Royal Liverpool Golf Club
Thirteenth hole, 160/155 yards, Rushes; Rountree’s 1909 painting of Hoy lake in Darwin’s Golf Courses of the British Isles shows large homes dotting the landscape north of the 13th hole. Indeed, some of those homes pre-date the turn of the 20th century. Thus, the opportunity to route a few more holes in the dunes was gone and the remaining six holes of the golf course now return to the field. The final one shot hole on the course is an underrated Colt design with no other approach played in the same general direction. Regarding the wind, Patric Dickinson pithily wrote in A Round of Golf Courses in 1951, “Hoylake shares with bicycling the strange fact that whichever way you turn, the wind is plumb against, or at any rate unhelpful, across, or only behind when it is downhill, and you don’t, anyway (e.g. the 13th), want it to be.” A hole of this length (or shorter) should be a requirement for all courses in a windy locale. The wide tee areas give the Club several interesting angles of play toward Colt’s green. From edge to edge the tee boxes are over 50 yards in length and would be out of place anywhere else on the course. Here, tucked in the corner of the property, they work.
Fourteenth hole, 555/520 yards, Field; One of the most famous closing stretches in golf now begins with the golfer needing to cover over 2,450 yards in the final five holes. As its name suggests, the golfer is well and truly out of the dunes and Darwin writes, “They may not be much to look at, those last five, but they are horribly good golf.” Though not out of bounds, a cop is used to great effect 100 yards from the green as an elbow that the fairway bends, giving the hole its interesting playing angles. Jack Nicklaus failed to birdie the 14th in the final round of the Open Championship in 1967, which in large part helped Robertode Vicenzohome.
Fifteenth hole, 460/455 yards, Lake; At its highest form, links golf enjoys a sense of expansiveness that only the most open of heathland courses can rival. Out in the flats, this hole certainly has a sense of spaciousness but the play of the hole invariably comes down to its last 70 yards as this hole generally plays into the wind off the water. Six bunkers dot the last fifty yards to the green, which at 40 paces is the second deepest green on the course (behind the overly big17th green that Steel created). Despite its openness, the play of this big hole often hinges on how well the golfer handles the two foot step in the middle of the green that creates two plateaus.
Sixteenth hole, 560/540 yards, Dun; The only disappointment in Tiger Woods’ performance was that the drama of the final round in the 2006 Open Championship had played out by the time this hole was reached. Other than The Old Course at St. Andrews, every Open course features a long, tough two shotter as its Home hole. Some like the ones at Muirfield and Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s are justly praised but the swing in shots on such holes is generally confined between a birdie and a bogey. This hole promises more death or glory heroics with anything from an eagle to a triple bogey a possibility.
Seventeenth hole, 455/430 yards, Royal; Both the Club and the Royal & Ancient deserve credit for playing this and the next hole as the 1st and 2nd holes during the 2006 Open Championship. The change in sequencing of holes highlighted the Lake and Dun holes as opposed to the Royal and Stand holes, a good thing especially as noted above for the Dun’s ability to produce a heroic finish. The Royal in fact was once the Home hole playing straight toward the (now defunct) Royal Hotel. The Club’s move from the Royal Hotel to the present clubhouse location in the mid 1890s meant this hole became the penultimate one and the then 1st hole became the Home hole. Colt’s work in 1924 included pushing back Morris’ and Chamber’s original green on this hole and angling it against the road. As previously discussed, it was a terror of a hole but with one too many balls leaving the Club property, something had to be done. The task given to Steel was a tough one: create a hole of interest in a flat field. Colt had obviously chosen the route of the green position flush against the Club property but that option was taken away from Steel. Indeed, his only option was to place the green where he did. The rub is that the green he created is far and away the largest one on the course. In addition, though attractively rolling, it is not in keeping with the character of the other long established greens at Hoylake. In some ways, the bigger size of the green makes it a better 1st hole than a 17th.
Eighteenth hole, 435/400 yards, Stand; The 18th has seen much change over the past century with the Club continually tweaking it one way or another. Steel’s version was well received and creates some fine hole locations.
As usual, Darwin best summarizes Hoylake when he writes, “this place of dull and rather mean appearance is one of the most interesting and difficult courses in the world, and preeminently one which is regarded with affection by all who know it well. Darwin had little patience for those that didn’t understand The Old Course at St. Andrews or here. Regarding such people,Darwin went onto write”He may forthwith be treated with silent contempt, and his opinions may be ignored. He has effectually written himself down as an ass.’ Architect Tom Doak put it kinder when he wrote Hoylake ‘separates the true lovers of links golf from those who only sort of understand it.’