Royal Lytham and Saint Anne’s Golf Club is located in the town of Lytham St Anne’s, just to the south of Blackpool. It is a fine links course ranked in the world top 100 golf courses. It is quite unique in the rotation of the British Open. As a true links course it is no longer close to the sea but half a mile inland. It is between two busy seaside resorts and remarkably the course is set amongst a Victorian housing estate on a limited piece of land, with red-brick houses in plain view. Located nearby is the St. Anne’s train station, with the railway line running adjacent to the first nine holes of the course. It deviates from the typical standards of other world-class links offering no sea views and most of the character of the course including bunkers and dunes is man-made. The course makes up for what it lacks in scenic views with an epic golf routing on sandy soil that is one of the finest and most challenging you are likely to play. Although it is away from the sea it is close enough for the sea breezes blowing in from the Irish Sea to have an effect on your game. The sea isn’t too far off and the seaside resort of Blackpool with the iconic Blackpool Tower can be seen in the background. Open to the elements, the trees on the course permanently lean sideways, with the wind often proving a formidable competitor in the homeward five holes of the course.
The Club has been host to eleven Open Championships, two Ryder Cups and numerous other major tournaments including the Women’s and Senior Open Championships and the Walker Cup.
A Short History
The club was formed in February 1886 with nineteen founder members and the membership grew steadily. The initial course was in play from 1887 on leased land that stretched as far as St Anne’s Old Links. There were 27 holes, 18 for the men and 9 for the ladies. The club moved to its own site in 1897, after George Lowe the clubs first professional laid out 18 holes. The course was further modified by the leading golf architect Harry Colt in 1919 and between the wars. Each hole was altered to some extent. New greens were built for holes three and seventeen creating fine links holes. Colt’s 17th hole provided the backdrop for Bobby Jones recovery and eventual win in 1926 Open Championship. This was the clubs first Open and King George V gave his approval for adding the word 'Royal' to the club's title just in time for the championship to start. In 1935 Colt made further changes to the eleventh, twelfth and fifteenth in particular. More recently there have been adjustments to increase the length of the course and to modify some bunkers.
Royal Lytham & St Anne’s Golf Course (7118 yards, Par 70)
The golf course is extremely tough and generally is considered one of the most difficult on the Open Rosta. Described as a ‘beast of a course’, only Carnoustie normally has a more difficult set up. There are 205 strategically positioned pot bunkers dotting the fairways and surrounding the greens, lying in wait for errant shots. When the wind blows, there is arguably no more exacting course in Britain and Ireland. Its bunkers make those at the majority of this country's courses appear ineffectual. If you find the sand with a mis-directed drive or an approach it is often a shot gone. Sometimes, even accomplished bunker players find it difficult to merely escape backwards. George Lowe with later advice from Harry Colt has designed it with devil and cunning. The terrain around many of the numerous bunkers gathers relentlessly towards the pits as balls are drawn towards the sand. The design provides a ruthless examination demanding accuracy and strategic play. The golf course has remained close to its original layout with just a few improvements over the last 130 years. Royal Lytham has been selected for numerous major tournaments. The Open Championship has been held eleven times at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s. The Women's British Open has been held their five times. The club hosted the 1961 and 1977 Ryder Cup matches.
The course unusually starts with a long par 3, 206 yards from the back tee. There is out of bounds along the length of the hole on the right as protection for the working railway line. Large trees have the effect of shielding the tee from the prevailing winds complicating club selection for a tee shot to a difficult green with severe bunkers. On this hole Ian Woosnam playing in the 2001 Open made a fine birdie only to find that he had an extra club in his bag. The penalty that this incurred possibly cost him the winners cheque and trophy. The second and third holes continue along the railway, both are tough par fours with the third being index 1.
The 5th is the longest par three at 218 yards and is cleverly bunkered. A change of routing means that the hole plays into the prevailing wind. There is dead ground in front of the green that is deceptive and makes the hole play longer than it appears.
The 7th at 589 yards is a long par five with OOB all down the right side. It starts a run from seven to the tenth which is said to be one of the finest in Open golf. There are fifteen bunkers to negotiate and it runs into the dunes. The par four 8th plays from an exposed elevated tee and the green is protected by cross bunkers. Nine is a beautifully shaped short par three protected by nine bunkers.
At the tenth the back-nine turns towards home playing blindly through the dunes, a great hole again supported by bunkers. Eleven is a demanding 601 yard par five and twelve is a tricky par three.
The finishing five holes compete with Carnoustie in providing the most difficult finish on the Open Rosta. They are all par four holes and have provided some thrilling finishes in the Open Championship.
Royal Lytham is not a classic links course. It has no monster dunes nor typical undulating fairways, it is not a natural design but essentially man made with a complete lack of splendid sea views. However, its clever design provides a unique and different challenge.
Summary of eleven Open Golf Championships hosted by Royal Lytham
The infamous closing five holes played their part in several tournaments. The excellent greens allowed Tony Jacklin and Bob Charles to win with outstanding putting performances.
61st Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1926
In the first Open at Royal Lytham the amateur Bobby Jones was two behind Al Watrous with five holes to play. After picking up two strokes to tie, Jones hit a wayward drive on 17 which appeared to give the tournament back to Watrous. However, Jones hit an incredible recovery shot from the sand dunes onto the green. It was closer than Watrous' approach from the fairway. Jones took a vital lead in the tournament on this hole after Watrous three-putted. Jones played the tough final 5 holes in 4-3-4-4-4 to post 74 for 291, while Watrous struggled to 78 and 293. It was first of Jones three Open Championship victories.
81st Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1952
Bobby Locke was four behind Fred Daly after 36 holes. Locke began the final round that afternoon 3-4-3 and reached the turn in 34. He finished with 74 and 73 on a tough windy final day winning by one shot over Peter Thomson. He claimed the third of his four claret jugs. Locke had to work hard both on and off the course for this 3rd Claret Jug. On the final morning he found the garage, in which his car was stored, locked with his clubs in the boot. Locke arrived at the course with just enough time to change his shoes and walk to the first tee. Winners cheque was £300.
87th Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1958
Peter Thomson and Welshman Dave Thomas recorded the lowest total scores ever in the championship. This led to a 36-hole playoff and after 7 holes the scores were level. From the 8th green Thomson capitalised on his opponent’s short missed putts and gained a four shot lead which he held to the end. Thomson was crowned Champion Golfer in an incredible run of seven years where he was either first or second in The Open. This is arguably the finest series of finishes in Open Championship history. Winners prize was £1,000.
92nd Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1963
The early rounds were led by Phil Rogers but Bob Charles took over in the third round. Four rounds were not enough to separate Charles and Rodgers, a playoff was required. This was won easily by Charles who had provided one of the finest displays of putting ever seen. Jack Nicklaus the hot favourite stayed in contention but dropped shots at the last two holes which proved costly. Charles won the Claret Jug and became the only left handed player to win a major title. The winner’s prize was £1500.
98th Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1969
Bob Charles took the lead in the first two rounds but Jacklin took over in the third round building a two-stroke lead going into the final round. Jacklin’s putting all week was a key factor with a total of 25 single-putts during his four rounds and only one three putt. His superb short game display included just 29 putts. His scores were 68, 70, 70, 72 Total 280. He won by 2 shots gaining the first of two major championships.
103rd Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1974
Gary Player won his third Open Championship, four strokes ahead of runner-up Peter Oosterhuis. It was the eighth of his nine major titles. The infamous finishing stretch slowed him down with three bogeys but
his final round score of 70 was sufficient. Twenty five years after his first major win Player was able to produce his very best golf. He had claimed the title in three separate decades and became the fourth player to win the Masters and The Open in the same year.
108th Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1979
Seve Ballesteros based his game on advice that the closer you got to the green the rough was less thick. On his way to a second round 65, Seve’s finish on the feared finishing stretch on was extraordinary with a sequence of four birdies in the last five holes. Playing the 16th hole in the final round, a huge drive found an overflow car park on the right of the fairway. Seve had a free drop, pitched onto the green and holed a 20-foot putt for a birdie. He won by three strokes from Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw.
117th Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1988
The weather delayed the final round to the Monday. The leader was Nick Price two shots ahead of Seve and Nick Faldo. Nick Price played the six holes from the sixth to eleventh in four under par, then Seve played them in six under par leaving Price one behind. The challenge continued and on the last, Ballesteros stood holding a one-shot lead. A pulled approach shot left a challenging chip across the green. The Spaniard hit a wondrous chip to six inches, claiming his second claret jug and £200,000 in the process. Upon reflection, Ballesteros said “So far, it is the best round of my life,”
125th Open Championship Royal Lytham - 1996
Tom Lehman in the third round played an outstanding round of golf. He recorded the lowest score at Royal Lytham in major championship history, a 64. The exceptional round made a record 198 strokes for the first 54 holes, the lowest in Open Championship history up until 2019. He had a six stroke lead in the final round and his 73 was enough to win the Claret Jug and £200,000.
130th Open Championship Royal Lytham - 2001
David Duval made a superb performance with a third round 65. He joined Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Alex Cejka in the lead. In the final round, Duval birdied four of the first 11 holes on the way to a 67 and a three-shot win over Niclas Fasth, who also had a 67. The fearsome closing holes proved no match for Duval’s effortless golf. He described his second shot on the 15th hole from 210 yards as. “One of the best shots I’ve ever hit.” He claimed his first elusive major, the Claret Jug and £600,000.
141st Open Championship Royal Lytham - 2012
Adam Scott equalled the course record of 64 on the first day. Scott was the leader after 54 holes at 199 (−11), with Ernie Els six strokes back. With a birdie at the 14th Scott was four ahead with four to play. Els, two groups ahead of Scott birdied the 18th hole for a score of 68 and the clubhouse lead at 273 (−7). The treacherous closing stretch yielded 4 bogeys for Scott. Els won his second Claret Jug, one stroke ahead of Scott, his fourth major tittle and £900,000.