Royal Liverpool Golf Club, popularly known as Hoylake, is hosting The Open Championship for the 12th time in 2014, so I have dug into the history books to uncover a dozen facts you may not know about the course.
1. Royal History
Founded in 1869 the Liverpool Golf Club became only the second English course owning golf club to be granted the Royal title when Queen Victoria bestowed the honour in 1871.
2. Horses For Courses
Royal Liverpool is the second oldest seaside links course in England and was built on the land of the Liverpool Hunt Club racecourse with golf and racing running concurrently for the first seven years of its life. The names of the 1st and 18th holes for members, "Course" and "Stand", refer to this original use.
3. First Amateur Championship
As well as hosting the Open Championship the Club is also synonymous with the amateur game. Royal Liverpool hosted the first recognised Amateur Championship in 1895 (won by A.F. Mackie), was home course to two of the game's most storied amateur players (see Harold Hilton and John Ball below) and witnessed the greatest amateur of all, Bobby Jones, win the Open in 1930 to complete the second leg of his historic Grand Slam.
4. England's Greatest Amateur
The first of Royal Liverpool's famous amateur sons, John Ball, is perhaps England's greatest ever amateur player. He became the first amateur and Englishman to win The Open when he triumphed at Prestwick in 1890 and his 8 Amateur Championships (three of which came at Hoylake in 1890, 1894 and 1910) is a record likely never to be beaten.
5. First Open Champion
Harold Hilton followed Ball into The Open winner's circle as the second amateur winner with victory at Muirfield in 1892 He also became the first champion to lift the Claret Jug over the links of Royal Liverpool when the Club hosted its first Open Championship in 1897.
6. New Balls Please
A new era for golf dawned when The Open returned to Hoylake for the second time in 1902 as Scot Sandy Herd took the title and became the first champion to do so using the new rubber cored Haskell golf ball signalling the end of the traditional Gutta Percha ball.
7. International First
Perhaps befitting Liverpool's history as a great international port, Royal Liverpool Golf Club has a great international pedigree. The course played host to the first international match between England and Scotland in 1902 and the first transatlantic clash between Great Britain & Ireland in 1921, the forerunner to the Walker Cup.
8. Entente Cordiale
In keeping with the international theme Royal Liverpool was the venue for the first non-British winner of The Open with Frenchman Arnaud Massey beating the famed J.H. Taylor by two shots in 1907. Thanks to Jean Van de Velde's now infamous encounter with the Barry Burn at Carnoustie in 1999, Massey remains the only Frenchman to lift the Claret Jug.
9. Overseas Winners
Massey set a trend for overseas victors that places Royal Liverpool at the top of the tree of foreign winners at Open Championship venues. Players from seven nations have won at Hoylake with golfers from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, USA, Australia and Argentina all successful over the links.
10. Third Time Lucky
Three players have won their third Open Championship over the links of Royal Liverpool. Bobby Jones (1930), Peter Thomson (1956) and Tiger Woods (2006) all completed their hat tricks with wins at Hoylake.
11. New Layout
Royal Liverpool is currently unique on the Open Rota in being the only course that uses a different configuration of holes in the tournament to that used by the members. In 2006 the R&A changed the layout so that it started at the 17th and finished at the par-5 16th, with the 1st hole for the members being the 3rd at The Open. This was to accomodate a grandstand around the last hole.
After the 2006 Open the members had a vote to decide which layout to use and they chose to stick with the members' layout they had before. It is also the only Open layout that features an internal out of bounds around the members' practice area that is used for the tented village in the middle of the course next to the 3rd, 17th and 18th holes in The Open.
12. Record Open Attendance
Situated in The Wirral across the river Mersey from Liverpool, Hoylake is ideally located to access the sports savvy population of the North West and the attendance in 2006 of 230,000 remains the highest attendance to date of an Open staged in England. St Andrews in 2000 had a higher overall attendance, but that included the crowd for the Champion's exhibition match on the Wednesday before the event, so it could be argued that Hoylake in 2006 was the biggest at that time.