In the before and after shot below, you can see a new row of windows and the penthouse extending over the dome on the right side of the building. It won't be a huge adjustment to the one, but a noteworthy one for St. Andrews' most astute followers.
HOYLAKE, England -- Maybe if Allerton Park had the same ring to it as "Penny Lane" or "Strawberry Fields," the quaint Liverpool golf course might have been immortalized into a classic Beatles tune. Instead, the 18-hole Liverpool muni and nine-hole par-3 course that Paul McCartney had to cross to so he could strum guitars with John is hallowed ground to hardcore Beatles fans.
Those who have studied the early years of music's most prolific, famous and enduring songwriting partnership know the 5,494-yard course was the bridge to late afternoons trying to figure out how Buddy Holly played the opening chords to "That'll Be The Day" and developing their writing process. The former estate-turned-city-course sits between Paul's more modest home on Forthlin Road and John's more upscale abode on Menlove Avenue.
"John lived just the other side of the golf course, literally and metaphorically," McCartney has said. "People don't realize how middle-class he was. It's a very fancy neighbourhood."
McCartney has recounted how on the late winter days walking back through the specimen tree-dotted course or on a particularly quiet path through Allerton Park, the almost-haunted vibe would prompt him to play his guitar and sing at the top of his lungs to "steady his nerve." If anyone came along, McCartney would pretend it wasn't him. Yet one night a cop halted him to ask what on earth he was doing. Paul has said that he thought and arrest was coming. Instead, the cop famously asked for a guitar lesson. McCartney says their golf passion was limited, and for the sake of rock and roll history, golfers will forgive them.
"We'd go round for a laugh. We weren't very good but we'd do it. It was there, like Mount Everest, so you do it."
Today Allerton is still a stunning parkland property, controlled by the Liverpool City Council and managed lovingly by the Large family. Fourth generation pro Jonathan Large manning the counter on Saturday as the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool played out, while his father Barry, the head professional, rolled in to check up on things even though the course was closed due to the drenching overnight rains.
The flattish parkland course, with large, beautifully-conditioned greens, could use a slight cleaning up and upgrade of the former estate's horse stables-turned-clubhouse. The city will be bringing in a management company to spruce things up, but hopefully only so much so that the Large's continue to oversee what has been the family business of instruction and course operation for four generations, including the years when those mop-topped lads took a short-cut to their dreams.
All Allerton Park needs is love. It's just the kind of place golf must better appreciate: a casual, playable, open green space that is fun for beginners, kids, older golfers.
Or as Paul so succinctly puts it, a place to go around for a laugh.
The Scottish Open host course may just be better than the Open Championship site. The Senior British Open course could be auditioning for Wales to finally host an Open. And the Women's British Open site may be the toughest of them all.
The par-3 13th at Hoylake.
If you love links golf, the next three weeks will delight to no end with plenty of television coverage. Trying to pick a winner out of the four venues is impossible, so instead, just sit back and take in the nuances because when the Ryder Cup returns to Scotland this September, they'll be playing an inland Jack Nicklaus design.
Here's what to watch for, with help from the legendary and timeless words of writer Bernard Darwin:
1. The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open has become a premier event reinvigorated by a top-flight sponsor and an adherence to one simple principle: give the lads a links to prepare their games on prior to the Open. Royal Aberdeen may be the most visually beautiful of the links you'll see this year, especially the stunning front nine playing through a dunes valley. "A noble links!" Darwin declared after having postponed a visit there for many years. Golf Channel and NBC split the coverage duties starting Thursday.
2. Royal Birkdale is difficult and big in scale. The Ricoh Women's British Open is going to give the ladies the sternest test imaginable, which was not to Bernard Darwin's liking. "There seemed to be rather too many holes of one type, with greens running up to a point at the base of a hill and having heathery banks on either hand. They have grown a little intermingled in my head which may be my heads fault, but so be it." ESPN2 has the coverage starting Thursday.
3. Royal Liverpool, or Hoylake as the Open Championship host is properly referred to, has historically required a stout defense from golf writers because so much of its brilliance falls under the guise of nuance. "At Hoylake the golfing pilgrim is emphatically on classic ground," Darwin wrote. "As he steps out of the train that has brought him from Liverpool, he will gaze with awe-struck eyes upon surroundings in which the irreverent might see nothing out of the ordinary." ESPN's coverage starts bright and early July 17th.
4. Royal Porthcawl hosts the Senior British Open and ESPN2 will show it starting July 24th. Safe to say, Tom Watson will be favored to win at the youthful age of 64 on a links few of today's players have seen. But Darwin noted this is a "genuine" links, "the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls."
By Alex Myers
The mark of a great golf trip is not being able to determine the best or worst course played along the way. As some friends and I drove back from a five-day journey to Williamsburg, Va., we happily struggled with both. So how did we get to that point? Here's a look back at our itinerary.
Day 1: Williamsburg had been mentioned as a possible venue for the annual HGGA (don't ask) Championship for years, but the underrated golf destination became a more popular choice as we passed signs for it on our way to Myrtle Beach last summer. Our group likes to drive from the N.Y. area and cutting the time in the car almost in half was very appealing. We broke up the sevenish-hour drive down even more by stopping in Maryland to play Bulle Rock Golf Club. Good choice. The Pete Dye course, which has hosted the LPGA Championship five times and is No. 78 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, was a treat to play, even in high winds that made a tough track even more difficult. The green fee was $130 and we paid an extra $25 plus tip to have a forecaddie. Worth it. Then we got back in the car and continued south. When we hit rush hour traffic, we waited it out by stopping for a long meal at Chili's . . . savvy! We arrived in Williamsburg around 10 p.m. and checked into the luxurious Kingsmill Resort. Not that we spent that much time inside or at the spa and pool -- there was too much golf to be played!
The par-4 18th at Bulle Rock.
Day 2 - Morning: The opening round of the tournament was 10 minutes down the road at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. In the morning, we played the Gold Course, which Robert Trent Jones Sr. called his "finest design" and is No. 54 in Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses. The course was in immaculate condition and featured one of the best collection of par 3s I've ever seen, including an island green on No. 16 that the starter made sure to inform us pre-dated TPC Sawgrass' No. 17 by nearly 20 years. Just be ready when you make the turn. A 450-yard par 4 starts a much more difficult back nine that also includes a 600-plus-yard par 5.
The par-3 16th at Golden Horseshoe (Gold).
Afternoon: We drove about five minutes to get to the Golden Horseshoe's Green Course, designed by Rees Jones and the site of Yani Tseng's win over Michelle Wie in the final of the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. Despite Jones' reputation as the "(U.S.) Open Doctor," this was a perfect spot for a fun afternoon round, with mounds on many holes that acted as side boards to keep the ball in the fairway. The course wasn't in as great of shape as its sister course (but what is?), but it had nearly as many interesting holes, including the uphill par-5 18th.
Day 3 - Morning: Speaking of interesting holes, welcome to Tradition Golf Club at Stonehouse. Among its accolades, the course was named "Best New Upscale Golf Course" by Golf Digest in 1996. Unfortunately, the course's conditioning has apparently gone down since then. Or maybe we just caught it at a bad time. There was, after all, a crane digging dirt from the side of the 18th green that we had to try to avoid with our approach shots. Not even the innovative architect Mike Strantz meant for it to play like that.
Afternoon: If Stonehouse was an adventure, Ford's Colony Country Club was a more traditional layout. We played the Blackheath Course there and enjoyed being on a well-manicured course that didn't make you think about where to hit on every single shot, but still featured more than its fair share of dangerous spots with water coming into play on 13 holes.
Day 4 - Morning: After walking and driving around Kingsmill Resort for a few days, it was nice to finally get out on the actual courses within the resort. Up first, the River Course, which currently hosts the LPGA Kingsmill Championship every year and was previously a PGA Tour stop for 22 years. Ranked No. 90 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, its first 15 holes are very good and its last three are spectacular. The 17th is a stunning par 3 by the water and you might remember the 18th as the hole Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer played eight times in a playoff at the 2013 Kingsmill before Shin won the next morning on the ninth try.
The par-3 17th at Kingsmill (River).
Afternoon: Instead of replaying the River Course, we tried Kingsmill's Plantation Course, which only cost $30 in the afternoon. After a few pedestrian holes, this course got really good. And not just good for $30 good. After finishing No. 18, we were left near that glorious finishing stretch of the River Course. Remember when we mentioned that long LPGA playoff? Well, we may have played that 18th hole an extra time, too. Shh. . .
Day 5: We played The Tradition Golf Club at Royal New Kent, another Mike Strantz design to finish things off, in part because it was 40 minutes in the direction we'd be driving home. Like Stonehouse, the links-style course featured some unique holes. But also like Stonehouse, the course had fallen off in the conditions department from when it was featured in Golf Digest's Top 100 Public Courses in 2007-2008. Another negative was all the blind shots, but that's something that wouldn't be as big of a deal a second or third time around.
The par-3 7th at Royal New Kent.
So there you have it. Five days, eight different courses, and six very satisfied golfers. Williamsburg more than delivered when it comes to high-quality golf -- enough to leave everyone struggling to pick just one favorite track and unable to pick a least favorite. Throw in reasonable early summer rates and a reasonable drive and you've got the makings of a great trip. We'll be back.
By Peter Finch
Inspired by the U.S. Open(s) to make your own trip to Pinehurst? Great idea. Golf Digest consistently ranks the resort among the very best in North America. But you should know there’s much more to Pinehurst than its famous No. 2 course. There are many other very good courses -- I count 927 golf holes within 30 miles of the resort entrance -- and endless other diversions worth considering. Here are eight things you really ought to do while there.