Everyone agrees that its great to see the U.S. Open played on public access courses, but travel across the Atlantic and you can play every course in the Open Championship Rota, and several more gorgeous, historic, and interesting courses as well.
Mersey, Mersey, me, but the Liverpool-Blackpool-Merseyside region of Northern England has some terrific options. This years venue, Royal Birkdale, is the course American golfers will find most to their liking. Holes are set amidst the scenic, heaving, shaggy-haired dunes, but with flat fairways, the course lacks the capricious bounces and hanging lies of other Open venues.
My personal favorite is Royal Lytham and St. Annes, featuring 197 little ponds as Peter Alliss called her deep, sod-faced bunkers. The course has an oddity, it begins on a par-3, a fact that may have cost Ian Woosnam an Open Championship in 2001. He was experimenting with two drivers, told his caddy to be sure to take one out so as not to run afoul of the fifteen club rule, and teed off with a 4-iron on the first hole. His shot finished a foot from the cup, but he incurred a two-stroke penalty because the extra club was discovered on the next tee when he asked for his driver and there were two to choose from. I gave you one job to do and you couldnt do it, he snarled as he threw the club into the gorse. After two more early bogeys ' he was running hot ' he rallied late, but fell short of David Duval.
Royal Liverpool, (Hoylake to its friends), was introduced into the Rota after a forty-year absence and hopefully wont appear again without changes. Featuring noxious out-of-bounds stakes everywhere, the course was defenseless during the fair-weathered 2006 Open, when Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco fired birdies at will. Without wind, the course is merely average, but still has grand history. Roberto DiVicenzo won his only major here, beating Nicklaus by one.
One hidden gem that will delight Americans is Wallasey. With stunning seaside holes, scenic grassy dunes, and nobody there but locals (because no one knows about it), this could become your favorite course of all and have you asking why they dont play the Open here. With holes set against beside the River Mersey, Formby, is a favorite of locals and travelers alike. Finally, its an easy drive over M62 to North Leeds to play the two earliest courses by Alister Mackenzie, Alwoodley, and Moortown. After all, public Mackenzie courses are extremely rare in America. He built only one, Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, so take advantage of the opportunity.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 260 nationally ranked public golf courses in 39 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan.