The Takeaway: One of the best bunkered courses in the world, Royal Lytham & St Annes earns its spot on the Open rota. Though not as scenic as the top UK courses, it uniquely starts with a par three and is a stout test. Grade A-
Designer: George Lowe 1898 (Harry Colt 1919)
Phone Number: +44 1253 724206
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Royal Lytham & St Annes's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Links Gate, Lytham St Annes, Lytham Saint Annes FY8 3LQ – UNITED KINGDOM
What to Expect: If there is one thing that stands out at Royal Lytham & St Annes, it is how well bunkered it is. Not only are there a ton of them, 169 - 205 depending on who you ask, but they are positioned extremely well. Many of the sod faced pits are severe enough that you rarely have a shot at the green from the fairway, and even greenside your best play can often be to go out sideways. The sod is stacked with the grass growing down to put a dark and imposing face on the revetted bunkers which increases the intimidation factor. The mostly flat property devoid of ocean views leaves little to inspire the senses compared to the other British Open layouts, but the far east end of the property that encompasses holes 8-10 is truly a magical stretch with the 9th being one of the finest one-shotters in the UK. As is common with most courses in the UK, players will be required to walk but can rent a trolley to help tote their clubs around. Ultimately, while Lytham enjoys fairly generous fairway widths, it is a thorough and constant examination of a player's skill and mental toughness which is why it has hosted the Open Championship 11 times.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 9th Hole – 164 Yard Par 3 – Easily the biggest piece of eye candy on the property and the favorite hole among all the staff members we talked with, the sexy 9th hole features a series of pot bunkers that wrap around the green like a string of pearls. The putting surface is 30 yards deep and 20 yards wide so there is a good amount of turf to hit with a low iron, so as long as you stay off the edges you can take dead aim at the flag. Ending up in one of the bunkers gets ugly quick as the sod faced hazards have a knack of deflecting some player's first swat at getting out.
Best Par 3: 12th Hole – 196 Yards – The undulated 12th poses a stout challenge for players as they come to the eastern boundary of the links. The tee shot plays northerly to a green that is protected by a half dozen bunkers and somehow plays longer than the yardage though the lack of change in elevation seems to defy that phenomena. The green is angled such as to reduce the amount of depth to work with and really calls for a high, soft cut if you can manage one. Standing on the tee this hole doesn't look too challenging, but after writing down your score you may change your mind.
Best Par 4: 8th Hole – 417 Yards – After playing seven holes on mostly flat terrain, the 8th embarks on the portion of the property that delivers some engaging land to contend with. The elevated tee offers a clear view of the fairway and the pot bunker that sits about 250 out on the left side while a tree line and the railroad frames the right. 50 yards short of the front of the green is an Orion belt of bunkers that crosses the fairway in the area of transition while the fairway climbs 15 feet to the putting surface and adds a full club to your approach shot. While the cross bunkers draw the most attention on this hole, the bunker you need to avoid more than any other is the one on the left side of the green which sits as the deepest bunker on the course.
Best Par 5: 11th Hole – 601 Yards – The back tee compliments the 8th hole in offering an elevated tee to play from; this one playing over a walking path that crosses the hole. 275 yards out on the left side of the fairway are a pair of bunkers that you need to stay short of or clear with your tee shot in order to have a decent chance of reaching the green in regulation. Being a true three-shot hole, selecting your layup distance is all about knowing the day's pin location and your favorite distance. When attacking the green you'll have to take into account the quartet of bunkers protecting the putting surface; three of which haunt the front third. The raised green features sloping edges to contend with so aiming at the center of the green is always the best play.
Birdie Time: 13th Hole – 357 Yard Par 4 – Despite a dozen bunkers lining the sides of this hole, the 13th presents a great birdie opportunity. The relatively generous fairway allows players to cut loose on their driver and set up a short approach shot to the green. The fairway bends gently from left to right which begs for a cut shot to follow the short grass on an optimal angle. The narrow but deep green allows players to chase a ball onto the putting surface and utilize the subtle undulations to have their ball finish near the hole. This is a hole to get aggressive on so go make the best of it.
Bogey Beware: 3rd Hole – 477 Yard Par 4 – Royal Lytham & St Annes has one of the most difficult starts of any course you'll ever contend with. After an opening par three over 200 yards, Lytham follows up with a 481 yard par four and this 477 yard two-shotter meaning you likely won't have an approach shot under 200 yards in the first three holes. The rail line and trees set the right boundary while nearly a dozen bunkers coming into play enroute to the green; two of which are in the driving zone on the left side. The 15 yard entrance into the green is narrow, especially coming in from the distance most players will have to contend with. Lytham wastes no time testing players mettle right off the bat and being three over through three is certainly a possibility.