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Royal Liverpool Golf Club

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Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) Restored to the Open Championship rota in 2006 after a 49-year gap, Hoylake is the second oldest links course in England, having been founded in 1869. It is also, in our view, alongside St Andrews, the Open venue that is most welcoming and friendly to visitors. It is an easy course to walk, being mainly flat, although some holes run through sandhills but don’t ever get the idea that it is easy to play. Tiger Woods won the Open here in 2006 when he was at the peak of his considerable powers, and only hit his driver once, emphasising the need for accuracy. And despite having hosted the Open 11 times, Hoylake is even better known for its contribution to the amateur game. It was the venue for the first ever Amateur Championship, Home Internationals and amateur match between GB&I and USA, which evolved into the Walker Cup. Play it on a calm day and you might wonder what the fuss is about; play it when the wind blows and you will find out just how good you are. 18th Best Golf Course in the UK ||   With the exception of Westward Ho! in Devon, Royal Liverpool is the oldest seaside course in England. The original layout was conceived by Robert Chambers and George Morris, and was extended to 18 holes in 1871, the same year that it was awarded its Royal status. In the early days, the links land doubled as the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club, but these days the golf course takes centre stage. The Hoylake links can be, by turns, beautiful, uplifting, awe inspiring and, on occasion, soul-destroying. They were created to be a demanding test of golf and remain so, and they lie at the very heart of the history and development of golf in Great Britain. Built in 1869, on what was then the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club, Hoylake is the oldest of all the English seaside courses with the exception of Westward Ho! in Devon, which was established just a few years earlier. Robert Chambers and George Morris were commissioned to lay out the original Hoylake course, which was extended to 18 holes in 1871. This was also the year in which the Club was granted its Royal designation thanks to the patronage of His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught. For the first seven years of its life the land still performed its original function, doubling as a golf course and a horse racing track - indeed, echoes of this heritage can be found today in the names of the first and eighteenth holes, Course and Stand, while the original saddling bell still hangs in the club house. Once the horses had been dispatched to pastures new Hoylake began to take its place in the history of golf in general and of the amateur game in particular. In 1885 the links hosted the first Amateur Championship; in 1902 the first international match between England and Scotland, later to become the Home Internationals; and, in 1921, the first international match between Great Britain and the United States of America, which we now know as The Walker Cup. In fact, it is Royal Liverpool Golf Club's contribution to the amateur game that has set it apart from all other clubs in England. Although, at the end of the nineteenth century, it was the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews that took on the role of the governing body in golf as the game developed, it was at Hoylake that the rules of amateur status were laid down. Ironically it was John Ball, who was to become the Club's greatest player, who almost fell foul of them. In 1878, when he was just sixteen years old, Ball had finished tied for 4th place in the Open Championship with Bob Martin of St Andrews. Although Ball lost the play-off for fourth place the following day there was still a money prize due to him from the purse. The sum involved was only one pound but John Morris advised the young John Ball to put the money in his pocket. It was this incident, recalled seven years later, that came back to haunt Ball when he wanted to enter the Amateur Championship. Ball had accepted prize money and therefore was technically a "professional". The rules were, however, diplomatically but conveniently adjusted to enable Ball to play. John Ball's influence on amateur golf, together with that of Harold Hilton who was also a Hoylake player, cannot be over emphasised. Between them they dominated the amateur game of that era and the pair was also a major influence on the professional game, each of them winning the Open Championship as amateurs. John Ball won the Amateur Championship eight times between l888 and l9l2 and was runner-up twice. He won the Open Championship in l890, the first Englishman and the first amateur to do so, and also took the amateur title the same year. Harold Hilton's record was just as impressive. He won the Open twice, in l892 (the first year the Open was played over 72 holes) and again five years later, making him the only amateur apart from John Ball and Bobby Jones to win the title. His victory at Hoylake in 1897 was marked 100 years later by the creation of a new, annual Harold Hilton Medal tournament open to amateur golfers aged 30 or more and handicap 5 or less. Hilton also won the Amateur Championship four times, was runner-up on three occasions and won the US Amateur Championship in 1911, the year in which he also held the British title. The man was obviously no slacker - in the same year he still found time to become the first editor of the new Golf Monthly magazine. No history of Hoylake would be complete without mention of the legendary Bobby Jones. In 1930 the club was privileged to host his winning of the Open Championship, a victory that would become the second leg of his remarkable Grand Slam - the winning in the same year of the Amateur and Open Championships of both Great Britain and the United States. Shortly afterwards, a mere twenty-eight years old, Bobby Jones found himself with no golfing peaks left to conquer and he retired from the game. Much time has passed since then, but the Hoylake links, despite their at first glance flat and benign appearance, are still very much among the toughest and most demanding tests of golf. What's more, in recent years, under the guidance of renowned course architect, Donald Steel, the course has been lengthened and upgraded to take on twenty-first century technology and increasingly athletic big hitters. In July 2006 the fabled mighty winds did not blow. But there was no denying that another mighty champion was the shape of one Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. 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