Golf Vacations (Malaysia)

DESTINATIO­N FOCUS Liverpool A Liverpudli­an, James Mason tells us why Liverpool is one of the greatest cities on earth and a haven for golfers and football fans. Of course, while being as unbiased as possible.

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It’s been a wonderful summer in England this year and I’m playing the course in similar conditions to when Tiger Woods won the championsh­ip here in 2006 - light-brown, dry, fast-running fairways with true rolling, quick greens. Perfect summer links conditions.

The course was originally designed by Robert Chambers and George Morris, younger brother of Old Tom. This was extended to 18 holes in 1871. Harry Colt redesigned the course in 1924 and Fred Hawtree had another go in the 1960s. The final redesign was undertaken in 2000/01 in preparatio­n for the Open Championsh­ip five years later.

It’s been a wonderful summer in England this year and

I’m playing the course in similar conditions to when Tiger Woods won the championsh­ip here in 2006 - light-brown, dry, fast-running fairways with true rolling, quick greens. Perfect summer links conditions.

Highlights to look for include the very deep bunker to the right of the eighth green and the beautiful Par 3, 11th hole known as the Alps, which is played from an elevated tee with the River Dee and Hilbre Island to your left.

But one of my favourite holes is the 391-yard Par 4 ninth. Apart from the great coastal views from the tee, I love the second shot into this punchbowl of a green that just nestles in the dunes.

ROYAL BIRKDALE

An hour’s drive sees me pulling up outside the wonderful white art-deco clubhouse at Royal Birkdale, one of the most iconic clubhouses in golf. It opened in 1935 and is unchanged apart from periodic refurbishm­ents, and it stands imperious above the 18th green.

JH Taylor and Frederic George Hawtee were given the commission of creating a tough-but-fair test of golf in 1922, and their philosophy was to lay out holes in the valleys and between the sand-hills of the Birkdale Hills, which gives some fantastic vantage points for spectators during Open Championsh­ips.

After checking in, I head down to see the starter and can just tell I’m in for a wonderful afternoon’s golf. The paths to the tee are all immaculate­ly-placed. Everything is in perfect condition. It’s another tough opening tee shot but I do like the way the hole is nestled between the dunes and gently doglegs to the left. A good tee shot leaves me only an 8-iron in, and holing the birdie putt I nearly skip to the second tee.

I have to say at this point, I’ve played Royal Birkdale several times and it vies as my number one course in the world with Formby. Put simply, Formby becomes my favourite between September and November due to the wonderful colours that come to the fore in the autumn months.

All the Par 3s are perfectly designed holes and the first of them arrives at the fourth, but for me it’s the two on the back nine – the 12th at 181 yards and the 14th at 199 yards – that I like most, and it’s hard to choose a favourite between them.

The highlight is the finishing holes 17 and 18. Who can forget Padraig Harrington’s second shot into that long thin green to set up an eagle chance at 17 in 2008 as he went on to win his second Open Championsh­ip? Or Tom Watson’s second shot to the 18th green in 1983?

In fact, that stroke by Watson is part of Royal Birkdale’s unique claim to fame. At the height of his game, it secured Tom’s fifth Open Championsh­ip. No one believed that he wouldn’t go on to equal Harry Vardon’s record of six Open Championsh­ips, but like Peter Thomson back in 1965, Royal Birkdale proved to be the scene of his last Open victories.

ROYAL LYTHAM AND ST ANNES

The 2024 Open will once again pitch up at Royal Lytham and St Annes which was founded in 1886 and been situated at its present site since 1897. It’s recognised as one of the best links courses in the world and has not only hosted 11 Open Championsh­ips but also two Ryder Cups.

The course was originally designed by the club’s first profession­al, George Lowe. It was further improved in 1919 by Harry Colt, who spent four years reposition­ing some of the greens and tees, adding bunkers and lengthenin­g the course.

The result is a thinking-man’s course that resists all attempts to overpower it thanks to sublime protection – whether it be the greenside bunkering, the many raised greens, where approach shots need to be thought through, or the lay-up areas on the Par 5s.

Of course, like all links courses, when the wind blows, this course will test every part of you both physically and mentally.

It is very rare to find a course that starts with a Par 3 and even rarer to find one that starts a Major championsh­ip course, and as I step onto the tee of this 206 yard hole, it really is a unique opener.

Standing on the tee you feel like you are nestled in trees, but they only run two-thirds of the hole down the right. Then it opens out as it reaches the green, which is protected by no less than seven bunkers with a further two just short of the green. Good contact sees me make a solid par to get off to a good start.

From the opening Par 3, or the 16th, where Seve played that remarkable recovery shot on the way to winning his first Open Championsh­ip here in 1979, or the 18th with its 11 fairway bunkers and six greenside bunkers where Gary Player puts his second shot against the clubhouse wall, Lytham resonates with golfing history.

The finest holes happen to be in the middle of the course and the run from the Par 5, 569-yard seventh hole to the Par 5, 601-yard 11th hole is sublime. The front nine is rather unique as it plays alongside the railway lines that run down the right of the first eight holes.

BEST OF THE REST

At the top of the list of courses outside the Open rota is Formby. The course has been through several redesigns, the original layout having been refreshed by Willie Park Jnr back in 1912.

Not only does it sit among some beautiful dunes but several of its holes have stunning red pines lining the fairways, all within touching distance of the Formby Red Squirrel Reserve.

I love the opening hole here that runs along the side of the railroad tracks. The run of holes from the seventh to the ninth are all very tough but stunning looking and are some of the best on the course as you play through the pines.

Concentrat­ion is very much needed if you are not to wreck your scorecard. As I said earlier, there’s little to choose between Formby and Royal Birkdale, but during the autumn months the heather and changing colours of the leaves and trees make

this a perfect time to play the former.

West Lancashire Golf Club comes next. There is no let-up here in quality courses, and in my opinion, West Lancs is one of the unsung heroes along this stretch of coast – and, I believe, one of the toughest tests of golf you are likely to find anywhere when the rough and winds are up.

West Lancashire Golf Club was founded in 1873, making it one of the 10 oldest courses in England. Created by Ken Cotton and redesigned by Fred Hawtree, it examines every part of your game.

There are some great Par 3s that rely on strateg y, with pin placements that could see you fighting putting yips, especially with the green’s subtle burrows further confoundin­g the way to the hole.

The elevated tee at the 13th will afford you some stunning views out to the Irish Sea and one of the toughest doglegs you will ever play awaits you at the 14th. The 18th is a wonderful finishing hole.

And finally, there is Hillside. This year, TV viewers around the world will get a good look at this beautiful course which is often overlooked due to its illustriou­s neighbour, Royal Birkdale, being right next door. As is the case, Tommy Fleetwood will be hosting this year’s British Masters over this stunning links land so it will draw some much deserved attention upon its lay.

The course was originally founded in 1911 but moved to new land in 1923. Three decades later Fred Hawtree was commission­ed to redesign the course, and in 1967 the new layout came into play.

Although not on the Open Championsh­ip rota, it has held several major tournament­s including the 1973 Benson & Hedges Match Play Championsh­ip and the 1982 PGA Championsh­ip won by Tony Jacklin. There are two fantastic Par 5s - 11th and 17th - played through dune valleys.

LIVERPOOL FC

By the time you read this article the Mighty Reds, as they are known, may well have landed – fingers crossed – their 19th top-flight championsh­ip and their first of the Premier League era. Boy, will that be some party if it happens.

As it is, the club attracts supporters from all over the world for games at Anfield, not least Europe, North America and Asia. There is, for instance, a massive fan club based in Hong Kong, with many members travelling over regularly to visit the shrine of Anfield. Lots of them are avid golfers, too, and it amazes me that they don’t bring their clubs.

“We didn’t realise there was so much great golf to play,” is a standard response.

Well, now you know about the fantastic courses all within an hour of Liverpool city-centre, so there’s no excuse for not combining a match at Anfield with walking in the footsteps of some of the greatest Open Championsh­ip winners ever.

You never know, you may even bump into LFC legends like Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Michael Owen and

Robbie Fowler on the course – they are all members of golf clubs here.

By the time you read this article the Mighty Reds, as they are known, may well have landed – fingers crossed – their 19th top-flight championsh­ip and their first of the Premier League era. Boy, will that be some party if it happens.

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 ??  ?? CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The clubhouse at Royal Lytham and St Anne's is majestical­ly red; The second at Southport and Ainsdale; Royal Birkdale is another longstandi­ng site of the Open and here is the 12th hole.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The clubhouse at Royal Lytham and St Anne's is majestical­ly red; The second at Southport and Ainsdale; Royal Birkdale is another longstandi­ng site of the Open and here is the 12th hole.
 ??  ?? FROM TOP: Hillbark Hotel,
the smallest luxury hotel in England is big on quality; The 9th at Formby, a links that should be part of the
Open rota.
FROM TOP: Hillbark Hotel, the smallest luxury hotel in England is big on quality; The 9th at Formby, a links that should be part of the Open rota.
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