designed course was built in 1891 runs to 6572 yards with a par of 72 and serves as a qualifying course for Open Championships at Royal Liverpool.  Aside from the massive painting of Bobby Jones (an honorary member) in the club house (an exact replica graces Augusta National Golf Club site of The Masters), Wallasey is the home club of the inventor of the Stableford Scoring System, Dr. Frank Stableford. The first Stapleford tournament was held here in 1932.  Wallasey welcomes non members all week.  Green fees are $125 weekday and $150 weekend.


The third course on the Wirral that you should play is the Caldy Golf Club.  Situated on the estuary of the River Dee, Caldy provides a wonderful blend of seaside and parkland golf.  The course length is 6601 yards and has a par of 72.  Caldy has hosted many important tournaments and served as a qualifying course for others.  Green fees run $125 and visitors are welcome on most days.  Find a member to play with and your green fee drops to about $26.


Finally, if a parkland course with a great view is of interest, I suggest you play Heswall Golf Club as part of your tour.  Founded in 1902, the course has plenty of trees and wildlife and its location along the River Dee marshes contribute to a wonderful experience.  Jack Morris, nephew of Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, designed the course with additional help through the years from Harry Vardon, Frank Pennink and Donald Steel.  Chosen by the R&A to host the Junior Open Championship in 2006, Heswall has a par of 72 and runs to 6550 yards.  The course is open to the public and green fees run about $90 week days and $105 on the weekends.


Whether of the loyal golf crowd will come in droves to the 2006 Open Championship is still uncertain.  I know I won't be there.  I would rather play than be part of hordes of fans crowding the few open spaces to get a glimpse of their favorite pro.  But, when the Open finally ends, I'll gladly return to the area and indulge in some great golf.  You should too!  By the way, Liverpool is much more interesting than I imaged.  The infamous dock area has been redeveloped into fancy shops, restaurants, a yacht harbor and lofts.  Don't miss the Beatles Museum either.  If you're old enough, it will take you back.