Located in Southport, in the heart of the best stretch of linksland in England, Hillside has neighbours such as Royal Birkdale (which is next door), Southport & Ainsdale and Formby, and is not embarrassed to be among such illustrious company.
No less an expert than Greg Norman has said that the back nine is the best in Britain.
The first few holes are no pushover, either, featuring a pesky burn that pops up exactly where you would least like to see it and a railway line running parallel to some fairways.
But the front nine is generally flatter, and then you hit the homeward stretch, situated among sandhills which means that every hole feels like its own oasis, separate and isolated from the madding world. Even from the visitor tees Hillside offers as stern a test as you could hope for and if you shoot your handicap the first time around here, you’re probably a bandit.
Founded in 1911, Hillside Golf Club forms part of England's finest stretch of championship links courses, a stretch that also includes the likes of Royal Birkdale, Southport & Ainsdale, Formby and Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It can be said that Hillside actually looks down on Royal Birkdale but far from being a reflection on the esteem in which these two great clubs hold each other, it has more to do with the fact that Hillside's back nine traverses some magnificently mountainous dunes, which offer stunning views of both Birkdale and the surrounding countryside from Blackpool to Colwyn Bay in North Wales.
The homeward stretch of holes date from 1967 and were designed by renowned golf course architect, Fred Hawtree. And there are many, including such luminaries as Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, who rate it as one of the finest nine-hole stretches in Britain. Since the alterations of the late 1960's, Hillside Golf Club has hosted many major events, including the PGA Championship in 1982, where Tony Jacklin secured his last significant victory as a tour player; the Ladies British Open; the Benson & Hedges Matchplay and the British Amateur Championship. Hillside also regularly stages final qualifying for the British Open Championship, most recently in 2001 when the Open was held at nearby Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Those who doubt the credentials of Hillside as a championship links should put much credence in the words of Australian, Roger Pampling. Playing at Carnoustie in 1999, on what was widely considered to be the toughest ever setup in an Open Championship, first round leader Pampling was asked whether this was the hardest course he had ever played. His response - "No, Hillside at last years Open Qualifying". Measuring over 6,800 yards from the championship tees, Hillside meanders its way through majestic sand hills and pinewoods, thus creating an amphitheatric effect on each hole. Many holes have elevated tees and offer superb views over the Irish Sea.
Rated by all who have a right to comment as one of the finest links tests in the world, the quality of Hillside is not for debate. And while the homeward nine quite possibly overshadows what comes before, scoring is no easier right from the start where you are faced with a difficult drive alongside the railway. The tantalizing journey into the dunes begins at the 10th hole, a well-bunkered par three of 147 yards. The climb to the 11th tee, from where the spectacular coastal views are truly breathtaking, is worth every puff, while the long par five, 17th hole also offers excellent vistas from its elevated tee position, high above Royal Birkdale.
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