The Hillside Golf Club was formed in 1911, though its current course only dates back to the 1960’s when Fred Hawtree built nine new holes among giant sandhills acquired adjacent to the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Like Birkdale, much of the golf follows deep valleys through the attractive duneland, although the routing composition and mix of holes here is slightly less impressive.
The course starts inauspiciously along a railway line with most of the front nine played over gently rolling ground. The back nine, however, wanders through some of the largest dune formations in Lancashire and wins most of the positive reviews, despite a couple of the big dune holes disappointing. The best areas on the course are in the central hills around the turn, from the par three 7th through to the treacherous fallaway green on the par four 12th. Played uphill into a sandy basin, the short 10th is a wonderful hole but the real star at Hillside is the 11th, a world-class par five that sweeps down through tall dunes then along a glorious ridge to a green guarded by an outrageously deep revetted bunker.
Once proudly described as eighteen mini-tortures, Hillside is a club that wears the difficulty of its course as a badge of honour, yet despite the relentlessness of its challenge, this is a links of surprising variety. Tough driving holes tend to have simpler approaches while the more open landing areas generally lead to the more severe greens. Donald Steele has recently reworked several holes here and repositioned a number of bunkers to ensure that the Hillside test remains as fierce as possible.