CLICK ON THE HOLE NUMBER FOR THE INSIDE SCOOP
By Matt Slater
The last time Hoylake's Royal Liverpool hosted the Open, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the England football team were world champions and Tiger Woods was minus eight years of age. So it's been a while.
Thirty-nine years out of the Open loop means Hoylake "experts" among the ladies and gentleman of the golfing press are rarer than a French vampire's minute steak.
With words of wisdom at a premium from the usual suspects, who were we to turn to for our Open course guide?
Step forward the great British sporting public - namely, the men and women, young and old, sorry, mature, of Royal Liverpool itself.
So, without further ado, let us introduce our panel of weekend warriors from the Wirral.
Mark assures us he "knows every inch of the course" having visited all of it. A 12-handicapper, Mark can be seen introducing the world to Hoylake on the club's official website.
A television producer, Mark once won a Bafta for The Mrs Merton Show. He now runs his own production company where he is developing a new format called "Only Fools on Courses" - 10 minor celebrities compete for a place in the Masters.
Lynsey, who plays off seven, works for an events marketing company in Chester and one day would like to run the Open, so watch out R&A.
The runner-up at the 2000 St Andrews Junior Ladies Open, Lynsey tends to leave the "Tiger line" at the long 5th to others and has no time for the "bad lie berries" that grow around the 6th green.
Playing off 12 at the age of 13, Tom is very much the future of Royal Liverpool's golf team, which must delight his dad John, the club's pro.
Tom is looking forward to the day he can clear the orchard in front of the 8th tee with his drive - a worthy ambition for any young teen, we think you would agree.
Best mates (or "bezzie" in the local dialect) with Mark, Andrew is a competitive 17-handicapper.
Andrew, a two-time British hairdresser of the year, has almost driven the green at the par-four 11th, a shot he likened to Luke Skywalker's photon torpedo to destroy the Death Star.
Playing off 12, Duncan is a "bezzie" of Mark and Andrew. A witty companion on the course, he runs an advertising agency in Liverpool between rounds.
Duncan has been known to disturb Hoylake's community of natterjack toads with a pulled approach to the par-four 14th.
A five-handicapper, Helena assures us that we can just use a picture of Keira Knightley as the resemblance is uncanny.
That may well be true but there is no way Miss Knightley can hit a nine-iron 136 yards - Helena can.
YOUR HOYLAKE EXPERIENCES AND COMMENTS:
I played there this year. There was little or no wind and lots of activity in preparation for the Open. It was very dry and there was concern about needing rain in July in order to keep the rough from dying away.
The first impression is that it does not look too difficult but you soon develop the necessary respect once off the fairways. If you then manage to find your ball, getting it up and out, stopping it on the green, this knocks the stuffing out of you if you are new to links golf.
I have never lost so many balls, and while searching, never found other people balls, it rattles your confidence.On the second day I managed to birdie the 6th and the 18th.
Last hole with all of the stands in place, imaging the crowds I slotted in a ten footer for a four! In conclusion: The Pro's will not find it long or daunting without the wind and the winner will be the best focused player who manages to find the fairways and masters the 'pitch and run' shots to the green.
My abiding memory of Hoylake is the excellent lunch served in the clubhouse alongside several bottles of acceptable claret and a few Kummells to wash it down with. I barely remember the round - but I'm sure I was very good.
Sorry guys but this course is just too easy for the pros. I played Hoylake as a 9 handicapper and after two rounds I was one over par.
Admittedly I'd had a blinder but thought here we go, I'll turn pro myself The following week I played my own course, parkland and difficult, and I shot an 11 over. With the benign conditions forecast, the pros will absolutely shred this course. Quite simply it is not modern day competition standard, sorry.
We played our scratch league trophy there on a wet and blustery day and it was a real teat for the first round - come the afternoon, it brightened up and the course played quite easy with lots of birdie chances. With the course being doused in lots of sunshine if you're straight, you will murder the course - I reckon the winning score will be around 14 under.
Great views and a course I love playing, especially the par threes which if you miss the greens is goodnight sweetheart.
Hoylake is a fabulous place and its back nine presents a classic examination in links golf. Holes 12 to 14 are my personal favourites - with a cross wind these holes will definitely scrutinise the shot making of the contenders on Sunday afternoon.
It promises to be an exciting finish with genuine birdie chances at 15, 16 and 18.
Auckland, New Zealand
I went to one of the practice days before the open in 1967 (I was 13 at the time). We were standing on the practice ground watching the players hit some balls when a man dressed in black came over to us and asked us if we would like to retrieve his practice balls as he hit them.
We were given a bucket and told where to stand. After he had hit his shots we came back to the gentleman concerned and he very politely thanked us, gave each of us 'half a crown' (two and six in old money) and then gave each of us a signed golf ball. The name on the ball was none other than Gary Player.
I am very disappointed that the traditional first hole has been changed to the third though, having played there only a couple of weeks ago, I can understand why from an excitement perspective as the 18th will be a hole on which we may see many eagles.
I played at Hoylake about 18 months ago and was quite disappointed. However, this was before the changes that have been made to the course so maybe this is a bit unfair. Would think that if the weather stays good as forecast, the pros will destroy it and scoring will be very low.
Played this great course a couple of times with the world famous Rungbellians Golf Society. Don't listen to the critics, get down and experience it for yourself. Played it in summer in just a breeze.....glorious, and winter, in just a woolly hat...and some....hell on earth!!
In 1993, I attended a corporate day's golf at Hoylake with Tony Jacklin. We had coaching in the morning and a round in the afternoon, super course, great memories. TJ hit our first tee shot for us, off your first and we played on, he kept cutting the corner off for everyone, my turn came and he put me out of bounds, just my luck.
John Dodd, Wolverhampton
I played Hoylake in the Royal Air Force championships, playing off five, I managed two rounds in the high 80s before missing the cut and vowing never to play links golf again
I have played the course many times over the years. The 'Royal' is a very good course and is famed in the area for having superb greens.
I'm just hoping the weather isn't too good during The Open week, as the scoring would be very low. After a dry spell the fairways get hard, the rough thins and the ball runs and runs.
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