Manchester England, May 2014 trip report
– Hillside: We played Hillside on day of arrival. A perfect starter course….a bit parklandish….great scenic back nine….slow bumpy greens…..a couple nuisance burns. Wallasey a seaside links is more interesting and challenging.
– Royal Lytham: A fabulous course ruined by 250 pot bunkers…they line the sides of all fairways and surround all greens….your best shots get randomly penalized…..flop it out. It’s often better to hit it way off line than just off line. This course will test your patience. Iconic clubhouse…they included a free lunch before our round. What a vista from the 18th tee….magnificent view of the clubhouse and the most daunting array of pot bunkers you’ll ever see.
– Formby: A real treat…one of our favorites. A bit parklandish like Hillside. 8,9 and 10 are a bit funky but the rest are excellent. The pot bunkers can get you but they usually do not line both sides of fairway.
– Royal Birkdale: Another favorite. Set in among the dunes. Walk out to a high ground atop a dune before your round and take it all in. Unique white clubhouse designed to look like a ship. You may encounter Corporal Bert Beddows starting you off the first tee….92 years old….knickers and jacket…..special ops at Normandy. Chat him up. Site of my best hole of the trip….#1. A very long par 4…slight dogleg left…. daunting tee shot…green tucked right behind a mound. I striped my drive just right of the pot at the corner and it bounded down the fairway probably 50 yards further than any other in our group. Then a sweet 5 iron just over the mound that ran another 30 yds. to about 15 feet…easy par….most of our boys went double bogey max. Nice range and short game areas….there are a couple nets to hit into just off the putting green if you like. Soup and sandwich recommended with panoramic view of the 18th green. Finishes with back to back par 5s…..both reachable.
– Royal Liverpool (aka Hoylake): Site of 2014 British Open. How cool to play with the grandstands in place around the 18th green! Note the 18th as played in the Open is actually the 16th hole for normal play. Hence, if you are not aware of this and you are relying on your Garmin, you are totally screwed! Our #1 hole was usually the 17th hole. Good short game area over by the normal #1 tee or number 3 tee if you are still playing the Open sequence. Range is awkwardly OB right of #3 and right of #18….1 and 16 if you play the normal routing. 15 and 18 are reachable par 5s…..I played the back nine -1….. 2 birdie 74…my high water mark. Wonderful old clubhouse. Again, soup and sandwich is a treat. Impressive memorabilia. Check in reminded me of Seminole….you go into the Clubhouse first and report to the man in the cage…then on to the Pro shop.
– Course rankings: [influenced by the weather and how well I played.]
Tier 1: Royal Liverpool — Royal Birkdale.
Tier 2: Formby…but just an eyelash off T1.
Tier 3: Royal Lytham — Wallasey —Hillside
Money: Best deal is to exchange your dollars at a local bank. Check with your credit card issuer to see if they will surcharge foreign transactions. A Pound buys in UK about what a Dollar buys in the U.S.
The Vincent Hotel: Very nice…modern…smallish rooms….very comfortable beds….good HVAC….dangerous shower entry and exit….situated perfectly in the middle of Southport shopping and entertainment district. The “V” restaurant is excellent for your included daily breakfasts…full U.K. buffet…eggs avail to order…specialty coffees…..all served by a very attentive staff. We had good dinners there two nights. Excellent bell staff.
Celtic Fairway v. Perry Golf:
* Celtic was $750 cheaper.
* Perry Coach was substantially larger.
* Perry driver was the greatest….brought beer in nap sack to the boys at the turn…caddied one day when a caddy did not show up…..even played one day when one of our players could not continue.
* Celtic Coach was new and adequate….not owned by Celtic.
* Celtic driver was simply a bus driver….prompt…courteous….knew nothing of the local area…..took us to the wrong course one day [Formby and Formby Hall are not the same!]……when asked for restaurant recommendations “check with the concierge”….never spoke to us on the PA system…..not much personality…… no initiative.
* Celtic tee times were fine……noted no access advantage for Perry.
* Always a bit of a nuisance to pay Celtic in Euros.
Weather: May is not optimal. Cool….windy…periodic showers ……I was in rain suit 50% of the time. Courses were green…roughs lush….pitch marks possible at a few courses. Ball still rolls forever if you can keep it in the fairway and away from the pots. Titleist Zipline premier StaDry waterproof bag was a winner…still need to ziploc gloves and wallet.
Caddies: $100 each. Some excellent…..some not. [Most aggravated me as usual w/ unsolicited advice often just before I was ready to pull the trigger] It never ceases to amaze me how much they slow the game down w/ tedious consultation over club selection / line that the player has less than 10% chance of pulling off no matter what the selection….but I digress !
Also, they tend to give a lot of lay-up / conservative advice. Motive may be to minimize effort to find balls. You’ll feel better if you adopt mantra “I did not come 4000 miles to lay up!” Off the tee, hit it as far as you can on your instinct line as most designs seem to support that.
– No need for a coat or tie.
– We consumed just over 1 bottle of Jameson on each trip home from courses. The 1 liter bottle I got duty free going over was the best price we got all week.
– Take off your hats inside club houses….and wear street shoes.