You do literally feel as if you are walking the path of legends.
Lytham may not have the stand out glamour holes that other Open venues boast or even a view of the sea but a round here will test every facet of your game and the enjoyment is enhanced by the welcome, hospitality and facilities away from the course. A previous visit entailed a stay in the famous Dormy House which immediately elevates the experience to another level.
In terms of the golf Lytham is famed for its opening par three hole, and in isolation a very fine hole it is with a plethora of bunkers guarding the green, but I never like starting with a one-shotter and even here that was no different. It's my only criticism of the entire course and probably an unfounded one at that because it's simply my own personal pet hate.
The next two holes are among the best on the course with drives down the right required for the superior angle into the greens but that is also close to the railway line and you must flirt with fairway bunkers too. It's easy to favour the left hand side on both of these holes but it is only then that the difficulty of your next shot becomes apparent. Placement down the right is also required at the next but this will usually not be with a driver because this is a medium-length par four and the fairway narrows the closer you get to the green.
The fifth is a par three played to an exposed green and as you would expect is protected by several deep pot bunkers. Back-to-back par fives follow and they are both exceptional holes. The former is within range for some but only if you manage to shape your drive from right-to-left in order to shorten the route to the green. Whilst the next is unlikely to be reached by amateurs and some very deep bunkers approximately 80 yards short of the green often takes that option out of the equation anyway.
There aren't many changes in elevation at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, however, the biggest and most notable one comes at the eighth when you play your approach to a high green. It appears to be a much slender target from the fairway and plays at its best when the hole is located in the back-left portion of the green where going for the flag requires the most pin-point of second shots. Get it wrong and you will find yourself in either a two-metre deep bunker or face a neigh-on impossible chip from over the back of the green.
The atmosphere of the round changes upon reaching the eighth green where you begin to get hemmed in by suburbia as you reach the far end of the course. It's an almost claustrophobic feeling and the senses are heightened even further when you play the short ninth into the corner of the property. It's spine tingling golf. And it doesn't let up at the next where you are faced with a semi-blind drive to a falling fairway partially hidden by encroaching sand dunes. As I walked down the 10th fairway, and started the homeward journey, I realised I had just enjoyed the most surreal 30 minutes of golf. There are very few courses that can create that experience.
The demands for high quality golf remain on the back nine although 11 to 13 don't quite muster the same excitement as the ones that have gone before. Both the 11th and 12th are holes where pars are gratefully accepted though, the first is a par five whilst the next is a par three. A welcome breather comes at the short-ish par four 13th but that is simply a prelude to the brilliant closing five holes. Two good shots are required to set up a birdie chance at the 14th whilst the 15th and 17th are both world-class golf holes as is the 18th which is more than worthy of deciding many an Open Championship and where bunker avoidance on the tee shot is the key.
The bunkering throughout at Lytham is not only numerous (200+) but they are pristinely conditioned. Finding one of the fairway traps almost certainly ends with a dropped shot but playing from some of the greenside hazards is a brilliant feeling, especially when you extract it successfully and then sink the putt!
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.
It was an impulsive, crazy… and some would say utterly ridiculous… decision that took me to The Machrie in the Spring of 2018.