Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club has been in its present location since 1925
Since then, the club has played host to numerous professional and amateur events including the Ryder Cup (twice). It has also hosted the first-ever Dunlop Open Tournament in 1931 and continued to play host to this tournament on a regular basis for the next twenty-five years. Since 1946 it has been used several times as the final qualifying course for The Open Championship and also for the British Amateur and Lancashire County Championships.
The club has an international and historical reputation and is affectionately referred to by the shortened version of its name, S&A The course is revered amongst golfers and attracts visitors from all over the world. In the 1990s, one of America’s top golf course designers is quoted in ‘Golf World’ as saying, ”S&A is the best designed course in the UK”.
This links course is particularly interesting in that it has retained most of the features from the original layout as designed by James Braid in terms of the natural landscape and the previous uses of the land. Before it was made into a golf course, the land had been predominantly sandhills with undulating areas of land in between, which had been used by farmers for grazing cattle and sheep.
Prior to 1925, the previous S&A clubhouse, which had been in use since 1908, was located approximate, one mile north on Liverpool Road, near The Crown Hotel, Birkdale. It was due to the building of a new road to Southport (Waterloo Road) that the club had to move to its current location in Ainsdale. The road cut right through the old course isolating the clubhouse, but twelve of the original holes, which were laid out in 1907 by George Lowe the Lytham professional, survived in some form.
Before 1907, the founder members of S&A played for twelve months only, on a small 9-hole course near Hillside Station, on land now occupied by houses. The club has the scores of the first-ever Medal competition played on that course which marks the beginning of S&A in June 1906.
The founder members of S&A were male and female members of the Grosvenor Whist Club, who played their card games in a building on Grosvenor Road, Southport.
In 1925, the present clubhouse was opened, the old one was sold, and members could begin playing their ‘new course.’ James Braid, who was the first golfer to win The Open five times, laid out six new holes, those which are now closest to the clubhouse, and remodelled the other twelve. He was asked to design a course fit to hold championships. Braid was a great believer in retaining the natural terrain and retaining the views. Whenever he designed or remodelled golf courses, he always liked to call one of the holes ‘Braids’ and on S&A, he chose the 3rd hole because from that tee, golfers can enjoy views for over 50 miles.
In 1926, Walter Hagen, who was to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team at S&A in 1933 and 1937 and who won eleven Majors during his career played an exhibition match at S&A for which he was paid £50. One of his opponents was an S&A member and Lancashire Champion, Sam Robinson. The original poster for that event can be seen in the clubhouse.
In 1931, the first-ever Dunlop Professional tournament was held at S&A. It was won by Henry Cotton. This tournament was held at S&A on several more occasions during the next 25 years.
In 1933, S&A hosted the 4th Ryder Cup Match, which Great Britain won with the last putt, on the last green in the last match. In one of the singles matches, Abe Mitchell, personal coach to Samuel Ryder and believed to be the golfing figure on the top of the trophy, recorded the greatest ever comeback in Ryder Cup or Major Matchplay history. He was on the 11th tee, 3 down in his 36-hole singles match against Olin Dutra (USA) . He then won 13 of the next 14 holes and eventually won by 9 and 8.
Four years later, the 6th Ryder Cup match was again held at S&A. This time, the USA beat Great Britain.
In the clubhouse, there is a replica of The Ryder Cup and a display of photos and memorabilia from both The Ryder Cup's and other events held at S&A.
The course has changed little since those Ryder Cup matches. 15 out of the 18 holes as laid out by James Braid are basically the same. Due to housing developments on the east side of the course, three of the original holes have been replaced with new holes.
After the Second World War, and through to the present day, S&A have continued to host both professional and top amateur golf events on a regular basis.
Among those who played in the 1950s were Open Champions, Henry Cotton, Max Faulkner, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, plus Peter Alliss, Dai Rees and many other famous golfers.
In the 1960s, when The Open Championship started to attract the players from the USA and other countries, S&A members were able to see the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Bob Charles and others.
In the 1970s, S&A hosted two Pro-Ams where members of S&A were teamed up with top golfers and famous ‘celebrities’ from the world of entertainment and sport, including Bing Crosby, Sean Connery, Gary Player, Tony Jacklin and Sir Matt Busby.
In 1979, the British Ladies Championship, open to amateurs and professionals for the first time and sponsored by Pretty Polly, was held at S&A.
During the 1980s and 1990s through to the present day, S&A have hosted several events including final qualifying rounds for The Opens Championship held at Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham.
S&A members have enjoyed success at all levels. The S&A men’s scratch team have won the Lancashire Team Championship a record number of times, including 10 in a row; nearly thirty of the members have played for Lancashire; five of the members have won international honours for England and two of these, namely, Geoff Roberts and David Marsh have won the English Championship. David was also the Walker Cup Captain and Captain of the R&A.
Finally, all of the holes on the course have names. The 16th hole which is the signature hole, is also known as Gumbleys. Mr.H.D.Gumbley was a founder member. In 2004, the 16th hole and the 8th hole were included in a list of the top 500 holes in the world by a leading golf magazine.